Friday, November 18, 2011

A Thanksgiving Shredder Story, or how not to be overfed

We were all preparing for the Thanksgiving holiday at the office. Some of us were sitting around the break-room talking about how much we would eat—overeat, in fact.

“Don’t you have the sense to stop yourself before you’re overfed? My shredder does.” This statement posed by Rhonda from HR whose slight figure indicated an expertise in not taking on more than she could chew, raised our curiosity.

We followed her back to her cubicle where she kept her shredder. “Imagine, this is Thanksgiving.” She began feeding paper into her shredder. Sheet after sheet she fed into the shredder.

“Imagine this is the turkey, the cranberry sauce, the mashed potatoes—eat, eat, eat. But it’s okay, because the green light on the shredder says that it’s okay to keep going.

“And then there is that point where you have too much on your plate, but you try to keep eating.”

She shoved a thick stack of papers into the mouth of the shredder. The shredder stopped. The green light turned to red. Rhonda easily removed the papers. The green light came back on.

“The light turns red to say that's too much-you're overfeeding me. It stops the paper jam before it starts,” Rhonda said.

The shredder knows it's about to be overfed and says no more.” Gus pondered, eating a bag of chips. “Can they make Jam Blocker for people?”

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Wisdom of the Germaphobe

Phil in Purchasing. Yes we made fun of him, washing his hands all the time, making sure to not touch his face. But there was also envy: the awards for perfect attendance, never taking a sick day. We never saw him cough or sneeze.

“It’s like he’s not human,” speculated Tilmon from IT. “Maybe he’s an officebot. Maybe we’re gradually being replaced. Maybe some day we will all be officebots.” He said this smiling dreamily. This was a personal fantasy he often worked into conversations.

I was determined to find out what made Phil germ-proof. I approached his cubicle while he wasn’t there. Yes, the obvious signs of defense were present: the bottle of hand sanitizer. The telephone cleaning wipes to disinfect a common source of germ contact, and the gentle purr of his Fellowes Air Purifier cleansing the air of germs. But was that it?

“Can I help you?” Phil asked quietly behind me.

I was startled. “Phil, I um...” (How could I put it without sounding strange?) “Phil, I want to know how you don’t get sick?” It still sounded strange.

Phil smiled confidently. “Microban.” He said.

I pondered the word. Was this some powerful radiation that he had absorbed from an interstellar meteorite? Was it a top secret experimental government drug that made you immune? I realized I had been talking too much to Tilmon.

“It’s right here,” Phil indicated his keyboard, his mouse, his foot rest. Microban an antimicrobial protection built right into my wrist supports, on my keyboard, and my mouse wrist rest. It’s even on the surface of my footrest. It helps fight germs where germs are mostly found.”

“Did you know an active office worker can touch up to 30 surfaces in a minute—that’s major contamination. Microban prevents a lot of those germs from getting passed on.

Did you know that scientists have found parainfluenza (a germ a little worse than the common cold) on about one-third of office surfaces during the fall? Microban keeps these kinds of germs under control.

“And people like Gus…” we peered over his cubicle wall. On the other side Gus was devouring his Godzilla burger. “…And people like Gus who eat at their desk allow bits of food to drop down into their keyboard, forgotten and left to prosper into a garden of germs and mold—a literal bacteria cafeteria. Did you know keyboards have 400 more times the bacteria than a toilet seat? ” Gus stared at his keyboard with fear.

“Microban and some healthy practices can keep your cube germ free. “

“Phil,” I said, “I’ve been enlightened, thank you” I reached out to shake his hand, then realized my mistake. We bumped fists instead and parted ways.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Something in the Air...

Frank from Office Supply was a bit of a survivalist. He kept extra pens in case there ever was a shortage. He made triplicates of all his paperwork. He kept things that had no place in his cubicle: rubber gloves, an old broomstick, plastic flowers?

“You never know,” he would say mysteriously.

Then one day something happened to the air in the office. Everybody noticed it. Nobody could put their finger on it. A smell? An irritation to the eyes? Constant sneezing.

We complained to each other, media coordinator Jan, Ned from telemarketing. We searched our department for an explanation. Strangely, we would discover one person, one cubicle unaffected. Frank: he calmly typed away as we jammed our heads into his cubicle. It was filled with pure, fresh air. We crowded into it, desperate for a clean breath, jostling Frank to the point he had to stand up and address the three of us fumbling around in his cube. “It’s the Fellowes Air Purifier.” He explained the freshness of his personal air space.

