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Mysterious Cubicle Crud

The reason I can't blog this morning is that I have just moved to a new cubicle and am totally out of sorts. The monitor seems to be leaning to the right -- tilting just enough to bother me, but probably not enough to justify an official protest. I don't want to be seen as a Work Station Complainer. Every office has people whose work stations are, at least in their imagination, killing them. (One suspects it's the job and not the cubicle that is lethal in most cases.) The other reason I will keep the leaning-monitor problem to myself is that I don't entirely trust my senses, because in the past year I've been having symmetry problems in general. I worry that it's my head, my eyes, my optical nerve and whatnot, that have gone on the fritz. It happens with age. One day you realize your gyroscope is shot.

Changing workstations can be every bit as emotionally devastating as going through a divorce. There is a pervasive strangeness to everything. There are unfamiliar sounds, light hitting the eyes at an odd angle, peculiar vapors from a photocopier, plus the reorientation of the body with regard to magnetic North. I spent years facing Northeast, and now am facing Northwest, and I keep feeling dizzy. (You know by now that I'm unusually sensitive to changes in the Earth's axial tilt and wobble; some people keep track of their biorhythms, but I have to keep a close eye on the Milankovitch Cycles.)

Somehow in the move, my trash basket disappeared. It was just a generic black trash basket with a plastic liner, but still, it was mine, it was fully domesticated, it was trained, and now it's out there somewhere in the newsroom, no doubt feeling abandoned -- unless, of course, it was kidnapped, in which case God knows what hideous things some other reporter may be doing to it. Probably treating it like garbage. In any case, I managed to get a new trash basket, but it's just not the same. These things aren't interchangeable the way that, for example, cats are.

I also couldn't blog because I had to clean. This part of the newsroom is brand new, but the cubicle itself, the desk and computer and computer monitor and so on, has been around the block a few times. There is mysterious crud and grease on the monitor. You would think it had been a touch-pad screen. Indeed, the closer you examine one of these work stations the more you notice all the micro-spatters, the random globs of this and that, the layers of dust and grime, the coffee stains, the enigmatic exuviae of workers long gone.

I'm not a neatnik by any stretch, but let's face it, we work amid filth. Plus you got your invisible microbial realm, all those germs jammed elbow to elbow, orgiastically replicating. I find all life forms smaller than bunnies to be repulsive and frightening. I don't know whether to clean my desk or culture it. Here's a fact: I scrubbed the mouse. It was a vile thing covered with exudations. While I cleaned, the cursor was running around crazily on the monitor, clicking on various applications, but I didn't care. Begone, mouse scuzz.

And that's why I didn't blog. How can anyone work under conditions like this? Not that I'm complaining, you understand.

By Joel Achenbach  |  April 3, 2006; 10:48 AM ET
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