Keeping Your Cool in the Least Hospitable Environment on Earth

I was going to write about this much earlier, but now that I’ve actually read the book, now’s probably even a better time.

We had our office Christmas holiday party in our office area this past year. I reckon it was a direct result of the previous year’s gathering at some amazingly crowded restaurant where the people from the next area could bump into us with astonishing regularity. That said, I was quite disappointed with the decision. Getting out of the office was nice when we worked downtown, but now that I’m in suburban cubicleland, it seemed essential. And it was a potluck, always a pain when you take three buses to work.

Still, it wasn’t awful, and in fact, we took over the “training room”, a large meeting room, and it was all right. What was striking, though, was the gift exchange. Of the 12 gifts traded, fully four of them had a cubicle theme. In 2006, when we first moved in, we didn’t see such gifts, but in 2007, it was as though it’s finally sinking in. One person got a weather cube, another a Dilbert calendar, a third an actual miniature cubicle with a “person” at his computer that the real person can control.

I got a book, a 2007 paperback called The Cubicle Survival Guide by James F. Thompson. Its subtitle is the title of this piece. Of course, some of this is common sense, except that, as many of us have realized, “common sense” is not all that common.
Introduction: Railing against the term “cubicle farm”
Chapter 1: Perspective. “They’re not real walls.”
Chapter 2: Decoration. Postcards, family photos, small plants, yes. Religious and political icons, no, unless that’s the norm.
Chapter 3: On the Phone. How to speak in code, because whispering or even speaking in another language might not cut it. Also, how to deal with “speakerphone divas.”
Chapter 4: Illness, Bodily Functions and Injuries. Frequent trips to the bathroom, using discretion, and detours to treat that hangover.
Chapter 5: Eating, Drinking and Digesting. Fish is at the top of the stink pyramid. Consideration when using the toaster oven and the microwave creates peace.
Chapter 6: Hygiene. Don’t trim your fingernails. Wear your shoes. Limit the perfume.
Chapter 7: Entertaining Guests and Unannounced Visitors. Use defensive body-language techniques to get rid of the office lamprey.
Chapter 8: Anti-Spy Methods and Counterespionage Equipment. Ctrl-W, alliances with colleagues, small fonts, rearview mirror.
Chapter 9: Exercising, Blood Circulation and Posture. Some good, specific exercises. Take a break, have a life.
Chapter 10: Protecting Yourself and Your Cubicle. No passwords on your computers, use yellow police tape. I think the latter’s a joke, but I’m not sure.
This book may be more useful to point out to others their shortcomings than for you, who would never eat a stinky cheese in a cubicle. Would you?

At said party, my favorite thing to eat was this. They’re not “heavy”, as you might assume they are.

Sausage Balls
(from the Lady and Sons Cookbook – a Savannah, GA restaurant)

3 cups Bisques or baking mix
1 pound of sausage (I use the roll of Jimmy Dean sausage) – not cooked
2 cups of shredded cheddar cheese
2 beaten eggs

Put the first three ingredients in a big mixing bowl and stir together.
It forms stiff dough that loosens up when you add the beaten eggs. Mix well.
Form 1” balls (like a medium sized meatball) and place about 2” apart on a baking sheet.
Bake 15 minutes at 350 degrees. The color will change only slightly during the baking.
These are best served warm. The recipe makes nearly 2 dozen balls, depending on the size.


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