Monday, March 3, 2014

A Little Privacy Please

It's been a while. I've had some personal issues to deal with. Which is difficult when you work in a tiny cubicle farm. My desk space in Kabul was palatial compared to the shoebox in which I now work. It also makes having a personal phone conversation impossible. And I don't have access to my mobile phone at my desk. So arranging private phone conversations requires several steps. First, a phone call at my desk in semi-code to schedule a time to talk openly on my mobile phone in another part of the building. Or, if semi-code won't do, making an unscheduled call on my mobile phone in a discreet corner of the building to schedule a time to talk openly on my mobile phone. Finally, returning to the discreet corner of the building with my mobile phone at the designated time. My favorite spot is the State Department exhibit hall, which has good cell reception and plenty of stuff to look at while I'm on hold.

The inconvenience sometimes forces me and my office-less co-workers to throw up our hands in resignation and try to have hushed personal phone conversations in our cubicles, if the subject is not too sensitive. Occasionally one will hear a plea to a child to stop fighting with a sibling, or a birthdate whispered to a credit card customer service representative. The polite protocol in such situations is to pretend not to hear your neighbor's birthdate. It reminds me of Les Nesman's "office walls" laid out with tape on the floor around his desk; our whispers, like tape on the floor, meant to signify a privacy bubble that doesn't really exist.  (Do I get bonus points for the WKRP in Cincinnati reference?)

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