RIP, Workplace Domicile

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[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.

“Any chance on getting Dreambones in the vending machine?”

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…

“I’d like to talk about my review.”

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.

“Actually…”

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 ?!


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dutchg8r

Obnoxious Smurf that tells lame jokes and is too sarcastic for her own good.

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cstolliver
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April 18, 2023 5:37 am

Thanks for the shoutout, dutchg8r. In the early days of COVID (spring 2020), school counselors had to work from home like everybody else. As soon as we were permitted to return (late summer), I was back at school — even though the kids didn’t return for another six months, and all of our meetings with them were virtual. I needed that separate space.

Great piece, and I *loved* your George shrine! At my first newsroom (the Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette) I had a “Moonlighting” shrine (Cybill and Bruce everywhere) but never thought to take a picture of it.

thegue
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April 18, 2023 9:42 am
Reply to  cstolliver

Teaching from home was HORRIBLE. Worse yet, as a member of my town’s Board of Education, I voted in favor of keeping students out of the classroom until the *fear* of COVID subsided.

That particular bit had nothing to do with my own teaching (can’t serve on the BOE where you are employed), but afterwards we saw the effects remote learning had on students, and it was…not good.

The effect on the teachers wasn’t much better, as so many of my colleagues left the field.

Quick note: The Mothership is approaching the end of the school year, 2008, which is when I resigned and left for Australia. One of the reasons I left was because of the particular interest our superintendent took upon my career.

In 2004, I’d created a website for my World History class, complete with assignments in case of absences, and links for further research into some topics. On the front page, I had a picture of my fiancee and I…and was written up for it. When I asked what the difference was between posting a picture there or on my desk, they said I shouldn’t have ANY personal pictures in my room.

I knew it was time to leave.

JJ Live At Leeds
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April 18, 2023 8:37 am

Love the room photos, while it may not have been George Michael covering mine I had the same compulsion most teenagers seem to have to cover every inch of wall.

In terms of workspace though I’ve had a very different experience.

I’ve worked for the same employer since 1997 minus the year off for travels. I’ve moved through numerous departments and roles and for the majority of them didn’t have a desk to call my own. The office is the size of an aircraft hangar and other than meeting rooms is entirely open plan, no individual offices and no cubicles – its an eerie place if you’re there at night when its mostly empty and quiet. The big boss does get their own desk but is still sat out in the open.

In a lot of my roles where you sat was determined by what time you started work. Early birds got the pick whereas those like me with a more relaxed attitude to getting out of bed would take whatever was left. Never bothered me, an extra hour in bed and a later start time was way more important. Some people would get territorial and sit in the same place everyday but generally it was a free for all. That meant no room for large scale personalisation, a few family photos that could be stored in a locker overnight and brought out each day to wherever you happened to be sat.

Come 2015 I started working from home one day a week which became two days a week a couple of years later and once covid came along became a permanent thing. I’ve got the option of going into the office but amongst my team it suits us to work from home so other than heading in for the occasional get together that’s how we do it. Works for me. The commute from the bedroom to breakfast table to bathrooom to laptop is a breeze.

I’ve gone from no personalisation of my workspace to being completely personalised. And I get to look out at the back garden with the birds coming and going to the feeder and the local cats going about their business with the occasional fight and futile attempts at catching the birds – apart from one memorable success which resulted in an explosion of pigeon feathers and blood.

Not so much a hotel environment for me then these days, more like a permanent Airbnb.

JonDeutsch
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April 18, 2023 12:21 pm
Reply to  dutchg8r

I’ve actually worked for the same employer* since 1995 – 28 years and counting.

*The company name, size, and nature changed about 6 times in that duration due to mergers, acquisitions, and spin-offs.

JJ Live At Leeds
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April 18, 2023 1:48 pm
Reply to  dutchg8r

There’s plenty people have been here longer than me. There’s long service awards and someone recently got 50 years. Now that’s dedication. I aim to retire before I get close to that mark.

I have had a few attempts at leaving. Even got offered a job and took pleasure in turning it down as the interviewer who would have been my boss came across as such an obnoxious dick that I came away feeling he’d make life hell. Better to stick than twist.

