Cube Farm Fever (As Published by

Over the last 9 years, I have worked one type of job or another that involved sitting at a desk within a cubicle. For those who have never had to work indoors for the last 30 some odd years, allow me to explain the cubicle. Most rooms in your house have four sturdy walls and a door separating it from other rooms in the house (as well as a ceiling). When you went to school, the principal’s office had four walls, a ceiling, and a door (don’t even TRY to pretend you’ve never been there). Cubicles are very similar to this except there are only (at most) three walls, no door, and no ceiling. These walls are also only about 2 inches thick. This was corporate America’s way of telling the employee that they do not deserve the investment of a private office (neither does your boss). If you happened to be located against a wall (i.e. an actual wall made of concrete, or stucco, or whatever), the company can save even more money by providing one less wall. Sometimes, there is no actual wall and the only thing separating you from your co-workers is less than a foot of space.

This wonderful labyrinthine layout has lead to a new term of corporate jargon: cube farm. This derives from the fact that the overhead layout of the average company closely resembles that of an ant farm. I can see the similarities between the two entities. Both contain a network of workers doing their respective jobs in their respective area. The only major difference is that I never have to worry about King Kong picking up the building and shaking it.

However, life in the cube farm can also lead to a potentially critical condition: Cube Farm Fever. Cube Farm Fever (or CFF) is brought on by the fact that the relatively thin but sturdy cubicle walls on create the illusion of a separate work space. For example, I work for a company that provides a wide variety of services to other companies. This means you can stand in the aisle, turn your head from left to right at 18° intervals and hear the following conversations:

  • “Thank you for calling StaticPhone Mobile. Can I get you started on a 7 year mobile phone contract today?”
  • “No, sir. You CANNOT give your computer better memory by coating it with Gingko Biloba.
  • “Good afternoon, ma’am. We’re taking a poll today. We’d like your opinion on the President’s proposed Fiber Stimulus Plan which provides tax credits for adding shredded wheat to your diet.”
  • “….and for signing up with RisqPul Insurance today, we’ll send you a free CD of the “Flaming DoorKnockers: Greatest Hits” which comes with three free aromatherapy candles”
  • “Yes, according to the company dress code, the necktie should be no higher (or lower) than 1 inch above the belt line. You’ll have to clock out and adjust your tie in the men’s room”

These are all in addition to the phone call you are trying to conduct with your customer while your co-workers are discussing the latest and greatest way to clear Level 27 of the latest and greatest computer role playing game. Symptoms of CFF include: a constant rubbing of the temples and forehead, shaking of the head with the eyes closed, and breathing through the teeth while the eyes are as big as the tires on a monster truck.

The onset of CFF can be prevented by using a portable media player to isolate yourself from outside noise or getting up and walking away from the work area for two or three minutes every two hour (company policies usually prohibit doing this for any longer than two or three minutes). Failing to take these steps can result in a craving for extreme isolation and repeated viewings of “Office Space”.

Recently, I was working in my cubicle. I overheard a one-sided phone conversation taking place on the other side of the wall. The lady on the other side of the wall seemed to be having a normal conversation with a customer. At some point the customer on the phone said something hilariously funny. This caused the customer service representative to laugh loudly. This wasn’t so bad except that every four beats of laughter was punctuated by a horrendous snort. This woman snorted so loudly I thought she was going to blow a pork loin through her nose. Then, just as it seemed she had caught her breath and stopped, she started the laugh ‘n’ snort shuffle again: “tee hee hee tee hee hee tee hee hee SNORT”. I started to find myself rubbing my temple and shaking my head with my eyes closed. I looked at my watch and was rescued with relief. It was quittin’ time. I got up and clocked out. I also decided to hold off on watching “Office Space” again.

But, Seriously, Folks…..

