26 October 2006

Barbarity

I'm not cut out for life in the cube farm. I don't know if anyone is. It seems a cruel and awful set-up, one slice above a sweatshop or assembly line and some days it just beats the shit out of you so you never want to go back.

Today, obviously, was one of those days.

I sat there as my co-worker phoned her mom to say that the medical appointment on her lunch hour had not gone well, that her husband's biopsies showed cancer, that the CT scans showed large masses in both lungs and in his intestines and it didn't look good.

I sat there overhearing every word and wondering at the cruelty of this situation - because she had to get back to work - where she has to have this conversation knowing everyone can probably hear her and I have to listen to one of the most horrible, intimate moments of her life.

Meanwhile people in the next cubes over continued gossiping and joking. I don't know if they heard or not. My guess is they didn't, but I still wanted to scream "Shut up!! Don't you know that her world is ending?"

But of course I could not, because in cube farm etiquette, I had to pretend I wasn't hearing what I was hearing. That is part of the insanity - to stay sane, you act a little insanely.

And then there was the deepest sick part of me that was feeling so glad it wasn't my life that was being wrecked, and the guilty part on top of that, that was feeling guilty for being glad, feeling glad I got to go out to Thai food after work and be lucky that, for me, today was not the worst day of my life.

17 comments:

Laurabob said...

And you now have to pretend you didn't hear it? It's life in hell...

Maggie said...

I don't know, but I might just overstep cube farm etiquette on this one and give her a card and a "let me know what I can do". Because she probably knows you heard and I remember in cubies, you can't help but know and hear. And lastly, if it were me whose life was ending I think I'd want someone to be there for me even if it meant they heard my phone conversations. Just shooting from the hip here though...
I feel for you and the situation you are in.

Michele said...

I agree with Maggie. There are times when it is almost cruel to continue pretend you dont know what is going on. A husband with cancer is too big for cube etiquette.

SUEB0B said...

Yeah, I did go over and I did talk to her. I knew she was going and I knew she had been a little worried before she went.

Mignon said...

Your mindfulness of the good fortune in your life is one positive, though, right? I hate it when people make me look on the bright side when I'm complaining, so poke me with a stick if I'm that person.

When I was in cube land I had a Bosnian woman on one side, a Taiwanese guy on another, and a Vietnamese guy diagonal. If I closed my eyes it was almost like being on an airplane to Singapore. Except it wasn't.

jonniker said...

Oh that just breaks my heart.

guinness girl said...

I don't think it's sick at ALL of you to feel grateful that you aren't living her life right now. I understand the guilt - but it's completely normal. I'm curious, though - why didn't this girl walk outside the office and have the conversation on her cell phone? That's what I do!

How awful for her, though.

Mrs. Chicky said...

I feel for that woman, I really do. I've been there.

I left my job in a large corporation full of cubicles to work with dogs. You have no idea how many people, after hearing the news, that told me how jealous they were. Picking up dog poop is far better than sitting in a damn cube day in and day out.

schmutzie said...

I work in a cube farm myself, and I know what you're talking about. Today, one of my coworkers didn't come in to work because she "broke her knuckle" when she "fell down the stairs". We all pretend that we believe that and that we haven't overheard her conversations on the phone with her sister and her husband and her kids. It's depressing.

super des said...

I've listened to a very similar thing at work, and had the same bunch of emotions. What do you say? Sorry, I couldn't help overhear that your spouse's and your life just took a major turn for the worst. Anyway do you have that spreadsheet?

More reasons to work alone.

mmm Thai food.

Christina said...

That really sucks. I remember cube life, and I had to deal with others around me having issues like that. It was awful, and I hurt for them, but never quite knew what to say.

Holly Capote said...

I'm working on a novel about a 29-year old woman. She works in a cubicle. The novel begins with her being buried alive as a kid. I want her to know the taste of the grave, so that when she's lowered into a cubicle, she'll know where she is.

I suspect that cubicles are especially hard on women. We are generally social animals and a cubicle reminds that you others are there, but still cuts you off from them. It's the forever tease. It's a cruelbicle.

Peevish said...

I have to disagree. I worked in offices with doors, and windows with nice views for about 6 or 7 years. And I worked in cubes for the last 4 years, and I tell you, I prefer working shoulder to shoulder with real people, going through real problems. You share the good, the bad, the nutty and the tragic. Being isolated is the way of the emotionally dead. Why do we go to support groups after all?

kat said...

I was part of a cube farm once. It became a cube family. When you are in such close proximity it can really go either way.

Yes you can pretend to not have heard her but what would be even better is to show her random acts of kindness every day. That will do so much good for her you can't even imagine.

meno said...

I used to work in a four person cubicle. We could always tell when someone had a personal call because they started speaking very softly. Some of us would try and be courteous and leave the cube for a few minutes and others would stay and get very quiet so they could overhear. I don't miss that zoo.

alphabitch said...

earplugs make life possible for me in cubeland.

Miriam Erez said...

Earplugs are the best thing that ever happened to me: I use 'em at home (two teenagers), on public xportation, and while sleeping overnight away from home. They've changed my life.

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