“But what are we going to do about our cubes—they’re foul!” Ned was always dramatic. “Where is it coming from?”

Frank was cool, peering above the top line of his cube. “Odors, eye irritation, sneezing--it appears to be coming from many places.” He began putting on his rubber gloves as if preparing for surgery.

We watched over the top of the cubicle as he ventured out into the air pollution, sniffing as if to track down the culprit. He found himself at Otis’s desk. Apparently Otis had gone on vacation and left a double bacon barbecue Godzilla burger funkifying in his top drawer. Frank removed it with his gloved hands and urgently carried it out of the building at arm's length like radioactive waste.

I couldn’t smell it here,” said Jan astonished. Frank would explain later like a guru of office products that the Fellowes Air Purifier had a carbon filter that quietly and quickly removes odors from the air.

“But what about Jan?” Ned said hysterically. She still suffered with reddened eyes from some unseen affliction.

“It’s like I wandered through a desert,” she moaned.

“Hmm.” Frank pondered the dilemma and grabbed his broomstick. He headed for Jan’s cube. He discovered that a neighboring lot was under construction and dust kicked up was entering the air duct system, spewing unseen dust particles into Jan’s workspace. Frank poked the ceiling vent with the broomstick and closed it.

“But the air is so clear in here.” Jan sighed.

“It was the True HEPA filter,” Frank explained. “It captures 99.97% of particles and impurities as small as 0.3 microns. There is nothing too small that gets past the Fellowes Air Purifier.”

“Finally,” Ned sighed, “everything is back to normal!” He marched triumphantly out of Frank’s cubicle, only to be instantly overcome with a sneezing fit. He quickly hurried back in, hovering over the protective power of the Fellowes Air Purifier, which, as Frank would explain, had PlasmaTrue Technology, which safely removes airborne pollutants at the molecular level. (That’s viruses, bacteria and allergens)

Frank sniffed the air and ventured out into the cubicle farm, only to finally find the forgotten display of flowers near Ned’s cube from Mary in customer service. Frank swapped out her pollen rich flowers with his bouquet of fake daisies. (She would never know).

Slowly, each one of us ventured out, sniffing. The office had clean air once again, thanks to Frank who was prepared. But for how long?

How long before the office was again attacked by odors of strange cooked lunches and forgotten desk drawer sandwiches? How long before it was choked with dust and chemical odors from office remodeling? How long before it was stifled with allergens and infectious airborne germs from sick but dedicated employees?

Frank vowed that everyone would get a Fellowes Air Purifier. He would put the orders in himself.

Everyone, he declared, deserves clean personal air space at work!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Beware the Loss of Digital Information

Tilmon from I.T. held the flashlight under his chin as he said the words mysteriously: ….”beware the loss of all digital information.” We sat in the dark at his cube, as a power outage had left the office completely dark with dead computers. Everyone who needed a digital fix turned urgently to their smart phones.

“Even those lie in jeopardy,” prophesied Tilmon. “Imagine a massive solar flare wiping out all digital information, Imagine in the future, all our investment and reliance in digital media becomes so supreme that all our libraries, all our government records are digital….a complete abandonment of paper…and with one catastrophe all our digital information is erased, forgotten, only to find ourselves flung back into the dark ages.

“Are you gonna eat these?’ I didn’t wait for an answer and tore open the bag off chips that was on his desk “So then, what technology can we turn to?”

“Paper! The greatest medium of communication. Come follow me. “

We descended the back stairwell. Tilmon led the way with flashlight guiding us down the dark stairs until we reached the basement. We wandered past storage cages, suddenly caught in Tilmon’s beam of light and then vanquished to the darkness as we proceeded further. A dim oasis of light appeared ahead. We came upon a large man resting comfortably in a desk chair at the entrance of one of the storage cages. A battery powered light shone down on him where he had hung it from the cage. He sat with his arms crossed.

“This is the record keeper.” Tilmon announced.

“Quit the nonsense Tilmon, what are you looking for?” He said. I could see on the nametag that he was Gus.

“I what to reveal the power of paper. The longevity and endurance of the almighty parchment.”

“What?” Gus said,

“I think he wants you to show us how we keep records in the event of a digital apocalypse,” I said eating my chips.

“Oh why didn’t you say so?” He opened the gate behind him and Tilmon shined his light as Gus led the way.

“Most of our records go into the Bankers Box Drawer system, StaxOnSteel. The higher you stack them the more space you save. The drawers are reinforced so you can always open them easily and slide them back in. He demonstrated. “It literally creates a wall of records.”

