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Charlie Hatton
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Howdy, friendly reading person!
I'm on a bit of a hiatus right now, but only to work on other projects -- one incredibly exciting example being the newly-released kids' science book series Things That Make You Go Yuck!
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A Cubicle with a View — and More

Sometimes, it’s the little things — or their conspicuous absence — that makes all the difference.

Our new office building comes with a wealth of amenities and features. The views, for instance. We’re in a reasonably open (read: well-to-do) section of Cambridge, and the designers took the opportunity to include floor-to-ceiling windows on most floors, so that we may look out on the vast expanse of people and businesses that make far, far more money than we could ever dream of.

(Whether that’s meant to motivate or anger the inhabitants hasn’t been explained to my satisfaction yet. Either way, it sure keeps people stabbing away at their keyboards. And some day, perhaps, each other.)

“It sounds like a cross between a junkyard car crusher smashing a Volvo and a sumo wrestler squeezing open a watermelon between his cheeks.”

The other — some might say ‘intended’ — purpose of the sprawling windows is to better see the structure of one of our rivals, in the building next door. The gentlest among us contend that being within eyeshot of each other will bring us closer, and foster a spirit of collaboration. The rest of us don’t question it much, and dutifully line up for the hourly ‘Taunt ‘n’ Moon’ sessions like good little boys and girls.

(I kid, I kid. We hardly ever moon anybody out of those windows, partly because it’s rude and childish.

But mostly because it’s still freezing in New England, and no one wants to call the emergency number because their ass is stuck to a window pane. That’s a steep price to pay for lording it over a bunch of people you’ve never actually met.)

Rumor has it that our place was built one floor higher than our friends’ place next door, in a deliberate attempt to send a message. Personally, I think there’s a more concrete explanation — if our roof wasn’t higher than theirs, they’d know right away where the flaming bags of poop were coming from. As it is, they can’t possibly tell. But the maintenance guys are going to be in for a surprise, the first time they go up to check the A/C units. Hope they’ve got galoshes.

The windows are just one of the new office toys, though. There’s also the private parking. My buddy and I play a game I call ‘Garage Roulette’ — if you park on one of the upper levels, you have to brave the elements outside to get into the building. If you park in the basement, you can take an elevator into the office — but it’s dark and scary down there, with far greater potential for being stabbed and stuffed in some dude’s trunk. What do you do? What do you do?

(My strategy? ‘Always bet on black’. I figure being waylaid in a dark, musty basement somewhere is probably in my future, anyway — why fight it, and walk through half a foot of snow when I don’t have to?

Besides, I figure if I look tough down there and park next to a car nicer than mine — no problem there — who’s gonna want to bother with me? Also, I dial ‘9-1’ before I leave my car, spray a ‘mace radius’ in front of me as I walk, and won’t let anyone ride the elevator with me. Safety first!)

Of course, ‘windows’ and ‘parking’ only scratch the surface of the fun to be had at the new place. How about the motion-sensored lights, for instance? Those are a hoot.

In our little neck of the cube farm, the sensors seem to be in the hallway leading up to the area. So, if it’s a light-traffic day — everyone’s working hard at their desks, say, or a mooning truce has been called for a couple of hours — then *click*, out go the lights.

Which I’m sure would be entertaining, for anyone watching our plight. Though not nearly as entertaining as the next bit, wherein six or more of us maniacally waggle our arms over our heads like panic-stricken chickens, trying to trigger the sensor to TURN THE DAMNED LIGHTS BACK ON. I’m just waiting for someone to disable the thing, to see how long we’ll keep it up. My money’s on twenty minutes, at least. We’re persistent little cusses, you see.

Finally, we come to the beverage situation in our new digs. And this is where things get a bit dicey. But first, the good news. The powers-that-be have seen fit — being hopped-up caffeine junkies themselves — to provide free coffee and hot tea to all the employees in the building. They’ve scattered these magical little machines, three or four per floor, that serve up piping hot quaffs in an instant.

They’re impressive, really. Next to the machines are these little foil-topped thingies that look like overgrown creamer cups. You stick one in the machine, drop down a cup, push a button, and *gggggrrrrrrrnnnnngggggghhhhhhh* there you go. Hot coffee. The machine even disposes of the cup for you.

(Either that, or the cup is crunched up in your drink, too. Given the unholy noise the thing makes, it wouldn’t surprise me. It sounds like a cross between a junkyard car crusher smashing a Volvo and a sumo wrestler squeezing open a watermelon between his cheeks.

Which cheeks? Don’t ask. You wan’t cream and sugar with that, bub?)

Personally, I’m not a coffee drinker, so the machines are less helpful to me. I ingest my daily dose of caffeine in cola form, and that’s where my problem lies. In our entire building — nearly ten floors of shiny new carpet and steel — there’s exactly one soda machine. It’s in a break room, on the second floor. And it’s a Coke machine. That helps me not.

See, I’m a Pepsi man. And I know there are a lot of people out there with me, and many more out there agin’ me on this. And that’s fine. This is not about fanning the flames of the Great Cola Wars of the last millennium. I think we can all agree that no matter which cola we prefer, the other one tastes like carbonated bat piss. That’s called ‘common ground’, folks.

All I’m asking for is that choice, you see. And so far, it’s not been forthcoming. Maybe there are plans for another machine. Or maybe we’ll get a street vendor out front, peddling Pepsis while his monkey grinds and dances.

(Hey, what can I tell you? We don’t get many street vendors in Cambridge. How the hell should I know what they do any more?)

Meanwhile, I manage on my own. Some days, the trucks — you remember our food trucks, right? — have Pepsi for me. Other days, I’ll remember to snag one on my way in. Often, though, I’m out of luck, and have one sad, grim option for cola-style satisfaction.

That’s when I discovered green tea. Though I’m not a coffee drinker, I do enjoy a nice tea now and then. I blame all the British comedies I watched growing up.

(How I avoided scones and kippers and cucumber sandwiches on the lawn, I don’t know, but tea, for some reason, took hold.)

Also, I’ve been a bit ill recently, and green tea is supposed to be good for you. So, I’ve been letting the little sumo in the coffee machine squish me out a couple of doses a day of the stuff. It’s not particularly delicious, by any means, but that just tells me that maybe it really is beneficial. If it were any tastier, I’d assume the health benefits were crap.

I’ve also discovered something else. By my back-of-the-envelope calculations, the green tea instabrewing in those little machines has approximately FOUR HUNDRED THOUSAND TIMES the caffeine of a regular soda. Today, when the lights shut down, I didn’t wave my arms — I ran out, climbed eight feet up the wall, and banged on the motion sensor until it relented. I may be just a touch edgy on the stuff.

Also, I just spent several hundred words describing an office building. That’s definitely a bad sign. Starting tomorrow, I’m going back to the sodas. The sugar might rot my teeth, but at least I’ll be calmer again. How the hell do they expect us to moon the neighbors when we’re all so damned twitchy?

Permalink  |  2 Comments

2 Responses to “A Cubicle with a View — and More”

  1. RRaccoon says:

    My one wish is that when the lights go out it affects the bathrooms.

  2. Goth Bunnyy says:

    I’m surprised you havent done what I did at another company that did the motion-sensor-light-thing . . . Cubicle volleyball! Just get an inflatable beach ball and let fly when the lights go out. Bonus points for a glow-in-the-dark ball.

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