A series of cubicles

He sits in a chair in a cubicle in a series of cubicles in an office in a series of offices in a building in a series of buildings on a street in a series of streets in a city in a series of cities.

His life runs in a series of events: wake up, coffee and a bite, clock in, morning work, wasting a minute or two online as the opportunity presents itself between forgettable tasks, lunch, more coffee, more lazy deviations from lazy work, clock out. Dinner, movie, distant conversation with the wife. Sleep.

He says he’s happy – his wife is nice and pretty, his cat loves him, his coffee tastes good, and his work allows his weekend fun: television, testing the new restaurant down the street, and dressing for the season.

He says he’s happy – he smiles and nods, his yellow filter on Instagram is warm, and his banter has been perfected to a series of compliments within a series of positive phrases.

He sits in a chair in a cubicle in a series of cubicles in an office in a series of offices in a building in a series of buildings on a street in a series of streets in a city in a series of cities.

And yet that same thought crept in his mind as it has a thousand times before – if I were to have a heart attack and writhe on the ground until the life was wrought from my body, what would change? My flesh would be scraped off the floor, a tear would be shed, and my cubicle would be filled and replaced by the following month. The numbers at work would be successfully filled out, the wife would cry and cry and cry and then get remarried, and the purr and slide up against some other man with a watch like mine and a jacket with pin stripes instead of plain.

Shouldn’t the weeping of my loved ones be enough? Shouldn’t their potential pain be indicative of how they value me? Is my life only worth the value others endow upon it? Can I not give value to my own life, for my own sake?

No, that would mean doing something outside of my series of things, something bigger or something beyond. It could even mean forsaking my coffee and morning bagel, or losing dental — and I’ve got a filling coming up. That would mean losing everything I have.


And so he keeps what he has. He keeps the commute and the hollow words, the job that pays both his daily bills and the bills of his boss’s boss’s boss who is buying his fourth car for his second summer home. He toils alone in the shade next to the shaded cubicles of a thousand like him, and he turns the phone on himself, smiles and says, “This is alright, this is right for me. Anyone who says otherwise just doesn’t know me well enough.”

Business person eating birthday cake in cubicle

Images courtesy of Storyblocks.

5 comments on “A series of cubicles

  1. Here’s a thought, the cubicle can only suck the life out of you if you let it and is your job the Only way to give your life meaning? Then again, I am the person who decorated the office for holidays, started a cubicle decorating contest (my best was turning my cube into a castle complete with a drawbritand faux moat, but the dungeon and circus were memorable), played office wide April Fools pranks and plastic wrapped a cubicle and filled it with packing peanuts.

    • I agree! I actually wrote this to highlight how it can sorta suck the life out of you at times, but I’ll be the first to admit it’s a bit dramatic. After all, I work in a cubicle too! Lol. My day job.
      Honestly, it also depends on what job you have. My cubicle job can get really interesting — I shoot commercials and edit for a subsidiary of a large TV studio. A lot of time is spent editing in a cubicle, but actually I think I prefer that to shooting a lot of times. That’s a lot different than data entry or something else!

      I think you’re spot on. The key is to find meaning outside your work — but meaning that YOU bring to the table. In my opinion that means some type of service, be it service to your country, family, friends, or strangers on the street. The problem with many people in the position of the guy in this story isn’t the job itself, it’s their attitude and how they pursue things in their own lives outside of work.

      However, I know a lot of people who really get sucked into jobs they hate, aren’t built for it (but it’s comfortable so they stay), and they still ask why their mental health is taking a nosedive. They don’t realize that they’re part of the rapidly rising number of Americans with depression (which is a scary high number), but again they don’t leave because — well, usually it’s for a variety of “good reasons.”

      Usually my creative writing is geared toward inspiration, but sometimes I just go for empathy. This is me feeling for those who feel lost in cubicle-type jobs (and a lot of times they aren’t technically in a cubicle at all, I saw the same thing when I worked construction!).

  2. Oooo, that can be a depressingly accurate feeling in life. I walked into a Jimmy Johns for a turkey sandwich on a day I forgot to pack my lunch (….which gave me a break from my half cubicle drudgery…) and the clever sign high up on the freaky fast food wall jeered, “If you do what you need to do when you need to do it, then the day will come when you can do what you want to do when you want to do it.” I felt like I was long, loooong past the time when that second part should have come to pass. And then a few months later, without any fanfare, it did. I *really* like the getting to do what you want part…. it’s funner. And (in retrospect) worth the “risk” of paying the price of a couple of decades of drudgery, education, and hard work, while struggling to be happy short of the goal.

    • Risk is the key here. So many people have adverse attitudes toward risk because “it’s not for me.” I’m of the belief that human beings are meant to live outside their comfort zones. That living in comfort and the pursuit of day-to-day (or minute-to-minute) happiness will almost never lead to a fulfilled life.

      And you’re totally right, I did mean for this to be a “feeling in life”, that definitely doesn’t have to be confined to a physical cubicle!

      I think if you’re consistently pushing yourself outside your comfort zone, striving to serve others, and delving inward, you’ll find a lot of fulfillment and joy.

  3. frumentarius2014

    This is great Luke. Well done.

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