Sunday, April 15, 2007

cubism

I finagled some high powered pro bono legal counsel last year. God knows I teeter on the brink of lawsuits and there are other rather legal things we need advice on from time to time. So we were fortunate enough to have a firm offer their time, and I was fortunate enough to have the rather hot managing partner be the guy I get to work with. It's a Pro Bono Twofer.

These lawyers crack me up. They are so sure of themselves, so cunning, so smart. These cats have fat offices with parking spaces with their names on them and hot receptionists. Marble. I don't go there very often, but I spent a few hours there earlier this week hashing out some capacity and expansion issues, sitting in a fine leather chair in a spotless conference room. Someone brought me coffee. I'm eyeing the fancy pens. I could probably steal one. (And unlike Kurt's place, I'd feel fine about it).

I had to use the bathroom so I wove an interesting maze past the corner offices, my friend's (we've shared a few beers over the last year so I feel confident in calling him that) included. I'm a nosy girl, so I even peeked in past the silver name plate and noticed a bottle of scotch on the desk. People lose their bed over a bottle of scotch my way. I wanted to pour a glass but figured that was a bit too forward. Farther towards the back were the cubicles.

And those poor cube dudes have a view of the gilded offices, every day. I wondered if it was motivation or frustration. I watched them huddled over their desks and grimaced.

When I came back from the bathroom I said so how do the cube people get an office like yours? They probably won't, he said (he's arrogant, this friend of mine) So I said I see how it is, you smug bastard; you sit in your corner office making partner money and these poor cats do all the work. He paused, then smirked. I knew I was right. I'm a Cubist, he said. Obviously, I said. If that's true, then what about a Cubist Movement? You should think about it. Power to the people. I doubt he'll take me seriously, but he should. In fact, I should bill him for it.

It's hard to explain how much I love visiting the rich man's world sometimes. It's all so quietly deceptive and ridiculously on schedule.

30 comments:

Karen said...

my husband works in a cube. He sometimes works 70 hours a week in the cube. It's been like this for almost three years. It has started to effect his personality, his brain - I think maybe it's the space, the lighting, the tight squeeze and the constant background noise and everyone can watch him all the time. On Friday he won a battle he and his fellow cubers had fought hard for. They can now do their overtime hours from home. It's sad to me that he has to work so many hours for us to make ends meet, but I'm hoping that working 20-30 of them outside the cube will help him feel more human, more self-contained...also here at home we have good lighting, good tea& good music. Power to the people.

NotSoSage said...

This reminded me of ani's song blood in the boardroom:

sitting in the boardroom
the i'm so bored room
listening to the suits
talk about their world
they can make straight lines
out of almost anything
except for the line of my
upper lip when it curls.

Cubists Unite!

cce said...

My cubist period was in the early 90's. Not a lot of fond memories from that time save for the way I left that job. I told one of the cats in the corner office to go f himself and left. Oh youth, Oh idealism. Good times.

Sandra said...

Oh how I could have written this post. As part of the cubist movement in my early days in the private sector and from a similar perspective as yours now. My NGO office is in a confidential location for safety reasons so if I am interviewing job candidates etc I have to do it offsite. We can sometimes borrow space from other charities but then one of my fancy volunteers offered me the board room at her law firm. I feel like I am playing dress up in a doll house of excessive lawyer-officedom whenever I am there.

And I once did steal a coffee cup.

Blog Antagonist said...

I used to live in that world. Even though I was a manager, I wasn't good enough to merit an actual office. Because I was a woman. Lawyers are not only smug and arrogant, they are unbearably sexist as well. God, how I don't miss that.

Thailand Gal said...

I spent my time in the cubicles as well. It is a culture all its own and it was unbearable! Some companies were more blatant than others with the hierarchal seating arrangements. Some were as obvious as upstairs/downstairs. Others were working in the open data center instead of having a cube. (Had to be a manager to get a small office...)

I agree with much of Karen's statement, particularly how it begins to affect personality.

Gods, I am so glad to be out of that world!

flutter said...

Hmm. I have had the opposite experience with attorneys. Hoever, the family of them that I am marrying into are the civil servant variety....

Mrs. Chicky said...

I was a cube dweller. My husband still is. It's a horrible way to live.

PunditMom said...

Hence, the reason I am a "recovering" attorney. ;) But, we do need 'em.

slouching mom said...

It's all so quietly deceptive and ridiculously on schedule.

I just loved this line, this observation, jen.

meno said...

I too have been a denizen of the cube zoo. I sat in a 4 person cube for a while. It can either be hell, or, if you are with the right people, a hell of a lot of fun.

I wonder when (but not if) your friend's arrogance will get a smackdown.

alejna said...

The cube life can slowly numb people. I've seen it happen. Ugh. I'm so glad not to be in that life. The fluorescent lighting alone would be enough to do me in...

Beck said...