Ever since I was a kid, I have tried my best to approach life with a sense of humor. There are very few things in life I can think of that are enjoyable than laughter. The Bible says: “A merry heart doeth good like a medicine” (Proverbs 17:22). Jerry Clower once said: “The only place where there is no laughter is Hell. I’ve made arrangements to miss Hell”. I could go on and on listing people on TV or radio or in print that have made me laugh: Douglas Adams, Jack Benny, Lewis Grizzard, Red Skelton, Jerry Lewis… (like I said, I could go on and on). Almost as good as laughing is seeing someone else laugh. I went to see a movie with my sons last summer for Father’s Day. The movie was funny. The best part however, was sitting between my 15 and 20 year old sons, turning my head left to right as if I was watching a tennis match, watching them both laugh so hard they could barely breathe. Don’t even get me started on babies. My friends have a 6 month old girl. She is living proof that a college educated man will turn in to a babbling chimp all in an effort to make a baby laugh.

I attribute a large part of this bent for humor to my Dad. My Dad can tell you the most absurd thing with the straightest face. He had one poor woman convinced that you if you put food in the microwave and set it to negative numbers, the food would freeze. Ironically enough, my Dad is probably the worst poker player on two legs. He can spin yarns of hilarious pranks and practical jokes (many of which he played on his wife and kids). Having said all that, seeing my Dad laugh is downright infectious.

This has lead to some very interesting lessons in boundaries over the years. Once, some friends and I were visiting at a girl’s house. She had used the fact that her parents were not home as an opportunity to get a little tipsy. Therefore, my friends and I did what any young man in our position would do. We tilted EVERYTHING in her living room: pictures, a table, a stereo console. We tilted everything in the same direction. We then stood in front of her, side by side, and leaned in the same direction of everything we just tilted. The girl just sat there, staring at us, and began to lean in the same direction. It was the guy thing to do. In an effort to show that we weren’t (complete) cretins, we made a point to put things back the way we found them and went on our way. About an hour after we left, the girl’s step-father came home and noticed that two pictures on the wall were still tilted. Fast forward a few hours later that evening when I overheard my Dad on the phone. “I’m sorry. My boy did WHAT?” “I’m very sorry, sir. I’m promise you, I’ll deal with this straightaway.” My Dad then called me into his room and asked me if the story he heard on the phone was true. While I deliberately omitted the fact that the girl had been drinking, I admitted to my actions. My Dad then tried his level best as a father to counsel me about being more respectful to other people’s property. Unfortunately, his efforts were somewhat futile as he could not contain his laughter as he mentally processed the image in his mind. My father looked me in the eye and knew he was gazing into a mirror. I took it upon myself to apologize to the step-father and endure the obligatory finger wag. My friends allowed me to do this singlehandedly. Again, it was the guy thing to do. They offered to give me backup and then they backed up.

Those of you who have read my blog previously will not be shocked to know that I have not changed much since then. I cracked jokes as my wife panted heavily during the birth of our youngest son. I have played numerous pranks on my kids. I have also stood there, shaking my head in (feigned) disbelief over a stunt one of my kids pulled. I told my wife recently a story of a girl who made me sign a contract. The contract stated that I had to sit and converse for an hour with this young lady without cracking a joke. The only thing my wife found shocking about the story was that I actually honored the contract. Looking back, the girl probably just wanted me to take her out. Either that or she just wanted me to shut up.

When Do I Say “FORE!”?

I spent a WONDERFUL 4th of July with my family. Every year we go to a sports park that is owned by our local church. The day is spent enjoying all kinds of great activities: inflatables, lawn games, a baseball pitching range, and face painting. This is in addition to all the concession food you can eat (everything was a buck apiece) and one of the most phenomenal fireworks displays ever seen.

In another recent event, my wife and I renewed our wedding vows in a mass ceremony the previous week. Due to this, I told my wife that as “newlyweds” we need to be a bit spontaneous and try something we normally wouldn’t. That’s right folks, right there on the 4th of July, me and the missus headed straight for the lawn games. There were two games to choose from: bocce and croquet. Wifey and I decided to play croquet.