Tilmon shined his light elsewhere. “What about that?”

“Well for some records we use your classic Bankers Box, an individual box with strong handles and a secure lid. But then sometimes there are unique record-keeping situations and we need certain types of storage.”

For example, here we have the Hang N Stor specially designed storage for hanging files. It lets you transfer the files from active to inactive storage. Over here we have the Divider Box, this one has built-in dividers so when the box is partially full, the other files don’t fall down and become disorganized. And over her- this is my favorite-the Binder Box. A lot of files and information are kept in binders, which don’t fit easily into most record storage containers. This one is specially sized to hold binders.

“You’ve shown us the light, Records Keeper” Tilmon shined his flashlight in Gus’s face until he squinted. There was a sudden whir of power and the room became illuminated. The lights were back on.

“Well I guess we avoided a digital apocalypse,” Gus said.

Tilmon saw his flashlight start to flicker. He tapped it, but it went out. “For now, “he warned, “for now.”

Monday, July 11, 2011

Trials of the Laminated List Part III

Eddie Chaz in his usual indifference to everything around him disregarded the wet floor sign and the fact that Fred from Maintenance was polishing the floors. Eddie slipped and fell. The List flew from his hand. As I ducked around the corner, I saw it slide like a hockey puck across the freshly polished floor and under the rumbling grind of the floor polishing machine. Before Fred had a chance to turn it off, the List spun around three times under the circular polisher and shot out like a ninja throwing star, striking Eddie just above the bridge of his nose as he lay sprawling by copy machine. I tiptoed across the shiny floor and picked up the laminated List while Eddie wept over what he decided was a permanent disfigurement, when it was really just a red mark between the eyes.

The List was unscathed, In fact, it was much shiner. Thanks to the Fellowes Saturn 95, the List had endured yet another trial. I tiptoed back across the floor whispering to myself like a mantra: “a laminated document is a safe document.”

The break room was in sight. I looked left and right for more hazards. But the coast was clear. The break room was empty, so with a sigh of relief I set down the List on the break room table and began unlocking the display case.

That’s when I heard a noise behind me similar to the sound of a handful of mud being thrown at the wall. I turned to see Gus from Finance slopping down his greasy, dripping triple bacon avocado ranch Godzilla burger with extra salsa and barbecue-- right on the List.

But I breathed easy. I was confident now that not even the greasy drippings of a Godzilla burger could defeat the laminating power of the Saturn 95.

“Gus,” I said, “watch where you put your lunch.”

“Oh sorry.” He had to scoop the dripping mess up with both hands.

“It’s okay,” I said and easily wiped the List clean with a napkin. “You see” I held it up proudly.

Gus stood there with his Godzilla burger dripping grease on the floor between his fingers. “Well of course,” he shrugged. “A laminated document is a safe document.”

After I had locked the List safely away in the display case, I returned to my cubicle, now a haven of rest, a sanctuary from my long journey. The phone rang. I answered. It was Jo-Beth. She said: “say, could you stop back by my office. I gave you the wrong document. That was our office supply inventory that I gave you. I still have the List right here on my desk….”

“But, but, it’s safe now…a laminated document is a safe--.”

“Oh that reminds me, when you bring back that inventory sheet I have to add laminating pouches to it—we’re all out. But that’s okay, you can take the List back without it, no problem right?”

Follow Cube Confessions for a completely new office adventure next month.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Trials of the Laminated List Part II

The Trials of the Laminated List Part II

When he came at me, Joe “The Spill” Wilson was empty-handed, which was a good thing. He was notorious for drenching everything including himself in his long-armed radius with coffee, soft drinks and once even a strawberry milkshake. All documents unfortunate enough to pass across his desk were doomed.

“Hey, is that the List, let me see it. I want to check my calendar, see what day I gotta clean up.” I handed him the List with a sigh of relief, as he was clearly beverage free.

“My calendar is in my office, it’ll just take a sec.” He stepped into his cubicle and set the List down next to a steaming Grande Mocha from Jumbo Java and simultaneously reached over the coffee to peer at his calendar pinned to the cubicle wall.

Before I could scream out loud, I saw it in slow-motion, like a dream, the way you see tragic accidents happening before your eyes. He bumped the coffee and the List and everything else on his desk was soaked in an engulfing ebony flood that waterfalled in a cascade of decaf droplets tapping onto the plastic desk chair mat.

