Secretary: Life in the Cubicle



Having worked in corporate offices for the past 23 years, I am familiar with cubicles.

For those of you Mad Men fans, you might recall Don Draper’s secretary, the brilliant, witty Miss Blankenship, who passed away at her desk. Roger Sterling responds in his usual deadpan, “She died like she lived—surrounded by the people she answered phones for.”

Having been a secretary for over two decades, I found this scene utterly hilarious.



That is a large part of cubicle life–answering other people’s phones. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. But as someone said somewhere, “No child dreams of working in a cubicle.”

I got a “D” in Typing class in high school and was furious that I had to even take the class. Typing tests were awful, with the instructor hovering hawk-like over our shoulders–made my fingers sweat. I remember thinking to myself, I’ll never be a secretary, so why do I need this? In retrospect, I am quite happy I took the class. Being able to type quickly and efficiently is a tremendous boon for a writer.

Don’t get me wrong. I am grateful to be gainfully employed.  There are  much harder jobs out there: working in a salmon cannery (done that), being a dog kennel cleaner in Burlington, Vermont (done that too) and door-to-door canvassing (yup, that too). As an aside, the dog kennel cleaning would have been okay if the owner/manager weren’t such a mean-ass wacko. He dressed in black jeans and tight black muscleT-shirts and gold chains and screamed at and intimidated all his employees. He looked more like a strip club owner than a dog person. Operating those steam cleaners was no easy feat, either.

The point is, I have dreams that transcend the cubicle (or the cannery). It’s simply a matter of steeling my courage, taking a plunge or two or three or three thousand, and pursuing them.

Happy Monday, fellow cubicle-ites and others!

18 thoughts on “Secretary: Life in the Cubicle

  1. spent a number of years of my life in a cubicle. probably the one consistent issue during my “annual reviews” from the various places of employment was “you’ve got to keep your cubicle more tidy.” I usually replied with something like “but i know where everything is” or “a messy desk is a sign of a creative mind.” Regarding the latter, when it came to generating reports, maintaining a database and processing correspondence, creativity wasn’t one of the skill sets they were looking for.

    there is something definitely soul-sucking about entering a cubicle, listening to the others talking and banging away on their keyboards in their cages, i mean cubicles. but there are worse things (a couple of years back, i helped a friend redo his roof and knew my decision when i was sixteen to walk away from an offer as a roofer was one of the few smart decisions, if the only one, i made at that age).

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  2. Have never had the cubicle experience,… or fallen off a roof, or succumbed to heat stroke, although worked on many from Fla., Texas, New Mex, Arizona and Calif. They are all “soul-sucking” (however, thankful to have acquired excellent carpenter chops along the way)
    I only know you as a wonderfully fearless performer/writer. Hope you get to let ‘others’ know you
    from your ‘soul-work’
    Also, those are some fortunate felines to have a couple of loving humans lookin’ out for them…kudos.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Wow…some pretty harsh jobs here! I have tremendous admiration and respect for all you do…cubicle life can be soul sucking. I worked briefly in the horse stable in Prospect Park, grooming and bathing horses. That was the most labor intensive, yet wonderful jobs I ever had. The stable owner was a young guy who had poor social skills and was all about the horses, which was fine by me. Horses are awesome to work with, and so grateful. The summer before college I worked as a bartender in a top less bar. Lots of old lonely guys, drunks and philosophers. The men in the bar were actually pretty respectful and kind. I made great tips (no I was not topless, but the dancers were, and they were all college and aw students making $200 a night in 1979!) One of the worst jobs I had was as a file clerk at a large law firm in 1982. The file clerks were treated as indentured slaves…sexually harassed, and abused by the secretaries. Give me horses and drunks any day.

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  4. OMG! A “D” in typing??? I thought I was the only flunky-typist out there!! Hey! At least YOU actually went on and succeeded with it. I still type with two fingers!! I know, you’d think by now that I’d learn the key-board, but no, not me, I”d rather hunt and peck and waste my time…..sounds like you had some fun jobs…, too. Makes us “well-rounded” as human beings is what I’ve always said. (THAT and gives us plenty of things to write about!!) :)p Cute post. Enjoyed it! 🙂

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