In 1992, I broke my arm and wrist…in a co-ed softball game. This was a year after I got a concussion playing in the same league.
Naturally, it was my LEFT arm and wrist, and—being left-handed—I found this a bit of an impediment to doing my job, which involved indexing scientific articles. Everything was done by hand back then—at least it was in my company, despite the fact that it was a database company—so it was a difficult few months.
Anyway, this prompt gave me a chance to revisit my character from Cubicle Count, the comic strip I drew about that job.
Having been raised by parents whose income was derived from jobs conducted on their own schedules in their own spaces, I suppose it’s only natural that I would struggle in the confines of the conventional work arrangement. And, being who I am, it’s even MORE natural that I would spend much of my career (such as it is) resisting it.
I was going to start this paragraph by writing, “I’m not sure why I find office life so hard…,” but the fact is that I know EXACTLY why.
First and foremost, my cycle of energy, concentration, and creativity do not mesh well with a 9:00-to-5:00 schedule (or any variation of it). I’m at my best first thing in the morning—and I mean “first thing”: I’m usually at my desk by 6:00 or 6:30 AM. I’ve never seen the point in pissing away my peak hours of productivity on a morning commute and everything else that goes along with reporting to an office by 9:00.
Happily, workplace culture generally and my last couple of employers specifically have been more amenable to schedule flexibility. I am supremely grateful for this, so much so that I feel duty-bound to make myself available essentially 24/7 for any urgent workplace needs (in a timeline-driven company of five, there are no shortages of these).
I suppose the simplest way to describe my view towards employment is to say that I regard it as an even, reciprocal arrangement. An employer that demands my office attendance from 9:00 to 5:00 (assuming I’d agree to such an arrangement, which I recently proved I would not) would get my best efforts in that window but would find me highly unsympathetic and unmoved by emergencies that regularly required me to stay late or come in early. Why should flexibility be a one-sided deal?
Perhaps an even bigger challenge is that offices are a poor fit for outgoing introverts—or, at least, the offices I’ve worked in have been a poor fit for someone with my particular variety of outgoing introversion. Oh, let’s just call it what it is: I have a pretty high jerk quotient and being forced into extended proximity with other people increases the odds that I will inadvertently (or, sometimes, advertently) piss someone off. Also, I find rote, superficial interactions and relationships extraordinarily draining. It only takes a couple of days of biting my tongue and exchanging nothing but hollow pleasantries to completely exhaust me.
Now, I recognize that all of this is MY problem. If I was better at stroking bosses, I’d be far better off (professionally, anyway). The problem (one of them) is that I am unwilling to treat someone with reverence because he or she has a title. My tendency, for better or worse (usually the latter in workplace settings), is to treat everyone the same. But I do insist upon being treated with respect and am quite willing to call out anyone—in any setting—who I feel is being disrespectful, rude, inappropriate, dismissive, bullying, etc. This never plays well with bosses who treat people based on their position in an org chart. In my mind, it’s a very simple matter of manners and the Golden Rule.
So, for all these reasons (and more!), I have devoted a lot of energy over the course of my career fighting for the option of working from home. And then I found a job that was 100% work from home! Yay, right?
Not so much.
As this cartoon illustrates (get it?), it IS possible to have too much of a good thing.
I should probably get into the parts of office life that I miss, but it’s later in the day and the line on the time-vs-productivity chart is falling precipitously into the red. I’ll close by saying that I am particularly pleased with this cartoon. I like the drawing OK, but I am mostly satisfied to get down on paper something important to me that I’ve been thinking about a lot.
A couple of years into my BIOSIS employment, I put together a co-ed softball team. The problem here was that finding fields to play on and leagues to play in was a bit harder in Center City Philadelphia than it was back in Connecticut…which is what I was used to.
The good news is that I was eventually able to find a league that would take our team. The bad news is that the “co-ed” part of the league kind of fell by the wayside, so our team of can-do hearties wound up squaring off against team after team of south Philadelphia meatheads. Most of the idiots on these teams were interested in nothing more than running up scores and trying to score with the women on our team.
From my standpoint, it says all that needs to be said about this league that, in 30 years of playing baseball and softball, I sustained my worst ball-playing injuries (broken wrist, concussion) in these “for-fun” games.
Our games were played on random weeknights at the Marian Anderson Recreation Center down at 17th (I think) and Fitzwater. The field was in extreme disrepair and was usually littered with crack vials (this didn’t stop shortstop Pat McGovern from playing barefoot). Play was frequently halted while locals strolled through the outfield, and it was necessary to keep a close watch on anything you brought to the field. Sadly, at my last game on this field, the baseball glove I’d used from junior varsity through college was stolen. I had it coming—it should never have been in any equipment bag I brought down there.
All that said, we DID manage to have our share of fun in (and after) these games. I think we played for five or six seasons in this league, under names that included BIOSIS (good one!), Ruddy Ducks, Purple Cannibals (shown here), and Tsunami.
