The Great Depression Online

Great Depression Online Archive Issue:

Confessions of a Cubicle Man

Great Depression Online
Long Beach, CA
July 10, 2009

Inside This Issue You Will Discover…

*** Confessions of a Cubicle Man
*** Cubicle Exit Strategy
*** Rife with Bad Ideas
*** And More

[Editor’s note: We’d drafted up a somber letter detailing the record delinquency rates on credit card debt and home equity loan payments.  Yet before we could finish other duties came a calling.  Consequently, that effort was all for naught.  But not to worry.  Provided below is a GDO Classic, published originally on August 1, 2008, nearly one year ago.  So pour yourself a hot cup of coffee, pull up a chair, and enjoy these Confessions of a Cubicle Man.  M.N. Gordon]

Confessions of a Cubicle Man

An old friend called us Monday to report that it was the 40th Anniversary of the office cubicle.  We got a little chuckle and chortle at this regrettable boon to civilization.  For if you’ve worked in a cubicle before, you know it’s just dreadful.

At least that’s our experience.

We worked in a cubicle for eight years…putting our nose to the grindstone, day in and day out, grinding out massive quantities of technical reports on subjects we knew nothing about.

For about five of those years, there was a friendly fellow who sat in the cubicle behind us.  His wife called him every 15 minutes to yell at him for things he had and hadn’t done.  Somehow, with this incredible distraction, we were both able to get our work done.  He pretended it didn’t happen…and feeling sorry for the poor fellow, so did we.


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It turned out her family had old Hollywood money.  Later he left the engineering consulting business to run their non-profit foundation.  Last we heard he was doing ‘just great.’

After he was out, in came the plumpy elderly lady who wanted to work because she ‘needed something to do.’  She came to just the right place at just the right time.  For we had plenty of busy work for her…we were being sued.

Her job was to organize and categorize six years worth of invoices and ‘supervise’ the third party auditor as they combed through each one for specks of impropriety.  She liked to talk to herself out loud…and even laughed at her own inane jokes.  We found it sorely distracting, but came to some serenity through acceptance that she was a sweet old grandma.

Then there was the beer drinking mountain biker guy who showed up, sat in his cubicle, and pretended to work.  In the one conversation we had, he disclosed with exacting detail his sophisticated method for beer drinking and mountain biking.  It involved a freezer backpack and numerous 30-second beer chugging breaks.

Someone ran into him at the copy machine one day…he was copying a crossword puzzle.  At the end of his second week it was suggested that he not come back on Monday.  We never saw nor heard of him again.

Cubicle Exit Strategy

But it was more by dumb luck than innate intelligence that we stumbled across the key to unlocking the door to the office world.  The key we found was leverage. 

We already had way too much work to do.  And our clients kept giving us more.  So we began pushing it off to others and taking on more and more work until, suddenly, we were no longer doing any real work.

Instead, we just made sure the work was done on schedule, under budget, and was of good quality.  We learned that this was called ‘management.’  It felt awkward at first to be so unproductive.  But we were rewarded with an office the size of a broom closet…and a raise about that size too.

Rife with Bad Ideas

We recognize this is a dreary digression from our usual GDO beat of money and markets.  Yet we recount these anecdotes for no reason in particular.  Not guidance nor instruction nor any other point of value.  In fact, the burden of this missive is quite basic…

The world is rife with bad ideas…and the worse they are, the more popular they become. 

Here’s a partial list of what we mean…

Rap music, corn ethanol, the United Nations, pop psychology, universal health care, super sized value meals, the City of Santa Monica, no doc neg am loans, Hugo Chavez, efficient market hypothesis, the DMV, super mega big gulps, paper money, McMansion homes, central banking, the Hindenburg, collateralized debt obligations, negative real interest rates, red bull energy drink, legal tender laws,  polyester leisure suits, arena football, fractional reserve banking, the helicopter ejection seat, Al Gore, malt liquor, the office cubicle, and much more.


M.N. Gordon
Great Depression Online

P.S.  You may have read this book or even heard the intriguing story about a young ballroom dancer name Nicolas Darvas who traded $25,000 into 2 million dollars within just 18 months by using the stock market.  His story was so amazing, on May 1959, the Time Magazine devoted almost a full page in its business section to the extraordinary stock market story. But here’s the kicker, Darvas remarked it wasn’t so much how much money he made that surprised him but rather the ease with which he made it.  Discover the amazing secrets of Nicolas Darvas here: The Amazing Secrets of Nicolas Darvas.


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