Virgindog
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April 18, 2023 9:36 am

I’m just the opposite from you, dutch. My cubes have always been empty. A co-worker once asked my why I didn’t have pictures of my family and I jokingly said I already know what they look like. She said, “But don’t you want to remember what you’re working for?”

I, again jokingly, said that I was working to get to 5 o’clock so I could go home and see my family for real, but then it sort of struck me as sad. She must have disliked her job if she had to be reminded that she was doing it for her family.

I did, however, like moving up in seniority and getting better cubes. When I was at Arthur Andersen in Florida, I eventually got one with a window overlooking a pond. I could see the alligator enter the pond through the large pipe connecting it to the stream. The gator would try catching wading birds, sometimes successfully, sometimes not. The vultures would perch on the ledge outside my window. It was like having Mutual Of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom on eight hours a day.

The alligator got used to all the human activity and one day took a walk through the parking lot. Management called in a trapper to capture it and take it far away. No work got done the afternoon he was there. We were all glued to the windows until the gator was roped up, in the back of the pickup truck, and the truck drove away.

JJ Live At Leeds
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April 18, 2023 11:11 am
Reply to  Virgindog

The alligator definitely trumps the wildlife from my window!

Best view was my brief time temping in Sydney, on the harbour front right beside the Harbour Bridge with a view of the Opera House across the water and the constant traffic of boats coming past. The work was menial but that view was perfect for daydreaming the time away.

Phylum of Alexandria
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April 18, 2023 12:58 pm
Reply to  dutchg8r

I used to work near a bunch of ospreys as well.

Phylum of Alexandria
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April 18, 2023 12:59 pm

Tried to post a photo, but having technical difficulties.

mt58
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April 18, 2023 1:34 pm

Is the issue on our side? Either way, I’ll be happy to post if you want to send over.

Phylum of Alexandria
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April 18, 2023 2:23 pm

Here we go:

Screenshot_20230418-125307_Instagram.jpg
Phylum of Alexandria
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April 18, 2023 12:55 pm
Reply to  Virgindog

I used to work near a bunch of ospreys as well.

thegue
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April 18, 2023 9:58 am

Your story and pictures bring back memories, Dutch! (though I’m wondering when the George Michael switched over to Duran Duran…?)

My room was in the A frame section of our second floor, so the perfect “ceilings” to thumbtack posters. Typical of a boy’s 1980s bedroom, I had:

Heather Thomas in a hot tub
Christina Applegate with the falcon on her arm
Samantha Fox

Smaller pictures adorned the walls, and surrounded my AC/DC and The Cars smoked mirrors…

Mr. Plow
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April 18, 2023 2:26 pm
Reply to  dutchg8r

Would that make you Team Andy or Team Roger?

cappiethedog
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April 19, 2023 12:57 am
Reply to  dutchg8r

It’s not a shrine, but I have a DEVO collection. My grandmother bought me stuff from the DEVO Club. If there was a DEVO song suitable for her funeral, I would have suggested it. But there isn’t. Not even close. The one positive that came out of losing creative control of her memorial video and accompanying music to my uncle is that I was half mad/half sad.

That George Michael shrine is amazing. I do possess a crystal clear memory of hearing “Faith” for the first time blaring out of an independent video rental shop next to the Safeway. And thinking, immediately, this is brilliant. I still think “Faith” is a classic song, a 10.

LinkCrawford
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April 18, 2023 10:03 am

Go Steelers!

But wait, you are a cartographer? Like Sr.Carto was? USGS? I, of course, am a fellow federal employee, of the National Weather Service in Ohio. (If you don’t want to say, it’s ok…I obviously am under-paranoid about privacy, as can be gleaned from my handle.

When I returned from Idaho to Ohio, I was sad that my old cubicle got taken, but I’m just on the other side and still adjacent to Tom. I only spend about half of my workday in there, as the rest I am out on our operational work floor.

LinkCrawford
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April 18, 2023 1:32 pm
Reply to  dutchg8r

Totally cool! Way back when I started my career I had to give briefings to pilots (mostly flying small aircraft). Those charts looks slick.

