[Hmmm, says I…]
A career milestone is quickly approaching the end of its life at my workplace:
The assigned cubicle is being sunset.
We will be moving to a hotel set-up starting in July. I started writing this post on a commuter train ride home, surrounded by 25+ years of accumulated workplace moments. And it is a truly bizarre feeling. I have to keep reminding myself – “you are still employed, you still have a job, you did not get laid off, it’s all good…”
I don’t know about you, but I was all for personalizing my area, whatever that area may be.
During 6th grade, the regular elementary school principal went on sabbatical, so our former 5th grade teacher stepped in for him. Since Mr. R. knew the lot of us (maybe 45 total for the grade between 2 classrooms), he’d let us do all kinds of stupid stuff for our own amusement that year, as the big shot 6th graders on the elementary school campus.
My two friends and I shared a locker that year.
Somehow we got the bright idea to make our locker a landfill. And to make it ‘official’, we wrote up a permit.
We had Mr R. sign it so we could post it on our locker door, saying that he’d allowed us to use the locker as a landfill – as long as there was nothing biodegradable.
Not exactly the personalization most people would expect, certainly. But we thought it was hysterical, and everyone knew about it.
Of course, by middle school and high school, I had my own locker. (Which to this day I still occasionally dream about forgetting the combination to.)
So: you go to town making it a mini version of your bedroom’s artistry.
Imagine my shock when I arrived at my new high school in Florida my senior year and found that we not only did we have half size lockers…
But we had to share them with someone else because the school population was so massive.
How dull. Got to make up for it in college in my dorm at least (Hello massive 42”x60” posters of X-Files and Speed!)
Of course, there was my personal canvas of my bedroom.
I liked the idea that a person could walk into my room and immediately know who I was.
This first picture is my room in Pennsylvania before we moved.
Your eyes are not deceiving you: the bed really was on an angle. My room still had the original floors, and, well, stuff settles, a lot, over 250 years!
Didn’t bother me one bit, I loved it – it added to the character of my room. I had one George Michael poster I got from an aunt for Christmas. Everything else were clippings from magazines, inserts from teen mags my friends would give me since they knew I’d never touch one of those magazines, and the newspaper. You do what you can when you’re 13 and 14.
This second picture shows my room at my parents, circa 1994:
I obviously liked keeping my bibs from running competitions. And note the Phillies and Steelers pennants.
And of course, as much George Michael stuff as I could find.
This was during my first couple years of going all out collecting, so I took care to display my vinyl all over the room.
There’s a wall twice as long behind me that was completely covered in George vinyl, posters, and pictures as well – and of course a world wall map, as viewed via the mirror, lol.
One of my first finds at record conventions was a guy who dealt solely with music posters, so I cleaned him out. Thus my ability to backfill Wham! posters.
So naturally, I imagined my first job finding me filling up my office space with pointless knick-knacks that I, at least, found funny.
And what happens?
I have a light table for a desk for making maps.
In a large room with 20 other people at their light tables!
We just had a few shelves on the wall where we could stash stuff, but it was nearly impossible to make your light table area ‘yours’.
I did find a little tabletop Steelers flag and took great care in adding some wire to the top of the flag so it would always be at attention. That and Far Side Day-to-Day calendars. I had to have something! If anything, the light table served as my personal heater. I’d climb up on it like a damn cold-blooded cat while working. So, in that sense I guess I personalized that area after all.
But then the next job was the same setup. So my flag just sat on the light table, which was half size and not near as toasty. Unfortunately.
We eventually moved into a large production room once we all got computers to work on, but again, not really conducive to personalizing the area. I did actually have a job where I had my own office with a door and nice view out the window, that was nice. Mr. Dutch surprised me by getting my college diploma matted and framed to hang up on the wall there.
He also bought me a Forever Rose for my desk so I could always have a flower from him at the office.
It took 10 years to get a legit office space.
But then I left it after two years.
Next job I was in a SCIF, so even though my coworker and I shared a huge room, the only other people who could visit us had to have clearance. So I had limited knick-knacks to amuse myself – because it seemed pointless to ‘express myself’ for the same eight people or so over the years.
At least we left our overhead light on. As opposed to the mole people working in other rooms…
Which brings us to my current location.
Our group is not located in our federal agency’s HQ, rather we’re hanging out in another federal agency’s HQ.
But everyone had the standard cubicle assigned to them. And it was a Big Deal- the feds had large, specific sized cubes per Union rules, contractors had smaller cubes. Folks with seniority got the window cubes, and the anticipation for one to become available (ie, someone retiring) was always palpable.
I became a popular utility player and was moved around to different teams a lot to gain a wide range of experience, so in turn I wound up moving cubes a lot – six times in eight years. But I kept my standard personal items for display the whole time.
You know: the wedding pictures, Steelers trinkets, gifts my Indian cube neighbor buddy would bring back from trips home to India for his coworkers…
… Other trinkets coworker buddies would bring back from their trips, all my conference lanyards… Beavis and Butthead work related memes…
I just slowly accumulated enough stuff where it was a nice Me space.
Well, the agency bean counters got an idea during our two years home during Covid.
That excess leased office space should be pruned.
And our division, currently spread out over four floors, is now going to consolidate to just two floors. May 1st is our deadline to clear out our cubes of all personal items, and July we consolidate to hoteling in new ‘neighborhoods’.
It’s been sooo surreal.
The manager’s rooms are getting more and barren. And weird things are being found in some cubes, especially those who’ve worked there for 30+ years
Weirdest so far? Someone came across a tooth.
We think it’s human.
Obsolete office supplies are being discovered from the old school manual cartography days. We have dead plants, groady coffee mugs, and tons upon tons upon tons of paper. That shredder is getting so overworked.
Anyway, I am definitely finding it bizarre to be in the midst of this major workplace shift. And I wonder how long it’ll take me to get adjusted to hoteling.
Anybody else already in a hotel office environment?
Or are you like Chuck Small, where it’s kinda necessary to retain a physical office presence in a school ?!
Let the author know that you liked their article with a “Green Thumb” upvote!