Posted on 23 April 2009

Why is it that getting work done on a Friday is so difficult?  It most certainly isn’t the fact that it’s Friday–I work only every other Friday, which means that every other week my last work day is a Thursday.  And believe me, those are just as bad!  Take today, for example…never mind.  But I’m quite sure that this “last hours before freedom” factor contributes to the difficulty–kind of like the last hour before lunch or recess, in elementary school.  If I remember correctly, by that point everyone’s throwing spitballs, honing their paper airplanes or daydreaming about the impending four-square showdown.  Never mind the book report.  Sound familiar?  But I also have a funny feeling this issue may be related to the simple act of spending day after day, like so many other Americans, in a very particular space: a cubicle. 

I work halfway up a nine-floor office building, in a cubicle coated with a kind of muted browny-gray cloth that covers a layer of cork so you can pin things into it.  The bookshelves, book holders, and drawers are all the same funny brownish color, only in a lighter shade–a nice touch of variability.  The desk, ceiling, and lamps are white; but sometimes I think they too are browny-gray, simply because of the otherwise overwhelming presence of that pointedly unremarkable color, everywhere else around me.  The carpet is a charmingly drab ensemble of stripes ranging from grey to muted greens and browns.  And my computer, at which I spend the great majority of my day staring, is black.  Standing up briefly to look outside through tinted windows, even when it’s dark and dreary outside, is like a trip to the seaside for your poor, drooping eyeballs.  Even better, when it’s actually sunny out! 

I sit back down, and I am once again struck by the thought: this is not natural.  Humans weren’t intended to sit in swivel chairs 8 (or more) hours a day, staring at a glowing screen and running marathons with their fingertips.  And I’m not even in the real club: as a landscape historian, I get to escape my cubicle a few days a month to go on “site visits” to various National Parks; not to mention, I very rarely work longer days than my weekly schedule dictates.  Yes–it could be much, much worse.  Which elicits the question: Is the modern world gradually steamrolling the sometimes beautiful, magically satisfying wonder of human industry?  Frantically butchering the delicate balance between pleasure and productivity?  I’m a firm believer that you can’t have one without the other, Oreos without milk.  But perhaps I’m alone?

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