Tuesday, July 31, 2007


Cubicle Life, Fact And Fantasy

I've blogged about James Thompson's The Cubicle Survival Guide before, but here is a piece that nicely samples some of Mr. Thompson's more amusing or outre suggestions. It also describes the technical innovations of an even more hands-on cubicle life improver, David Vaughan, combining Vaughan's inventions with Thompson's notions in a synergistic approach to cubicle life that is at once facetious and practical.

Considering the recent weather, I had wanted to find something sufficiently informative about "personal cooling gadgets" to help keep one's cubicle cool during the dog days of summer. I didn't find much - your office is probably air-conditioned anyway - but I include the link to what I did find below.

The full title of Thompson's book, by the way, is The Cubicle Survival Guide: Keeping Your Cool In The Least Hospitable Environment On Earth, so perhaps these next tidbits will inject a breath of fresh air in the comical sense. Thompson focuses on issues of etiquette. For instance, do you or do you not say, "Bless you" when someone in a nearby cubicle sneezes? Tackling this quandary, Thompson draws the line. Say "Bless you" when the occupant of an adjacent cubicle sneezes, but don't bother if he or she is two or more cubicles away. On the more serious issue of theft, which thrives in cubicle farms, Thompson suggests placing simulated "security cameras" to discourage office chair rustlers and such, or leaving about crumpled tissues and spent medicine containers to frighten thieves away with the threat of contagion. Bosses have to be monitored as well as thieves, of course, and Thompson suggests using mirrors or even "video baby monitors" which, when strategically placed, will warn the cubicle occupant of approaching managers.

David Vaughan founded a company called CubeSmart to actually create the sort of things that Thompson imagines. Having noticed makeshift barriers that fellow cubicle dwellers had fabricated from "shower curtains and duct tape", Vaughan introduced a whole suite of products that offer differing levels of privacy to cubicle dwellers. "The CubeBanner is a 1 1/2-foot-tall translucent banner with an American flag logo and a script that reads 'I'm busy'. The CubeDoor Classic is a polymer mesh device with no logo that allows someone approaching the cube to see through it, but increases the illusion of privacy. Finally, they offer the CubeDoor, an opaque barrier that offers the most privacy." Where Thompson has complained of cubicle occupants chattering loudly on cellphones, Vaughan contemplates devising something like "an all-enclosed stormtrooper type helmet" which would allow the wearer to engage in phone conversations in total privacy. Thompson deplores the tendency of some cubicle dwellers to gorge themselves on odoriferous lunches, but Vaughan is yet to either invent or imagine any workable "anti-odor devices".

"Guide helps make cubicle life more bearable" from Greatreporter.com
Cubicle Survival Guide blog
"Gadgets To Beat The Summer Heat" from eMediawire.com

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