Ebola Sounds Better Than The Cubicle Farm

, , , , | Working | June 29, 2017

I used to work for a payment collection call center. It was a real revolving-door sort of place, people always quitting, new people always coming in, less-than-stellar corporate policies, all packed into a big cubicle farm.

One day I’m at my desk, trying my best to handle some customers, when I notice a lot of the supervisors and higher-level personnel seem to be gathering and chatting fervently. I assume it’s nothing important and that they’re probably all just getting together to go to the supervisor office to eat candy and laugh at all the normal employees. Yes, they really did that. I return my focus to work.

A few minutes later, I hear loud footsteps. I peer down the room again, and now in addition to the supervisors, there are several firemen. And I can tell they are firemen because they are dressed for the part: yellow jackets, red helmets, and masks. I think one of them even has an axe. I am a little worried about this, but since nobody is saying anything, I just figure it is a burst pipe or something and go back to work.

Later still, the footsteps have gotten louder, and the supervisors and firemen have been joined by police officers. I am now officially worried. Sure enough, we finally get the word that we need to vacate the building. We power down our computers and are herded down the incredibly narrow fire escape into the parking lot.

Here’s what happened, according to one of my coworkers who spoke to an officer. In the office that shares a building with ours, a random guy went up to the front desk and placed a single glass test tube. On that test tube was a piece of sticky tape with one word scribbled onto it: “EBOLA.” Naturally, the police were called, and when the man who brought the tube was questioned, he said it was “the cure for Ebola.” The test tube was obviously empty, but to play it safe, the building had to be vacated for about two days.

Here’s where those corporate policies I mentioned come in. You would think, in a situation like this, we would simply be told to go home. Once we’re all herded into the parking lot, the supervisors explain that we all have to get in our cars and drive to the company’s sister office, an entirely separate cubicle farm, at which we’ll spend the next two days.

There are two problems with this:

  1. The second office is already grossly overcrowded, unable to accommodate the people who are actually supposed to be there. It is statistically unlikely that any of us will be able to even get a computer, much less get any work done.
  2. Nobody knows the second office’s address. The supervisors just parrot “follow us, follow us” over and over, but even if we ask for the address just in case, they refuse to give it up for some unknown reason.

I try my best to follow the enormous line of cars, but the car I’m behind suddenly pulls into a commuter parking lot. I follow them and ask why they stopped. Apparently, she is equally clueless as to where we are going, as is the person she was following. We just sit there for a few minutes, heavily considering just ditching work, but the other driver manages to wrestle the second office’s address from her temp agency after calling them, and we manage to make our way there.

And to top it all off, when we finally arrived, the supervisors didn’t even know we had been gone, greeting us with an emotionless “get back to work.”

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