A very nice man approached us. He was in charge of coordinating guests who wanted to play croquet. He asked if either of us had played before. We explained that it had been since childhood for both of us. We asked if he just walk us through it as if we knew nothing about it (pretty close to the truth anyway). He kindly replied: “Well, you folks are probably used to playing nine-wicket croquet. This field is set up for six-wicket croquet. I’ll explain it to you”. This man then proceeded to spit out more words than a dictionary in a wood chipper. To his credit, he explained the rules and object of the game with eloquence and clear authority on the subject. My wife and I stood there, holding hands, trying to hide our deer-in-the-headlights feeling that had overcome us both. We both nodded our heads to properly feign complete understanding of what this fine gentleman had just explained to us. My lovely queen and I did our best to piece together his instructions. We also took pointers from another couple who already had a game in play. At game’s end, my wife and I both had a great time. We then went to get our faces painted because; after all, we’re newlyweds.

After leaving the lawn games, my mind got very curious about the origins of the game. You, my dear reader, are about to experience the origin and rules of croquet as I understand them. Please feel free to take notes. I know it is a common tactic for many to trust but verify. As a winner of many a trivia game, I can assure I can be trusted with this information.

Croquet was originally pronounced “KROKet“. That is because the game was named after the King of the Wild Frontier himself: Davey Crockett. It seems that when Crockett wasn’t fightin‘ single handed through many a war and fixin‘ the crack in the Liberty Bell, he would passed the time playing a game he devised himself. Crockett would stand in his field and hit a boulder with a sledgehammer. The object was to make the boulder pass underneath the openings in his fence. This was any easy task for a man who killed a bear at the tender age of three. After all, Davey Crockett was a man. He was a BIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIG man. Wait a minute. Sorry, THAT was someone else.

After the Louisiana Purchase, the Marquis de Lafayette was rather intrigued by the frontier game. Due to Lafayette misspelling (and mispronouncing) Crockett’s name, the game was changed to croquet (pronounced “krow-KAY”). The name loosely translates as “sledgehammer golf”. Also, Lafayette Incorporated the use of smaller spherical balls. He also created small arches which were driven into the ground. After all, Lafayette did not kill a bear at three years old. It’s quite possible Lafayette NEVER killed a bear but I digress. Lafayette then struck a stick into the ground in the center of the play area in order to lean against it while his opponents were playing. Unfortunately, any given player’s trajectory would eventually hit the stick. Lafayette eventually gave up and just made the stick a part of the game. Lafayette then painted the stick to look like a barber pole. Thus, the tradition was born for player’ to get a haircut immediately following the game. This tradition ceased quickly as player’s wanted to keep playing the game but were catching a death of cold.

The rules are quite simple. There are several horseshoe thingies driven into the ground. Four of the horseshoe thingies create a large upside down U shape. In the center is the painted, stripy stick. There is also a horseshoe thingy on each side of the painted stripy stick. There are four spherical balls that are painted blue, red, black, and yellow. The balls are played respectively in that order. I don’t know why that is. Nonetheless, just work with me please. Using the sledgehammer doo-dad, the player strikes the ball in an attempt to pass through each horseshoe thingy, in order, in the shape of the upside down U. Once you have passed through all four horseshoe thingies in order, you do the same in reverse order until you make you way back to the first horseshoe thingy that started the game. After you do this, you make your way toward going through the two horseshoe thingies in the center. One quick note: be careful when you go to strike the ball with the sledgehammer doo-dad. It is very easy to hit the toes. If this happens, you have to call a toe truck (sorry, I couldn’t resist). Once you have gone through the center of all the horseshoe thingies (in order, both ways), you then strike the ball with the sledgehammer doo-dad to hit the painted stripy stick. Apparently, the first player to hit the painted stripy stick with their respective colored spheres wins the match.

So, there you have it, folks: the rules and history of croquet. You may feel free to take the advice of Robert Ripley and “Believe it or not”. You may find differing information on the Internet, at the library, or by consulting an actual croquet official. All the same, this is MY story and I’m sticking to it.

[This piece was written with dedication and abject apologies to my US History teachers, the United States Croquet Association, and the memory of Fess Parker]