I’ve never even been inside NOAA’s HQ. 🙂

cappiethedog
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April 19, 2023 8:10 pm
Reply to  dutchg8r

Under Jamie Dixon(ex-UH assistant coach), there was a lot of us who rooted for the Pittsburgh Panthers. The story about his sister, the Army women’s head basketball coach, is a sad one. Easy guy to root for.

They finally made it back this season after Dixon’s departure.

Pauly Steyreen
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April 18, 2023 11:37 am

My office is mostly decorated with photos of Mrs. Pauly and the Teen, with several art projects when the Teen was a tween or a tot.

The one little hint of personality I reveal is my Milo throbblehead (as in Milo Aukerman from the Descendents).

And a thin slice of jagged metal from a water storage tank I built early in my career. 150 foot tall steel elevated watersphere, and that thin slice of metal was the only cut required in the field. That’s how precisely the steel sections were manufactured. Very cool. The metal is like a bastard sword.

cappiethedog
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April 19, 2023 8:06 pm
Reply to  Pauly Steyreen

“…when the tween was a tot.”

That’s the genesis for an early TMBG-like song.

Gotta love those internal rhymes.

JonDeutsch
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April 18, 2023 11:54 am

Love the backstory and photos of your walls growing up.

Regarding office space, I can totally relate. But my story is perhaps more extreme. I went from a full-on office (with a door and a window seat to the outside!) and straight-lined it to permanent work-from home due to the pandemic.

Photos of before and after below…

JonDeutsch
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April 18, 2023 11:55 am
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Official office space where keeping things neat’n’clean was part of my professional brand…

workoffice.png
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April 18, 2023 11:56 am
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New “at home” office space where since nobody ever sees my office space from any POV other than from the computer I’m staring at, it is a bit, err, less tidy…but more “me.”

office-after.jpg
mt58
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April 18, 2023 12:12 pm
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A Kronos and T3 sighting!  🎼 

JonDeutsch
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April 18, 2023 12:14 pm
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Synth 🦅👁️!

JonDeutsch
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April 18, 2023 2:07 pm
Reply to  dutchg8r

Spirit 🦅👁️!

Aaron3000
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April 19, 2023 9:10 pm
Reply to  JonDeutsch

Lol, I was gonna ask what was in the glass on your desk… Didn’t even see what was in the background until dutch pointed it out!

lovethisconcept
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April 18, 2023 2:02 pm

Teachers have an entire classroom, and most of us have a ton of personal stuff sitting around or hanging on the walls. I left the classroom last May, and I left most of my acquisitions, including an entire table full of owl (that was our team mascot) paraphernalia, including figurines, wreaths, and wax warmers, as well as a stack of laminated math and/or inspirational posters. I kept gifts from students, the Keurig (naturally), most of the Christmas decorations, and the family photos that had been on my desk. I also took home my fan, vacuum cleaner, and crock pot. So, yeah, I guess you could say that I had personalized my space.

Last edited 1 year ago by lovethisconcept
JJ Live At Leeds
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April 18, 2023 2:31 pm

The fan I can get but Keurig, crock pot and vacuum cleaner?!?

Sounds like you were setting up home there.

Was the cafeteria and cleaners not upto the job??

lovethisconcept
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April 18, 2023 3:35 pm

No, the cafeteria food was not very good. Most of us brought our lunches. And every couple of weeks or so, a bunch of us in our hall would do a pot luck, so the crock pot was very handy for those who brought food to be warmed. I had a bigger closet than most so I left mine there all the time. Many people actually used it. Same with the Keurig. Several teachers kept a stash and came in for that mid-afternoon caffeine boost.

The cleaners did a fine job. But I hated to call them every time someone accidentally dumped the hole puncher or pencil sharpener into the floor. You would be surprised how often a minor catastrophe like that occurs. So the vacuum cleaner was for occasional cleanups, not daily cleaning. It was a small one meant for that type of thing. Most of us had something similar in our rooms.

Last edited 1 year ago by lovethisconcept
Edith G
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April 19, 2023 3:28 pm

Nice pictures , I like the way you always personalized your spaces. On the other hand, I never felt creative to do so and I’m not used to put photos or personal stuff, besides my current workplace is so far the one I’ve lasted longer, but after a brief period of cutting staff, I wasn’t feeling stable and was afraid of being part of those cuts. The only thing added is the radio that I recently bought.

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