My husband works in a quite nice office - but it's in a busy, cheerful graphics place and I don't know if you know graphic artists, but they are an informal people. I still bug him about being The Man, though.

Aliki2006 said...

Great post! It brought back my post-college temping days...

KC said...

Scotch on your desk...what a life. For that, I'd steal a pen.

crazymumma said...

Jen Squared.

just imagine.

Mad Hatter said...

Sometimes now that I'm a mom I think of my sanity residing in my desk drawer at work. I'm so thankful that I'm not a member of the Cubist uprising. Damn! Never thought about putting scotch in my desk, though.

Jocelyn said...

If one's only view is from inside the walls of a cubicle, life just isn't good. I'd say even further, though, that life inside the gilded walls is often not that great, either. Neither place affords a reasonable perspective.

crazymumma said...

I meant....

Jen Cubed. Imagine.

QT said...

I think if the office is an attainable goal, and you are in a cube, then for the right person, the office is an incentive.

Unfortunately, most of the people forced to sit in cubes will not ever get "moved up" to the office level.

I did my cube time and I am thankful for my little office every day!

Tabba said...

Jen, this whole cube thing really freaks me out. I was part of it for a very short time my senior year of high school. Thank god I did it because that was something I could clearly wipe off of my list of things that I did NOT want to do...
That being said, for the people that are in cubes....I feel it is almost inhumane. All I can say is that it really freaks me the hell out.

ECR said...

My husband used to work for a huge, well known computer chip making company that dictated that there are NO offices, just cubes. Even the CEO worked in a cube. I thought it was a crock then, and I do now. Flimsy walls for all does not equality make. They had as many bosses, managers, reports and interns as any other hierarchical conglomerate.

Now my husband works for a company that sends him out to different organizations on year-long contracts (or the same organization, if they keep renewing the contract). The company he works for now uses contractors for almost all their non-research-related functions. There is no real sense of being "at home" in the strange work environmnet--one is always a guest. Instead of individual cubes for many of these contractors, the company puts them into extended cubes made to fit at least four people. And often these four people are not even carrying out related functions. I'm sure some could find advantages in such an arrangement, but to me it seems impersonal and alienating.

On a related note, I read Parade Magazine's list of salaries for all kinds of different jobs in the US this weekend, and it was an eye opener.

Hey, the first two letters of my word verification are HR.

Alice said...

The big law firms are always set up with a hierarchy of offices. Lawyers are on the outside with windows - partners get the corners and the bigger window offices and associates get smaller window offices. Secretaries and paralegals are in the cubes with no windows - usually situated right outside the office of the lawyer(s) they work for. When I was a firm attorney I had a fabulous office that looked out over the Lake with a big leather chair and beautiful wood built-ins. Only attorneys had assigned parking spaces in the garage below our building. The rest of the staff had to walk two blocks. They would cater lunch for the attorneys and then let the staff eat the scraps when we were done. I hated being part of that environment. I am now a government lawyer in a nice but much more modest office. I walk two blocks to work. I would not go back for the world. Btw, please don't let the very vocal obnoxious lawyers color your perception of all lawyers. I promise we are not all like that! :)

Susanne said...

Jen, do you ever wonder how you're life would be if you lived in the rich man's world?

Penny. said...

Interesting post. That guided tour was fun.

I've never worked in a cube. And, I've never wanted an office with marble. But, I am sure it would be nice. There must be a way for a tenacious, perservering, hard-working (lucky?) cuber to find his/her work into his/her own office, surely, though.. isn't there?

Redneck Mommy said...

I was never a cube dweller, nor was my husband. But when I go to my best friend's office, I watch all the cube dwellers and feel bad for them.

And then my best friend cuffs me upside the head and tells me to get over it.

He's an arrogant sumofabeach too.

Must be why I love him.

Great insight in this post.

Lucia said...

I am amazed by how many people left comments about cubes. OMG! I can't imagine ever working in a cube, and now I feel ridiculously spoiled by always having decent sized offices to myself.

Yeah, a little visit to rich man's world is nice every once in a while, to slide your shoes across rich man's marble floors. But then, I start to gasp for air, choke and fall to the floor. This is my cue to get out of the sealed building as quickly as possible.

kiki said...

Blogger has been a whore and I haven't been able to comment early, pfft.
I was a designer of cubes in my previous life of space planner. There's a whole cube hierarchy if you can believe it. This worker gets this type of desk top and 2 under storage units, but this worker doesn't get 2, just one and his overhead storage is open while the next dude gets the closed bin. It was working in minutiae and after almost 10 years of that work, I was burned out and did nothing creative for about 6 years. Cubes will do that to you, confine your brain until you can't think outside the box.

Cristi said...

Yes. Charge the rich guy quadruple and steal his pen. That is something I would think of doing :)

Emily said...

great post...i love contrasting worlds. i think it's a privledge to see the world through such different lenses