Monthly Archives: November 2020

Saying goodbye to the cubicle (for now)

AKA 8 months and done

Last week I drove into the Oakland’s Uptown neighborhood to meet a friend for lunch (outside in the cold wind) and then head into my nearby office building to clean out my desk and cubicle.

Eight months ago, my team went from working remotely 2 days a week to 5 days as part of the Shelter in Place. We didn’t know how long we’d be gone, and most of us took only the essentials – laptops, peripherals, paperwork. We left behind coffee mugs, photos, tea bags, pens, and desk toys, like my bendable Pink Panther. (Side question: is a yoga toy considered an action figure, or a “steadily held pose” figure?)

For many years, my daughter would give me toys like this (and coffee mugs) and artwork because she knew how much I didn’t like going into the office. The truth is I didn’t like my job. The office was merely the embodiment of that. So she and my spouse did what they could to brighten up my desk/cubicle.

Last month, the Powers That Be at DayJob decided that IT group had no business renting three floors of expensive office real estate in the Bay Area, so they started canceling leases and ordered us to come and get our shit. We had to sign up for 90-min slots so we wouldn’t crowd the elevators or breathe on each other in the hallway. Everyone wore masks. It was all very civilized.

And it was still pretty weird. My cube was on the 11th floor, and between March and November a new skyscraper had sprouted up a few blocks away. Its rising skeleton was clearly visible from my floor’s conference room. Eventually, the new bilding will block part of the view of the Bay Bridge. Not that it’s going to affect me anymore.

I took this DayJob because my last company decided to move most of the web operations to Japan, and my manager and my technical support buddy at the next desk both quit to take other jobs. There didn’t seem like much future there, and the commute was a pain, so I pursued this gig.

Oakland was much closer to home (although in a more challenging neighborhood, to be sure). Once I arrived, though, my new department got shuffled in a re-org and two of the people who interviewed me quit. Then the contracting company changed and two more co-workers quit. Another one was fired.

I ended up in a team of 4 people plus several permanent “remote” workers whom I’d never met in person, including an inexperienced manager with a project list that seemed to change randomly.

So I had conflicting feelings about cleaning out the cube. On the one hand, it felt like leaving the job. On the other, nothing much had changed. I took my box of toys, tea bags, etc., my extra sweater, and drove home. Then I fired up my laptop and continued working.

When the Great Pause is over, I’ll definitely look into another DayJob. I think I’ve proved I can do the work without having to sit in conference rooms and shiver under the AC. I might end up doing something outside the Bay Area. Who knows?

It would be nice, though, to have the option of sharing a cup of tea with a co-worker who isn’t already living in the house.

The Word Count Podcast 100

Humans of the Future

The Word Count Podcast – episode 100

Today marks the final episode of The Word Count Podcast, and I wish to thank Mr. RB Wood for giving me an opportunity to contribute a story to his 10-year project to bring free fiction to the masses. The stories are written from a monthly visual prompt and read by the authors. This month’s prompt (above) was “Humans of the Future.” (Earlier months covered humans of the past and present.)

“The Stones of Särdal” is flash fiction, a bit under 1000 words, and around 5 1/2 minutes of audio. My story is third in the queue and starts at 14:30.

As an experiment, I tried to write the whole thing in one quick burst. I think 95% of that draft made it to the final version.

My own inspiration for “The Stones of Särdal” comes from my family’s summer home on the coast of Sweden. I took certain liberties with the actual history and architecture because hey, it’s fiction.


P.S. You can find my earlier story, “Burial Detail,” on Episode 82.