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The Toybox

people for the conservation of limited amounts of indignation

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it's too early for me to fake innocence
children of dune - leto 1
I think my boss and another employee are fighting very subtly in the next cubicle. I am really trying not to listen, because so far, they have gone (politely) through like, five subjects, all of which seem to be incendiary, and I am afraid of them both.

...seriously, I can't figure out what the hostility is about. Something about validating tests? And something about leave? And something about--something.

You know, I wonder if they know I can hear them. For some insane reason, despite the fact these are cubicles, everyone goes around using them like soundproof booths. The really weird part is, I think everyone knows they aren't, but we are all supposed to pretend they are, like some strange voluntary group hallucination.

And now there is emphatic pounding on the desk.

And the ipod comes out now. Something in Korn for a bit. I need the hit of violence, kthx.

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It's like the Wall Of Imaginary Silence in NYC restaurants.

Seriously, you can sit practically in your neighbor's LAP because the tables are all crammed so close together, and be talking to the person across from you, and you and your lap-sitting neighbor will both utterly ignore each others' existence and conduct entirely personal conversations. It's the height of rudeness to acknowledge that you've heard your neighbor or his dining partner, and if he's a New Yorker, he won't flick an eyelash if you start rambling on about, I don't know, seal bukkake or whatever. Because he honestly isn't listening!

Maybe your coworkers are all from NY? It took me a while to learn it, but eventually you really do believe that the Wall is there! And then, of course, you are free to chat about all kinds of things that you'd normally never discuss in public.

Mass auditory hallucination. It's more likely than you'd think!

*falls over* Yes, The Wall. That's it.

he won't flick an eyelash if you start rambling on about, I don't know, seal bukkake or whatever.

I am going to be haunted by that for the rest of my natural life.

Mental image could be worse, ya know. Could've been walrus.

Yes, this, or like the thing in public saunas where "nakedness is often seen but never looked at." The only kind of privacy possible in open crowded conditions is the kind where everyone ignores everyone else.

Reminds me of something I read in an ethnography of Inuit society. Expressions of emotion, especially anger, were strongly discouraged, starting in early childhood. Too much togetherness in cramped quarters.

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Cubicles are deceptive like that. Luckily, mine is about the size of a small to medium sarcophagus, so I am regularly slightly freaked out by it, but my older one was larger and yes, the walls were high enough to totally forget they weren't, well, all that wall-like.

Sometimes, when he was really pissed off, my (former) boss would YELL and shout and generally act like a scary crazy person. Even with the door closed, you could hear him. So I would take an extra long lunch, because I figured nobody should have to put up with that kind of noise and the emotional trauma (I'm pretty sensitive to yelling) justifies, like, ice cream or a frappuccino.

(Despite the yelling and being "former", I really did like my boss.)

Yes, we have studied the difference between visual privacy and auditory privacy. :) People come up with workarounds!

The really weird part is, I think everyone knows they aren't, but we are all supposed to pretend they are, like some strange voluntary group hallucination.

I really want to do anthropology on your office now... I don't think there are actually any studies showing that cubicles improve worker performance at all.

I can pretty much assure you that involuntarily listening in on my neighbor's conference calls on the speaker phone is not helping my productivity one iota.

They are probably as tired of hearing my conversations, as I'm having to train folks, so right now and for the forseeable future, there's a lot of repetition. But at least I use the headset. My voice carries like a bell, granted, but at least mine's the only one filling the air.

What is the actual justification behind cubicles as opposed to, like, actual real honest-to-god walls, do you know?

Cuz I don't get them.

Personal loathing of their own employees?

I don't get it. I guess it's the money, but seriously, I've seen how much money cubicle farms cost. Not so much with the savings.

Yeah. I mean. How did we even develop such a silly, useless thing?


be thankful that you have cubes. There is the illusion of privacy and noise reduction. I miss having my own cube. Having a conversation that you could hear the person on the other end and not the half dozen tech support calls that were going on.

I was in a wide open room with nothing between me, my co-worker and a half dozen student workers for a couple of years. We then were moved to what has been nicknamed 'the fishtank' with same co-worker and a couple of students. Rest of the students are outside the 'Tank' doing phone/walk up support for the University help desk, with the noise pollution of a 2 story room, with a coffee bar that makes smoothies, so it sounds like you're in a (&(&^% bar for most of the day. And libraries used to be quiet places.


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