Cubicle rage monkey.

I’ve been temping for the past couple of weeks.
Originally, I took the job to help ease the pain of a freelance client telling me he wouldn’t be paying for work I did on a…really big job.
My fault — I didn’t ask him to sign a contract, and I should have realized much earlier on that he was completely lacking in the class department, not surprising given his choice in profession — but that doesn’t soothe the sting.

CubicleYeah, no.

Turns out, though, it’s been preparation for my official re-entry into the full-time working world.
(I accepted a job last week with the daily deal site, and I start in a few days. If you’re in Chicago and don’t know YouSwoop, subscribe now and ask questions later. You’re welcome.)

It’s glorious being back in the swing of things, such that I am.
But temping is awkward.

Yes, I eat the office bagels and sip water from the same tank (hey, Culligan Man, you fox), but I’m sitting at a desk that isn’t and never will be mine, cluttered with Post-It notes marked up with passwords that I didn’t set. My e-mail address once belonged to an intern named Erica.
I use the bathroom key they keep at the front desk and am comfortable with the fact that half the people here don’t know my name. Try as I might to carve out an identity for myself. (Read: Act like a loudmouthed fool and bring snacks to soften the cubicle-hardened hearts of my short-term cohorts.)

The situation is even stranger as I sit here reading stories about talent management and the virtues of a “contingent workforce” — that’s me — in the magazines I’m here to copy edit. So meta.

And yet, I have the requisite dumb office conversations and know well enough to be friendly to everyone, even if it means plastering on a smile in the morning when I’m absolutely not feeling it.

I left my dishes from lunch in the sink yesterday. Actually, I left them in “my” cubicle, neatly stacked and not bothering anyone, until this morning, when I moved them to the sink to soak for a moment. Where I promptly forgot about them.
I got an IM from one of my coworkers suggesting I address the situation in the sink. He must have noticed the morass at my desk and the ensuing transfer to the kitchen. He connected the dots.
There’s a busybody in every office, and not only do they complain about the same things, but they also tend even to look the same. It’s like there are pod people set forth on offices everywhere to make employees’ lives a living hell.

Here, there’s a team of them.

Today’s complaint was the dishes in the sink. (Last week it was the disastrous Tupperware-of-mysterious-origin situation in the refrigerator.)
My dishes.
“Was there a knife in there?” I heard them say, secondhand, in Google Talk message.
“Someone could get hurt!”

Yeah, if you saw the knife and decided to wave your arms around in the sink willy-nilly despite the obvious danger of half-hearted impalement from a dull Wal-Mart utensil.

Duly chastened, I rushed the 10 feet from my desk — temps get primo placement — to the kitchen and spent five minutes washing the offending dishes.

I hadn’t heard these women kvetching about the dishes firsthand, so I didn’t feel the need to cop to the gaffe and let them know the problem had been solved. The dishes were gone; no harm, no foul.
Because they were still incensed come lunch time.


And from this prime real estate I’ve called home for the past week and a half, I had to listen to them making an aural scene about it for 5 minutes — the amount of time it would have taken them just to wash the damn dishes themselves, if they’d really felt like addressing the problem.
And the dishes were gone already.

While I understand the sentiment that without adherence to rules and certain suggested courtesies in place, offices around the world would descend into utter chaos…
Get a life.

So I got up and did the 10-foot walk of shame again.
“Okay, you know what?” I said, having lost my patience about 5 feet in, when I heard the leader of the kvetchpods sneering about those people. “You can just stop. I left the dishes out. I didn’t know it was a big deal. It’s nobody else in the office, so you can quit worrying about writing an e-mail to everyone. I’m sorry.”

I didn’t expect her to hug me and shower me with thanks, but I expected the icy glare I got from her even less.

Back in someone else’s cubicle, home sweet home, I shoved my earbuds in and selected the songs I’d be blaring for the rest of the day to block out the dull roar of the pod people.


25 Responses to “Cubicle rage monkey.”

  1. Angela Cleaver Briel Says:

    my pod person was called Betty. She was hispanic and would FLIP. OUT. over that kind of stuff. Also, over any impending inclement weather. “Oh my gahhhh was that lightning!?”

  2. Lauren Says:

    Ah yes I remember working in a cubicle jungle. and ear plugs saved me from the chronic snifflers who sat on either side of me. I still talk to a few people I used to work with, and they’ve now informed me that leggings no longer qualify as business casual. God really, I think if offices did away with the stupid nonsense rules, employees would have less stress and actually enjoy work.

