Tuesday, April 13, 2010

a rare guest post: from offices to workstations.

I come from a long family of readers and writers. My father is no exception, so when he offered this guest post marking his recent move from an office to a cubicle, I couldn't refuse. It's a nice reminder, to see where my dad came from and where he is now. So, enjoy! (And comment. I promise I'll comment if your dad ever writes a blog. And maybe, just maybe, I will send you something nice in the mail if you leave a nice note here. I'm just saying.)


I guess this would be a blog if I were a blogger. But I’m not a blogger, but I know someone who is, and I stayed at a Holiday Inn Express last night, which makes me even more qualified to blog about what I’m about to blog about. (Not really, but I needed to demonstrate the quirky humor that may follow throughout this blog… or not.) Now, some might theorize that to be a blogger, one might need his or her own blog site upon which to blog. I don’t have my own, but like I said: I know someone who does. This, then would be considered a “guest blog.” Right?

The organization for which I work moved today. That’s the premise upon which I find myself, a non-blogger, to be motivated to blog. I’m male and such things shouldn’t conjure up sentimental thoughts, but in the quiet of my packed up office, I couldn’t help it.

You’ll soon conclude that I have some “age” on me. Maybe another reason why I don’t blog, but I have been known in the past to be a decent writer. So, this move made me start thinking about all the offices I’ve ever had. You’ll understand why as you mature in the reading of this missive.

My first office was one of a middle school physical education teacher. Not far off the “multi-purpose room” that some would call a gymnasium, it served three or more teachers. I had a desk and maybe a file drawer in a file cabinet that served all the physical education teachers. This was my first job out of college, and I felt proud: a desk (I interpreted that to be an office) at which I would evaluate my students and occasionally hold a conference with a parent. The older, more experienced teachers didn’t seem to share my enthusiasm for their desks.

My next office is the one for which I have the fondest memories. It was the office of the head basketball coach at the high school across the street from the middle school where my first desk was. Ah… I can still smell in my mind’s nose the aromas of the high school gymnasium. Well, almost. My office was at the end of the gym; was actually the storage room for the basketball team but I converted it into an office. I didn’t want to share an office with the other athletic coaches; I wanted to be in the gym. After all, that was where I had spent the better part of my time from junior high through college and, that was where my players hung out! In that converted storage room, I proudly hung my awards and pictures of days associated with the Florida State University basketball team and my autographed picture of John Wooden. It, my office, was a coach's paradise and any aspiring high school basketball player must have been impressed by the adrenaline that flowed through that office, as it were.

However, the adrenaline eventually slowed and the wins weren’t enough. My next office was one of an assistant manager for a major building materials retailer. That office was an actual office! It wasn’t a storage room, and it wasn’t a desk. It was an office, a place where applicants would be interviewed, subordinates would be evaluated or counseled, where merchandising ideas were created, where organizational structures were developed, where great retail minds would collaborate. Or, at least, that’s what I thought after spending 10 months in a manager’s training program without a place to call an office. And, it was “upstairs” where I could look out on “my domain.” But after a successful stint as an assistant manager, the company promoted me to store manager. I was thinking about that bigger manager’s office, upstairs. But, alas, the store to which I was assigned in another city was a little newer and downsized a little and had no “upstairs!” I was bummed! But, I had the manager’s office; that’s where the buck stopped; that’s where the decisions are made; that’s where the district manager chews on the store manager. But I was fortunate to be a manager in 3 locations for that company, one of which was back at the store with the upstairs office. By the time I got back to it, I dreaded going up those blasted stairs 70 times a day!

My last office with this company is particularly memorable. I had 2 phones; one was primarily for transmitting inventory orders to the company's distribution center on a weekly basis. But it was through this office door a beautiful woman walked in 1982. I had met her before and during one of our initial conversations she mentioned (likely story) that she was having trouble with a lock on her apartment. Having difficulty concentrating on the conversation because of her beauty, I told her to come by the store and I'd see if I could help. Into my office she walked one day while I was on hold on one of the phones. I quickly picked up the other phone and, with one on the left ear and one of the right, I alternately said, "Buy, sell, buy, sell!" She must have thought I was a real wheeler and dealer because in a matter of 4 months we were married!

