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Happy F**king Birthday: The Cubicle Turns 50 Today

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Look to your left. Look to your right. Look in front of you. What do you see? If you answered anything but “a drab, grey foam wall from hell,” you’re clearly way too high-up at your respective company to be reading this website. Get the hell out of here, bossman/bosswoman, go back to your $15 lunches and your mid-size one-step-below-luxury SUVs. You make me sick.

According to statistics, 60% of Americans work in the hellhole known as a cubicle, and, unsurprisingly, 93% of them hate it. Why wouldn’t you? There hasn’t been a better, more sinister torture device since the Marquis De Sade invented BDSM and wrote 50 Shades of Grey, or something like that.

CBS This Morning took a fascinating look at the 3-walled hellhole better known as “Your Workspace” today, investigating the history of the Cubicle and why we, as collective workers, hate it so much.

As it turns out, what we had before was pretty bad too. Scores of desks adjacent to one another, completely out in the open, allowed for zero privacy and a depressing work environment. (Think Stratton Oakmont in “Wolf of Wall Street” while they were still working out of an auto garage, or the Secretary desk pool in the early seasons of “Mad Men.”)

That all changed in the 1960s when a designer named Robert Propst, working for a research firm called Herman Miller, tried to humanize work spaces with something called an “Action Office” – allowing for movable walls, private space that a worker could personalize, which made for a much healthier workplace environment. However, major corporations saw Propst’s design and took it one step further, making the walls immovable and turning them into efficient, tiny, box-like environments; three walls to allow for a semblance of privacy and personalization, but an open wall to allow supervisors to observe their employees. Almost like a jail cell or a cage at a zoo. There’s a reason why they call groups of cubicles a “cube farm.”

But hey, I’ll take 3 walls over none. Randy in HR doesn’t need to see what I’m doing every second of every day. Plus it gives me a place to hide whatever food I’m consuming in shame. I think that might be an eating disorder, but that’s for the courts to decide. So here’s to 50 years of the cubicle, and toast to 50 more, because that’s surely where we’ll spend the next 50 years, wasting away in these 3-walled prisons until we die at our desks. Hell of a life.

[via CBS News]

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