  3. Erin Russell Says:


    Working in a cubicle environment is like being in The Hurt Locker. Danger on all sides. Anything could be a bomb or a trigger for a bomb. Dirty dish? BOOM! Didn’t comment on cubicledweller’s 37th cookie recipe? BOOM!

    Wear that Hurt Locker gear over your earbuds. You’ll be ok.

  4. Mr. Apron Says:

    “Okay, you know what?” I said, having lost my patience about 5 feet in, when I heard the leader of the kvetchpods sneering about those people. “You can just stop. I left the dishes out. I didn’t know it was a big deal. It’s nobody else in the office, so you can quit worrying about writing an e-mail to everyone. I’m sorry.”

    God bless you for doing that. I only wish you’d actually called them “kvetchpods.” This is my new favorite word. After “gayballs.”

    It’s funny to me, thinking about the knife-in-the-sink “somebody could get hurt!” incident in the context of working at a psych hospital, where, when I left one of those tiny golf pencils out on a table once a couple months ago, the comment was, “One of the Borderlines could stick that in her ear!”

    Fortunately for me, she swallowed a toothbrush instead.

  5. MikeLove Says:

    I’ve worked in a few different offices. I’d say that your situation is hardly par for the course. Maybe you should look inward.

    • paigeworthy Says:

      Check’s in the mail, Mike. Thanks for the tough love.

    • MikeLove Says:

      Also, I’d recommend not leaving dishes in the office sink when you’re a fucking temp.

      • A-Dub Says:

        I’d recommend not fucking with the office temp when you’re as intelligent as the dishes in the sink. Amirite?

      • Brian D Says:

        But if you’re not a “fucking temp” it’s ok to leave the dishes in the sink??
        I see your hypocrisy and raise you a “go screw yourself”…

      • paigeworthy Says:

        I’m not sure that’s what our friend Mike was saying, B. I think he meant
        more, “Don’t make yourself at home, because you’re going to be gone soon
        and everyone probably hates you anyway.”

        We are not feeding the trolls anymore, though. Didn’t you see the sign?

      • Brian D Says:

        Yeah, well…

        I didn’t see the sign…I think a huge stack of dirty dishes was in the way….

        Now I feel better…

      • Anonymous Says:

        “AND GET OFF MY LAWN!”

        -If you’re bitching about dishes in the sink, you’re not earning your employer enough money. Get back to work fuckface.

  6. Kristainlondon Says:

    Um, can I just say you should totally out the guy who didn’t pay you? Because if he didn’t pay you, he’s not going to pay the person after you. Or the person after that person, or the person after that person.

    Google has a long memory. 🙂

    • paigeworthy Says:

      I can’t do that. After seeing another scorned freelancer burn a shady employer with absolutely NO class, I’m reluctant to do anything even similar.

      I think the girl who referred me to the job knows his true colors now.

  7. Nywordsmith Says:

    Good story. Makes me glad I work from home most of the time (even if I get kinda lonely).

  8. Storm. Katrina Storm. Says:

    Oh my Lordy, I work in an office, and the office drama is such total crap. I hate it, sooo much.

    I just can’t stand how people cant let stupid stuff go and just get on with their day. I hope you get your big break soon and you can leave this life of pooh-cubicle behind.

  9. Lucy Says:

    I’m late to the party but that’s really pathetic that the dish-complainers had nothing better to do than squawk about dishes. I suppose the silver lining is that you’re only a temp so you won’t have to deal with them for the long haul.

    My biggest pet peeve when working in the office was when someone would leave their food in the one microwave we all were hungry to use and I didn’t want to be the jerk who removed it. Or someone would remove mine before it had finished cooking.

  10. goingtogermany Says:

    Hey, you are almost done. I bet when you are gone, the old office will be pretty boring and the story of you speaking your opinion will be brought up every now and then, given a laugh or a few comments and then they will all go back to typing and kvetching and being bored with their lives.

  11. Katie Ketelsen Says:

    You’re my hero.

    {Very enthusiastic golf clap}

  12. The job I didn't take: a stream of professional consciousness. - Paige Worthy — Paige Worthy Says:

    […] Oh, God. Everyone’s wearing slacks. Those women had to reserve the conference room. That’s the most well-stocked Keurig station I’ve ever seen. Oh, God. Reusable mugs. Flashbacks. […]

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