Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Home, sweet cubicle home

By S. Derrickson Moore
LAS CRUCES — Ah, home, sweet vine-covered cubicle.
I’ve worked in plush Palm Beach offices that had more square footage than some of my apartments, with swans and indoor lagoons and hanging gardens. I’ve worked by actual lagoons, on a primitive laptop on an oceanfront beach in Jamaica.
I’ve worked in home offices in expanded closets and basements and bedroom nooks.
I’ve worked in trains, boats and private planes, in classrooms, auditoriums, convention centers and hotel office complexes all over the world.
And I’ve worked in many newsrooms and communication centers in Germany, Michigan, New York, Portland, Oregon, Florida and New Mexico. (They were all remarkably similar: vast open expanses of keyboards, chatter, ringing phones, conference tables and camaraderie.) And those of us who’ve had our own offices from time to time, always felt part of the newsroom flocks, because the offices of even the surliest, most reclusive editors always had large windows, (overlooking the rest of the newsroom) and open doors.
I’ve managed to live a rich, full lifetime, spanning many decades, states, countries and vocations, without ever working in a cubicle.
Until now. While we wait for our shiny new Sun-News building, we’ve settled into our interim headquarters on 715 E. Idaho Ave., with a shipment of high-end cubicles (mine has three windows) that will go with us to our new digs.
It’s early days yet, but I can already see a new cubicle culture developing.
We are learning new ways, as we wend our way through the newsroom cubical maze. Editor Jim Lawitz noted that he feels like he’s addressing a prairie dog colony, as he summoned us for a company meeting and curious heads popped up behind gray walls.
I feel more in tune with cetacean analogies. I remember, in my Florida days, learning about “spy-hopping,” the wassup? strategy of whales and porpoises, a behavior that consists of rising vertically out of the water, head first, and rotating to scan the entire surrounding area.
When it comes to cubicles, I’m caught in Robert Front’s “Mending Wall” paradox: “Good fences make good neighbors” wars with “Something there is that doesn’t love a fence.”
Maybe we’re suffering a bit of post-Diaspora stress syndrome, as we’ve moved, after the fire, to various refugee settlements in hotel ballrooms and new configurations in interim offices.
In our new world of cubicles, we wander more, seeking our long-lost amigos. And we probably phone and text and e-mail more than we shout these days, which always seems silly to me, when we’re still just a few feet away from one another.
Frances Silva and I have shared a sightline for 15 years. Now a gray cubicle wall divides us, and I miss her.
Cubicle communication strategies remind me of old Walton episodes: disembodied voices poignantly calling over gray walls: “Goodnight, Frances. Goodnight, Walt. Goodnight John-Boy.”
Being newsguys, we aren’t in regimented lines. I’m not sure how the cubical configurations were determined, but we are already establishing our little fiefdoms.
Jason Gibbs, Lucas Peerman and Christine Rogel have named their cubicle trio the Mod Pod.
“You should really move here. It could be an all-blonde Mod Pod,” Lucas told me.
But I’m happily ensconced in the Aquarian Enclave, where everyone was born on Feb. 7 (Norm Dettlaff and me) or gave birth on that day (Robin Zielinski, our kingdom’s Queen Mom, I figure).
It’s only been a few weeks, but I’ve already added the aforementioned vines, two pepper plants … and I finally figured out how to hang art on fabric walls (sticky Velcro dots).
Now, I’m thinking about flags and banners, light shows and other signaling devises.
Creative, well-rounded souls in square abodes will find ways to make this cubicle wilderness a home.

+++++Any tips for making cubicle life more comfortable, efficient, artistic or fun? Let me know.

S. Derrickson Moore can be reached at; (575) 541-5450. To share comments, go to and click on Blogzone and Las Cruces Style.

1 comment:

Kist by an Atheist said...

Good luck in your new cubicle environment. My post-Sun-News newsroom made the opposite transition--from cubicle culture to an open newsroom. It reminded me of how much I enjoyed plein air reporting. Can't wait to visit you all at the new digs...someday!