For the trainspotters: in this comic, Joe (#7) is pitching, Beth (#2) is at second base, Mike (Hilden #20) is at first base, Megan (Kile #6–she created the design for the Purple Cannibal shirts) is in left field/short field (four outfielders in this league), and I (#3) am in left center/left field. Somewhere in a computer archive I have rosters, stats, photos, trading cards, etc.
If any former BIOSISians, Ruddy Ducks, Purple Cannibals, or Tsnamis ever stuble onto this site, I’d love to hear any recollections you have from those Switchblade Park glory days…
Phew! Made my deadline! And by “deadline” I mean “before I see most of these guys tonight at happy hour.”
Here we have my second foray into filling the gaps left in the original Cubicle Count run. So, welcome, Keith (officially), Pat, Jennifer, and Carrie—where would happy hours (to say nothing of the BIOSIS day to day) have been without you? And welcome to Todd, Andy, and Jeanne: you may not have worked at BIOSIS, but if happy hour time counts, I spent as much time with you as I did my coworkers!
Oh, and sorry about your transition to the comics page: I’m still having the all-too-familiar hard time getting characters to look like the people they’re based on. Sigh.
Drawing this made me really want to hop down to Cherry Street Tavern, the backdrop here and the scene of so, so many laughs and bouts of memory loss. Good times! Probably!
Found this unfinished strip in a random box in my closet. The presence of Dave and “Riley-tron” in EID dates it to 1991.
Another Celia-driven EID holiday activity—the time-honored tradition of the Christmas gift exchange. I know all these presents were actually received by the people as shown here.
Note the Michael Jordan poster in Joe’s cubicle, as well as the poster of the swimsuit model (whose identity has been lost to time). Amusingly, from the Wite Out, it looks like I was having trouble “figuring” out a way to draw her…”gifts.” Ah, Joe, you rogue.
I like the way the cartoon was coming out and can only conclude that this was yet another strip where I didn’t have a clear idea of a punch line or ending (it’s weird that I didn’t always know what I wanted to draw when I started one of these). What’s especially odd about this is that this is the only Cubicle Count to span more than four panels (maybe this was the Sunday color strip). That’s a lot of drawing for no payoff.
Another weird thing is that I think I may have drawn this with pen and ink…as in, with a dip pen. I know that was something I played with at one point. I like the look here.
I’m sorry I didn’t finish this one, as it would have been nice to get John Parnell—who was probably Cubicle Count’s biggest fan (he always stopped by my desk to look for new strips)—into the “canon.” As the pencil note indicates, that’s John in panel 5.
Was the whole “Happy holidays” vs “Merry Christmas” battle the big deal in 1991 that it seems to be these days? I know it was something I thought about long before it became such a thing; it’s exactly the kind of thing I waste thought and energy worrying about.
So last night I had the extreme good fortune to reconnect with a couple of the old crew from BIOSIS. Appropriately enough, we reconnected over beers (though of better quality and lesser volume than in the old days), and naturally enough there were retellings a’plenty of the BIOSIS glory days. Hanging out with these guys never stops being great.
Of course, I took the opportunity to plug this little blog (I mean, really, if there’s ANYONE who’s going to find any value in these old Cubicle Counts, it’s these guys). But—quite rightly—Keith called me out on something I had myself noted in the commentary on another blog entry (“Interro-BANG!”): a lot of the most important people and events from the BIOSIS days slipped by uncaptured in the Cubicle Count records. It’s a gap that I intend to address (again, see “Interro-BANG!”); I have quite a few ideas for new strips already lined up. Indeed, I already have one almost completely sketched out.
As a show of good faith—and to ensure that two essential BIOSIS institutions (Keith and Cherry Street Tavern) get added to the Cubicle Count canon—I’m going to throw this preview out there.
I had a great time going through the Cubicle Counts and reminiscing about the BIOSIS “glory” days.
When I was drawing the cartoons, the strip was nothing but a silly throwaway hobby. Looking back over them so many years later, though, I couldn’t escape the feeling that the strips represent something more. For all the disdain I heaped on BIOSIS in these blog posts—and I regret none of it—I still can’t help but smile as I think about the people and events from the BIOSIS years. And I can’t help but feel that Cubicle Count won’t really be “complete” until I capture some of the people and events that make up my best (and/or most vivid) memories from those years…
Which brings us here. For obvious reasons, this time around I’m not going to follow my usual practice of tagging all the people that appear in the, um, strip. But there’s no question that the Cubicle Count oeuvre would be incomplete without an appearance from this character, and here she is (and then some!).
I only just drew this, but already I’ve found something I wish I’d done differently: despite the title, I didn’t use an actual interrobang (‽). Should have used one in panel 3.
Without looking back through my journals, I’d peg this “missing” Cubicle Count to late 1992.