Thursday, March 25, 2004


Last night as I lay in bed looking out the window at the night sky, I contemplated what simple creatures we are. On everyone's list of simple joys is looking out the window at the earth and sky, not counting the agoraphobics of course. It's funny to what extent we sometimes go as a people to deny that simple pleasure. Convicts often report that not being able to look out a window is sometimes worse than the other deprivations and degradations of prison.

Those of us who work in office buildings typically have a few stories related to window conquest, denial, and political jockeying.

The most outrageous chain of events I've witnesses regarding windows was in a huge flat building dedicated to the production of microfiche, films, and data CDs. This place was so large that you literally could not see the far wall of the building from any other wall. Not that the curve of the earth prevented the viewing of cubes in the distance, but it certainly felt that way. As I made my way to my cube located in the quasi-middle of the building every morning, Bob Seger's "Feel Like a Number" would come on in my head in full surround. Naturally, windows were dolled out at a premium at that facility. They actually had rules in the employee manual about what pay scales and ranks could actually be considered for placement next to a window, and it was taken as seriously as pay and vacation benefits.

Once, Human Resources (And doncha just hate that name? Could they come up with a more dehumanizing moniker for it?) was moving to some posh new digs that had just been built for all the executives and non-production departments that felt it wasn't proper to be in the crude, flat, expansive building with the worker bee peasants. After they vacated, a new worthy department was elected for taking possession, and cubes started going up. (They tore down the original configuration HR had because everyone had HUGE cubes, and they knew the new tenant would not rate such space.) So the cubes started going up. They were nearly complete when some Chicken Little pointed out in a snit that no one in the new department qualified for a window, and the whole area was lined with windows. So, they tore down all the cubes, and ordered new cube walls that were high enough to cover the windows. Construction of the new cave-like cubie farm WAS complete when a higher-up strolled through on his way to somewhere else and inquired as to why they had covered up the windows. When the explanation was proffered, he flipped. "Are you fucking kidding me?" I believe is a direct quote. The walls came down, and the original (smaller) cube configuration was put back up. Still, the smaller souls in the company continually groused about that department having windows when they weren't supposed to have them according to company rules.

The company that laid me off last year played this game, too. When I started, I was part of the development team, and thus was in a windowed area with roomy cubes. I didn't have a window right in my cube because I wasn't a programmer, but one was just a veal pen or two away, so I got the light and could lean out of my enclosure to check the weather, see if the sky was still there, and so on. As the company began its swirl down the bowl, my kinds of positions were moved under another department as the result of political and budget wrangling to avoid laying off actual programmers, meaning we were the expendable ones. Apparently, it was to be blatantly obvious in the org. chart when cuts came as to whom the honchos - who had never even been to our building - should nuke without cutting programmers. So, I was moved down to a cube as far from any window as was possible. Understand that the floor I moved to was practically vacant, and of the possible 100 or so window cubes available, only 4 were taken. Yes, I started sending out resumes with that big clue, but no one was biting as the economy was beginning its big downward spiral, too.

These days, I have a window. In fact, everyone does. This place was built with all the workspace placed around the edge of the building and all utility space, for printers and storage, is in the center. Thus, it just cramps my nougat when I encounter someone who always keeps their blinds shut. I can see closing them once in a while, or maybe part of the day when the sun's blaring in. But, the earth turns, and natural light is a good thing. To me it's comparable to working somewhere that buys you a healthy lunch every day, yet a podnoid or two still makes the run to McGarbageburger and lays down good money. You just want to stage an intervention.

Anyway, I lie there, watching the stars stroll by, happy that I can look out a window any time I want these days. Small pleasures, doncha know.

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