The aisles between the cubicles where I work are very long and very narrow. I’ve worked in this space for over a year now and I’ve made a few observations about the choices my co-workers and I make while navigating the cubicle aisles.
When you enter the aisle and see that someone else is heading toward you, you have a choice. You can charge ahead or you can step aside. Most people appear to have a strong preference for one action or the other although mood and circumstance can cause some to act out of character.
The Step-Asiders are going to step into the nearest cubicle opening or side aisle to give the other room to pass. This can be a bit awkward if the other person wished to enter the space that they have moved into, but for the most part, all is good.
The Charge-Aheaders are going to walk down the aisle on the assumption that the situation will resolve itself without collision.
If a Charge-Aheader encounters a Step-Asider, life is good. The two parties are able to go about their business without conflict.
Life is also good when two Charge-Aheaders meet up. I’ve yet to see a showdown in an aisle with neither party making way for the other. No, the usual behavior of two Charge-Aheaders is to simultaneously pivot toward the near wall and quickly sidestep past each other. It’s a very efficient group.
The only problem, as I see it, is when two Step-Asiders try to walk down the aisle. They each dart into the nearest cubicle opening and wait, sometimes without looking up, for the other to pass. Eventually, they gaze down the aisle to see the other person doing the same. Then there’s handwaving or verbal encouragement or maybe both parties trying to resume progress and then stepping aside again when they see the other moving. It’s a very friendly and selfless group but can be exhausting to get caught up in.
I’m sure there’s a metaphor for life in here. Something about the relative success and opportunities for people who take charge vs. those that take the back seat and wait on others. I’m definitely a Charge-Aheader in Cubicleville. In life? I’m trying.
Oh, and if you think I’m rather neurotic or warped for analyzing the walking patterns of my co-workers, you should read my analysis of public bathroom toilet paper dispensers and this post won’t sound so odd to you. Plus, you should keep in mind that engineers get paid well to solve problems and analyze. It’s not like we can just turn it off when we step out of our cube!
One final note: I wanted to measure the aisle width for you. I didn’t have a tape measure but I did have an extra long (18 inch) ruler. I poked my head out of my cubicle and when I didn’t see anyone, began to measure – not on the floor, just waist level. I didn’t care if I was really exact. Well, as I tried to read the result (it was less than two rulers wide), someone stepped out into the aisle. I tried to hurry back in my cube but she had seen me. She asked what I was doing. I said I was curious how wide the aisle was.
“Why? They aren’t going to change it.”
“I know. I’m not asking anyone to change it. I was just curious.”
She responded, “You know if they were to change it, they’d just take the space out of your cube.”
“I know,” I said, exasperated. “I don’t plan on saying anything to anyone. I just wanted to know how wide it was.”
She didn’t understand. I didn’t even bother to say I planned on blogging about it. If she couldn’t understand my curiosity, she would certainly not understand my desire to write about it. I guess not all programmers have the same level of curiosity and analysis about everything around them. Oh, well.