“Oh man! Joe said. He grabbed a roll of paper towels, which he kept in ample supply due to his chronic clumsiness and began wiping up his mess, turning the unprotected papers on his desk—the project reports and sales projection estimates--into a mushy pulp.

But miraculously, the List with one swipe of the paper towel was wiped clean. I picked it up quickly before anything more could happen and remembered Jo-Beth’s words, as she patted the Fellowes Saturn 95: “a laminated document is a safe document.”

At that precise moment, I felt the List plucked from my hand over my shoulder. “Oh you got the List, exactly what I was looking for.” Eddie Chaz from PR started walking quickly away from me carelessly fanning himself with the List.

“Hey,” I ran after,” I’m supposed to post that in the break room.”

“Don’t sweat it,” he said over his shoulder, “I just want to make a copy for myself, no biggie.” He dragged the List playfully along the wall whistling as he took a sharp right into the copy room—where we also kept the shredders!

Laminated or not, the List could not possibly survive a shredding. As he disappeared out of sight, I turned the corner after him, hearing a loud grinding noise.

Suddenly Eddie cried out, “Oh No!”

See what happens in the next installment of Cube Confessions.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

The Trials of the Laminated List Part 1

It started with weekly sales meetings that left the conference room a mess. Admin Jo-Beth gave out weekly cleaning detail to the whole office, each one of us would get stuck with the job. She posted the List in the break room. Who would clean the conference room on this week of the month…

Strangely, the list kept disappearing. “I didn’t know it was my turn.” The shrugging would pass around the office. “The list is gone, I didn’t know….” Every time the list would go missing and the conference room remained a mess.

Jo-Beth clamped down. She had maintenance install a locking glass display case in the break room. Here the List would be safely displayed protected, proclaiming the duties without dispute.

There was one problem. I was given the responsibility of transporting the List from Jo-Beth’s office all the way on the east side of the building to the west side of the building. In between was a journey fraught with terrors, office workers and cube dwellers, every department from accounting to acquisitions, to human resources all knowing full well I possessed the List that would leave them cleaning up bagel crumbs and swizzle sticks. They would do everything in their power to stop me.

Jo-Beth had an idea. She brought out the Fellowes Saturn 95 Laminator with its easy carrying handle and stand-up feet. She took out the laminating starter kit that was included and powered up the Saturn 95. It warmed up in no time. The HeatGuard Technology kept the Saturn cool to the touch as we passed the list through. In a matter of minutes the List was safely sealed in a secure plastic pouch, complete document protection in five minutes.

She handed me the laminated list and the key to the display case. “Remember,” she said, “a laminated document is a safe document. I hope you well on your journey.”

Leaving her office, the door closing behind me, I could see ahead the vast maze of all the departments. Heads prairie-dogging over the tops of cubicles, eyeing me, eyeing the laminated List that I clutched close to my chest, stroking their chins, scheming as I proceeded trembling into the cube jungle….

See what happens in the next episode of “The List” in Cube Confessions.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Cool Feet

The Dilemma

The AC in the office failed. The email went around that it would be awhile before it was fixed. We all suffered quietly in our cubes with ice packs and oscillating fans, except for one.

Leslie in Accounting seemed completely comfortable. I passed by her cube on several occasions, not seeing anything that would account for her absolute contentment. Then it caught my eye. The Fellowes Climate Control Footrest quietly cooled her from the soles up underneath her desk, the massage bumps on the footrest adding additional comfort as she typed away in bliss...

“You know, cooling your feet actually lowers your overall body temperature,” I heard someone say behind me. It was Hank from Acquisitions.

“Yeah, so.”

“I’m just saying, that’s a pretty nice climate control footrest Leslie has.” Hank said. “You know, it even has massage bumps.”

“I know I saw the massage bumps--What difference does it make, it’s hers.”

“Well...”Hank looked left then right mysteriously, “I have an idea.” He led me to a remote corner of the supply room and whispered quickly. “Look, Leslie goes on vacation tomorrow--one week, that’s one week the Fellowes Climate Control Footrest remains unused.”

“So what are you saying?”

“I’m saying.” He cleared his throat. “We borrow it.”

“Are you crazy? She’ll find out.”

“How’s she going to find out? She’ll be gone. We return it before she gets back. Get in, get out-nobody gets hurt. It’s the perfect plan, and it’s just between the two of us.”

“Why not just take it yourself.”

“Because...” he again looked side to side, “this makes us co-conspirators.”

“Maybe I don’t want to be a co-conspirator.”