After eleven years in retail and countless trips up those dadgum stairs, it was on to public service. Now government knows a little something about offices! My first office had a sign on it that said, “Bureau Chief.” How could anyone but the governor be more important? It was not only labeled impressive but it was big enough for a couch. I didn’t have one, but it was big enough for one. And next door was the “Division Director.”

Could I ever have that office? Yes, I could and yes, I did. But, just as I did obtain that office, the bureaucracy reorganized. My division was combined with another one, and I was a bureau chief again but in the division director’s office! How cool was that?! I really liked that job and that office. But soon Who Moved the Cheese came along and my cheese moved… Change was on the horizon. I ended up in a similar position but called something else (only in government) in another agency: the one I’m now with about 23 years after coming to public service. My office was in one of the “newer” buildings (1990s). Government and legislatures are always putting its workers into smaller and smaller spaces. But, my office was okay. It had a modular work surface/desk/file drawers/computer space. It was a far cry from the middle school P.E. teacher’s desk in a group office to be sure. Fifteen other people report either directly or indirectly to me. My office has a round table in it where me and 2 or 3 other people can hold a meeting privately. Nine years has allowed me to grow very comfortable with that office, and in it I’ve learned to apply so many management principles.

The organization for which I work moved today. That’s the premise upon which I find myself, a non-blogger, to be motivated to blog. I’m male and such things shouldn’t conjure up sentimental thoughts but in the quiet of my packed up office, I couldn’t help it. My new professional home is a 96 inch square cubicle. After inserting the sterile, space efficient modular “workstation,” I have about 36 inches in which to turn around in my chair. My fifteen staff are in identical cubicles. Some of them are young people. I hope they have the opportunity to experience a myriad of office types in their careers. Each one of mine brings back so many memories. Maybe this one will too.


Anonymous said...

I really enjoyed reading your blog! I think you should start one of your own and get Annie to design it. She designed mine! I just moved jobs and my office situation went from a desk with a dividing wall to my own room with a window. I don't know HOW that happened. Blog again. I enjoyed it!

jenna kristine said...

Dear Annie's Dad,
I really enjoyed your guest post too! I felt like I was watching a slideshow of your life, and I would definitely say that my favorite scene was the one in which the beautiful woman walked through your office door. :) (For some reason, in my mind, the phones were really big, one was yellow & the other was red. Doubt that is accurate...)
I hope there are many good memories for you in this new office space!

Mel said...

we feel your pain, "Annie's Dad" - I went from a tiny hole in the small office, sharing with a preschool director to a larger, nice office, freshly painted by yourself (thanks again); and my dear hubby also went from a decent office to a said cubbie downtown, in the basement no less - he definitely feels your pain! Hang in there dear boy!

Lindsey said...

Mr. Butterworth,
Thank you for sharing! I enjoyed your blog post very much, and I hope you return to share more glimpses of your life! I'm so sorry that you are squeezed into a cubicle. I never liked the idea of cubicles, and I hope you can find some way to enjoy it!

Velva said...

This was a great blog post. I totally get it!
One week after you, I quietly unpacked my boxes in my sterile and impersonal 96-inches of cubicle space too. I left work feeling melancholic. As I unpacked my boxes, I had almost nothing that represented my twenty-five years of commitment to Public Sector work. Suddenly the contents of my new cubicle space was highly mobile. I could pack in short time and be onto the next 96-inches of space somewhere else.

I think in a few short-months we will find new and creative ways to adapt and enjoy our lack of space and new work culture. Today, although insanely quiet (from everyone trying not disturb anyone else), I managed to throw foam balls over the tops of the cubicles at my co-worker, and teased my other cube mate through the very small rectangular clear glass square that separates our cubicles. it's just a matter of time and we will all be causing trouble again.