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The modern cubicle dweller may hold keys to the behavior of the ancient Cubicle Man

by Clarissa A. French

Somewhere along the evolutionary chain, between Neanderthal Man and Homo Sapiens, is Cubicle Man. Little is known about this ancient ancestor, with cave paintings being our best reference.

In these paintings, discovered in the caves of Silicon Valley, we see Cubicle Man stalking a wooly, mammoth accounts-receivable file. Cubicle Man dancing in ritual celebration of a successful sale. Cubicle Man being crushed by a giant corporation with a brain the size of a walnut.

But who was Cubicle Man? What drove him to live and die in a box? And what lessons can be learned from his example?

Cubicle culture. Most of Cubicle Man's artifacts have not survived the millennia. The few signs we have of his passage are mostly tiny pieces of stone with cryptic symbols etched on them, such as "Call urg ext 214 asap" and "HR sem Fri PIA by Mon."

Who was Urg? What, or where, was HR? And why do all these fragments of a lost civilization seem charged with such a sense of urgency? We may never know.

A few years ago, archaeologists in the northwest Arkansas area claimed to have unearthed startling evidence of Cubicle Man's existence, including an entire cubicle village.

However, after charges of fraud and a subsequent investigation, the "village" was found to be a defunct veal-fattening operation.

It was a natural mistake.

Perhaps our best indication of the great, lost cubicle culture is the modern cubicle dweller, descendent of this anthropological wonder.

Cubicle dwellers today. The modern cubicle dweller undoubtedly has better posture than his ancestor, yet the distinctive stoop, nurtured by daily worship at the desktop shrine, remains a clear identifying mark.

Like ancient Cubicle Man, the modern cubicle dweller is capable of walking on two legs, but often moves from cubicle to cubicle on a wheeled chair, propelled by crablike movements of the legs.

The hierarchy of a cubicle tribe is most clearly seen in its chairs. The bigger and better the chair, the higher the cubicle dweller is in the power structure.

Among males, another indication of position is the brightness and tastelessness of the neck ornament, or "tie." Indicators among females are more subtle. Sometimes the quality and price of the female's shoes is an indicator, but not always.

(For more detailed information on sexual dimorphism and the sexual division of labor among cubicle dwellers, see Dr. I.M. Walledin's report, "Get Your Own Damn Coffee: A Year Among the Cubicle Women.")

The size of the cubicle itself is another indication of power. Tribal leaders tend to have not just cubicles, but entire offices to themselves.

There are two distinct interpretations of this behavior.

Some scholars interpret the isolation of the chieftain, or "manager," as a sign of honor. Others claim it is actually a method of containment, established by the tribe for its own protection. Field studies show either interpretation can be valid, depending on the particular cubicle community.

Regarding religion, modern cubicle dwellers worship the deities PeaSea and Mac, gods of letters, learning and communication, at desktop shrines. Communication with the gods is through ritual, sometimes rhythmic, striking of buttons or "keys," each encoded with its own rune or symbol.

The relationship between the cubicle dweller and his gods is a complex one. Cubicle Man is as likely to curse the gods as worship them, while some hold both PeaSea and Mac in such dread they will not touch or even approach the desktop shrine.

Many cubicle dwellers who reverence PeaSea and Mac also worship the cubicle god, Dilbert, and his minions talking animals who take the form of managers to trick and torment Cubicle Man.

Significant rituals of the tribe include the daily Drinking of the Coffee, Shuffling of the Papers and Issuing of the Memos.

In terms of diet, ancient Cubicle Man probably subsisted on fare similar to that of his modern descendent, including nuts, berries, cream cheese, bagels and doughnuts. (For information on how ancient Cubicle Man's diet influenced modern technology, see Dr. Wainwright Cruller's book "Which Came First, the Doughnut or the Wheel: The Hole Story.")

In terms of interaction among modern cubicle dwellers, including their greeting rituals, mating habits, care of offspring and grooming activities, it would be presumptuous to attempt an analysis in the space available.

However, for an up-close look at modern cubicle dwellers' life-ways, we recommend Dian Fossey's "Cubicles in the Mist," and Margaret Mead's "Coming of Age in a Cubicle."

These anthropologists have taken the study of cubicle dwellers to a new level, tracking their behavior both in and out of the cubicle community. Through hidden observation posts at watering holes, discount outlets and psychiatric hospitals, they have gained insight not only into modern cubicle culture, but valuable clues for interpreting ancient Cubicle Man.

INSET CAPTION:

The modern cubicle dweller is capable

of walking on two legs, but often moves from cubicle to cubicle on a wheeled chair, propelled by crablike movements of the legs.[[In-content Ad]]

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