“You’re telling me you don’t want to feel the cooling satisfaction of the Fellowes Climate Control Footrest blowing a chilly breeze between your toes? Taking away all your stress and discomfort, lulling you into a perfect state of happiness...”

“Okay, okay, I’ll do it. But this plan better work.”

It was the first and only time I ever high-fived Hank.

The Caper
Tuesday 9:15 am: We snuck through the cubes, department by department. Hank shrunk down behind the copier to make sure the coast was clear. Then we made our move. I was the lookout while Hank unplugged the Fellowes Climate Control Footrest.

He pushed in Leslie’s chair to make it appear nothing had been disturbed. He held the footrest to his chest and quickly walked down the hall in the direction of his cube.

I hurried behind him, grabbed him by the arm and yanked him into the men’s room. ”Wait a minute,” I said. “Who gets the Fellowes Climate Control Footrest first?’

He held the footrest tightly like a newborn. “Well, it was my plan.”

“But I’m your co-conspirator.”

Hank held tightly to the footrest shaking his head. Then I had an idea. “Rock paper scissors.” I declared.

It was well known that Hank was cursed and had not won rock paper scissors since the third grade. But I had called it, and Hank had no choice but to submit to the challenge.

After his expected defeat, he reluctantly handed over the Fellowes Climate Control Footrest. “But you only get one hour,” he demanded.

A Brief Moment of Comfort
At my cube, I plugged in the Fellowes Climate Control Footrest. It had two height settings, so I could set it to the perfect angle. I turned on the cool setting and felt the nice cold breeze circulate around my feet. It had two heat settings also, so if I wanted, I could achieve perfect climate control all year round. I moved my feet so the massage bumps could do their work. I imagined myself inside a snow globe, the stress turning to snow flurries and drifting away....

That’s when I heard her behind me: “Did you say that footrest gives heat?”

I spun in my chair, flustered. It was Admin Harriet. She stood trembling with a sweater around her shoulders at the entrance to my cube. Harriet had a dysfunctional internal thermostat and could wear tweed in the tropics and still be chilly.

Apparently in my bliss I had been speaking out loud, “I-I don’t know...”

“Look, I know its Leslie’s,” Harriet said bluntly.

“But, but...”

“it’s okay, I don’t care. But I want in. It’s freezing by me. I need the Fellowes Climate Control Footrest warming my toes. I can just imagine it in the winter after walking across that icy parking lot...” I’ll tell you what. You can have my lunch. You love my potato salad.”

“But I need to get it to Hank soon.”

“Please,” she batted her eyelashes, “I’m so cold.”

Giving in with a sigh, I unplugged the precious Fellowes Climate Control Footrest and proceeded to take it to Harriet’s cubicle.

That’s when Hank suddenly blocked my path: “where are you going with that?”

“Harriet wants it.”

“Harriet?” Hank was stunned, then angry. “When did Harriet get involved? Anyway, it’s my turn with the footrest. Give me that!”

A struggle ensued outside my cube, the Fellowes Climate Control Footrest wrestled between us. Suddenly, Hank lifted his line of vision to the horizon, out through the office windows, out to the parking lot, as if he could sense her coming from a great distance. “Oh no, it’s Leslie!” he cried.

He could see her car coming. We would learn later that Leslie had been called back from her vacation for an urgent project. In addition to her distress at finding her Fellowes Climate Control Footrest missing, she would also be grumpy at having to cancel her time off. Heads would roll!

There was no time to waste. Hank tossed the footrest into a mail cart and the three of us rushed it like an organ transplant to Leslie’s cube, veering around corners, nearly tipping the cart at one point. We finally reached her cube. Hank quickly plugged it in. He adjusted it to her height setting. He had memorized every detail, bumping his head on the desk as he tried to get out before it was too late.

Leslie stood staring at the three of us panting out of breath outside her cube. “What’s wrong with you guys?” She said. She just shook her head, not waiting for an answer. She sat down in her chair, flipped of her shoes and switched on her footrest, releasing a contented sigh.

We wandered back to our cubes, defeated. “She seems so comfortable,” Hank said, wiping the sweat from his forehead with his sleeve.

‘Maybe someday we can all have our own Fellowes Climate Control Footrest,” Harriet said shivering.

Hank thought dreamily about what was possible. “ A cool setting, two heat settings, adjustable height settings, massage bumps---imagine, each one of us determining our own climate control, achieving our own personal comfort at our toe tips...”

We all pondered the possibilities. “Comfort at our toe tips...”

Too hot or too cold in your office? Tell me your stories of out-of-control office thermostats.