Our cubicles can be a reflection of who we are, who we would like to be, or simply an embarrassing mess reflecting what we eat at work. One colleague, Stacy, adorns her cube with pictures of her niece, Tiffany. There is Tiffany as a chubby-cheeked baby-Tiffany wearing an outfit that identifies her as a proud member of the marching band. -Tiffany in a purple tap costume- and finally, Tiffany, covered in sweat, wearing a hospital gown, and holding her very own baby, which she, if she has the opportunity, will undoubtedly photograph and post in her very own cubicle. The circle of life continues.
In Joe’s cube, he houses items from the offices of previous VPs. A giant cattle skull, a water thermometer, a Mr. Potato head and angry client letters fill his personal space. It’s a special – a virtual reliquary of VP’s past.
My cubicle is comparatively boring. Just a note pad for taking down messages, last month’s production report, and some books on design. There is also a listing of pertinent evacuation procedures, holidays, extension lists, and birthdays. I have no photos and no special knickknacks.
When the new VP came to see my cubicle, I suddenly realized that my space lacked character, class and personal flare. I brought her through the dregs of cube city, introducing her to my cube mates and finally showed her my space where a blinking light indicating that there was a voicemail message on my phone was the only sign of human life within a 3-foot radius.
“This is where I live. ...Uh, extension 17 if you ever need anything.”
She stood there for a second and I wished I had something to show her. Maybe a photo of a child I was related to, in order to demonstrate: Just look! I’m a person with a very special life.
Instead, I blurted out exactly what I was thinking, which unfortunately was, “I don’t feel it necessary to impose my personal life on others.”
She smiled and put her hand on my shoulder “Whatever makes you comfortable.”
Since then, I’ve been thinking about what I could do with my cube to reflect my own sense of style, class, and personality, without dressing my walls with photos of family members, birthday cards that I feel too guilty to throw away, or free calendars.
I would begin by adorning the fiber core walls with a life-sized portrait of Benjamin Franklin. In his live sized half-portrait he would be wearing a monocle, holding some mineral in one hand and a tiny colonial flag in the other, presented in an ornately carved frame with ruby, pearl on oak in gold leaf -to catch the subtle lighting from the computer monitor as well as the two red candlesticks on either side of the flat screen.
On the cube shelf would be an old-fashioned phonograph, set to play records of the 50’s French singer, Edith Pilaf. La Vie en Rose would play softly in the background complimenting the hum of the printer as I printed out the monthly dashboard.
Additionally, I would keep in my desk drawer, a carved wooden box featuring whimsical islanders blowing ceremonial trumpets and M.C. Escher-esque geometric patterns. When a special guest visited like my immediate neighbor in cube-city, the office assistant, I would unearth the box from the mess of paperclips and say,
“Barb! It’s wonderful to see you. Can I offer you a pickle?”
She’d say, “Sure. I’ll take kosher dill, if you got it.”
I would still prefer to keep my friends and family out of the work environment. I don’t want to give anyone any ideas.