Ramblings of a Cubicle Dweller
There’s something oddly comforting about studying in a cubicle.
Perhaps these are just the crazed ramblings of someone who has been inside looking at book pages for too long, but I haven’t been able to shake this thought for a few weeks now.
What once was a sad, drudging plod to Clemons has become a ritual. I feel so out of my element in the outside world, so uncomfortable in the sun, surrounded by other people. The plywood walls of the cubicle receive me like warm, open arms. I crawl inside, relieving myself of my cumbersome bag, like a bear heaving itself back into a cave after a brief quest into the wilderness. Alas, I am home.
The patterns of hibernation quickly set in. I collect endless junk food around myself, stockpiling my cave with enough sweets and chips to last far longer than I actually need. These become empty wrappers sooner than I would like — but I won’t throw them away until I leave. They help me mark my territory; they make me feel like I belong here.
For a while, I devote myself to whatever the task at hand is, blazing along industriously on a potent mixture of caffeine and sugar. I stop every other precious, productive minute to congratulate myself on a superb effort with a pat on the back and a cookie.
Eventually, my interest fades. I become less alert and decide it is time to take a break. I open up my laptop and meander to some brightly colored website designed to ensnare me in an endless web of distraction. It works. Soon, I am lost in the depth of the Internet — browsing a page specializing in hedgehog clothing or listening to a dubstep remix of goat noises.
Pathetically, even this can’t hold my attention for long. My heart rate falls and my eyes glaze over. I start to drool as my head droops ever closer to the desk. I want more food, but am too lazy to get up. My books lay forgotten in some corner. What is homework, again?
It is at this point that the design of the cubicle functions beautifully: just when I was about to feel bad about myself, wearing my sweatpants and staring off endlessly into space, I realize that no one can see me. I’m free to do whatever I want — no judgment!
I develop a weird sense of power. I am in public and I can do whatever I want. Instead of taking advantage of this to nap or do something illicit like writing on the desk, I become jittery and excited. Before I can stop myself, I’m laughing for no reason. But who cares — no one can see me! So long as I stay silent, of course.
I tend to round out the hibernation by studying the markings in my cave. Drawings and engravings cover every side of the cubicle, echoing the masters at Lascaux. It’s like a timeline of thoughts, looking into the bored minds of countless students from years past who succumbed to boredom in that very spot.
Phone numbers promising a good time mix freely with attempts at profound thoughts. Some phrases offer words of encouragement to me, telling me that my hard work will pay off when I get a 4.0. Some make me worry, and some are just perplexing. There are Greek letters I can’t read, but naturally assume represent a secret society.
Every good thing must come to an end. Eventually I have to pack up my largely ignored books and discard my wrappers — pretending I was feeding an entire study group instead of just myself. The bright lights outside blind me, forcing me to scurry back home, where I wait anxiously until I can crawl back to my cave again.
Emily’s column runs biweekly Wednesdays. She can be reached at email@example.com.