I am an orphan, which is not so unusual for a man of 79, and like everyone else I know, I work out of my own home. At the moment I’m sitting at the kitchen table with a bowl of Cheerios beside the laptop and a cup of coffee (black). I have no office anymore. I’ve had offices, not cubicles, but offices with doors and a window, sometimes a credenza, since I was 22 years old. I miss them.
If someone opens a Museum of the American Office, I volunteer to be a docent and I’ll show them around the office of 50 years ago, with the mimeograph machine, the manual typewriter and the big telephone with the long curly cord that went into the wall. There was no copier, we used carbon paper. Someone knocked on the door and I hid my copy of Portnoy’s Complaint in the top drawer and a woman poked her head in and said, “The meeting is about to begin.”
That’s what I miss, the meeting. They were like little morality plays, in which people assumed allegorical roles – Dreamers, Realists, Satirists and Strategists – and the outcome was usually to maintain inertia, but they were entertaining. I was a satirist in my early years and then suddenly I became the boss and I was surrounded by realists, and at the end of my office career, I became a dreamer and the two women employees listened and took turns being the assassin who points out the deadly reality, so not much happened but I was okay with that. The pleasure was in the meeting itself.
We cleared out the office because we didn’t need it, the copier went, the coffeemaker, conference table, the files were packed off to Deep Storage (where we’ll all wind up someday) and we went home.