Cubicle: (n) a small space or compartment partitioned off.
Being twenty-nine years old, my attitude was a mixture of intolerance, gratitude, arrogance, confusion and overly pumped.
Arriving at the small college that had ridiculously allowed me to come in and teach a couple of courses,
I was introduced to everyone in the office—and given a cubicle.
I have never been a great fan of cubicles because I, for one, find it a little difficult to concentrate on what I’m doing when I’m hearing the whispering voices of people around me who are trying to be sensitive to everyone else in the room because we’re all stuffed together like bargain-brand sausage.
I didn’t like my cubicle.
It wasn’t just small—it was forbidding. It offered just enough space for my things, without me, or me without my things.
I could not land on a compromise.
One day, during my break from being uncomfortable, I walked around the hallways and found a door that read, “Storage.” I opened it. It smelled like dirty socks. But there was only an old Coke machine and three broken chairs in it, and the good news—it was at least five times bigger than my cubicle.
So I launched my plan…in stages:
- “That storage closet down there really smells bad. Can I help by cleaning it out?” (No one objected.)
- “Would anybody mind if I swept and mopped that storage closet?” (There were a couple of people who were curious about what I was up to but didn’t say anything for fear that I might ask for volunteers.)
After mopping, I put a desk inside which I had found in another storage room.
- “Turns out I found an old desk that I put in that storage room. Would anybody mind if I worked in there? Even though it does smell like gym shorts on their second week…” (A whole room full of grimaces from the cubicles. No one was interested in sniffing the shorts.)
I brought in some things from home, and in no time at all, I had a little office. Would you believe, it was two weeks before anyone stopped in to see what I had done. It was the dean. He poked his nose in, looked around, then glanced at me, and said:
“Nice work. Good office.”
One by one, my cubicle prisoners came down and eyed my pavilion. They were jealous, yet at the same time, realized they probably would not have done the same thing.
So the lesson is, if you find yourself stuck in a cubicle and you’re not happy, walk down the hall until you smell something you can work with.