My first office was a supply closet with the door unhinged, which facilities management laid across two file cabinets in a bad impersonation of a desk.
Sure, I shared this office with a copy machine. But it was my office — they even hung a plastic nameplate; they even spelled it right (more than I can say for whoever printed my high school diploma).
Trouble didn’t start until half a year later, when I decided to decorate.
Now, I’m not stupid — I didn’t bring in any swimsuit calendars or a giant poster of John Belushi wearing a “College” sweatshirt. I left that one on the wall of my apartment.
At the time, I worked in the PR department of a public service advertising organization in Manhattan. So after softening the alien-autopsy glare of the overhead fluorescents with the warm buttery glow of a shaded lamp, I plastered my workspace with subway and bus shelter ads until I’d created a floor-to-ceiling mosaic of fire preventing bears, crime preventing dogs and anthropomorphized intestinal polyps (from a colo-rectal cancer screening PSA campaign; that was a real campaign and “Polyp Man” was its real mascot and I’m not just talking out of my colo-rectum).
My co-workers thought it was cool. My bosses didn’t. I don’t think they liked the speakers I brought in, either, and I know IT didn’t like how much bandwidth I consumed downloading music from Napster.
And so I was evicted, banished to a cubicle at the other end of the floor.
Granted, this isn’t the worst thing a boss can do to you. It’s not even the worst thing a boss has done to me. When I was 16, for instance, I got fired from a take-out restaurant after asking for a day off on Yom Kippur. To this day, I associate rotisserie chicken with anti-Semitism.
Still, as for my nascent career in advertising, I could see the writing on the wall, even with Polyp Man papered over it. So I quit to become a writer. That was summer 2001.
Since then, I’ve had a succession of home offices.
The inaugural: another unhinged door — this time spanning cinderblocks — beneath a wooden loft bed in a tiny Brooklyn walk-up I shared with my girlfriend (now wife). Best office-mate I could’ve asked for, by the way — she even folded my laundry. You find an office-mate like that, you marry her. Know what I mean?
Anyway, the bed was lofted to 5’11. I’m six-feet, flat. I can’t count how many times I brained myself — in the exact same spot — getting up for more coffee or to relieve the inevitable result of all that coffee. Look closely, you can still see the scar.
Now, this office — where I also hung my clothes and stowed our camping gear — had a window. Don’t get excited. This window looked out on an air chute, up which wafted a non-stop stream of techno, cigarette smoke and... um, let’s call it “the sounds of love,” all day, every day, from the first-floor tenants.
And you know, I’d probably still be in that cramped, smoky enclave, too, half-concussed, listening to the neighbors, ahem, “freelance,” had my officemate, er, I mean fiancé, not accepted a job in Alaska.
Which brings me to my next home office: the passenger seat of a Subaru hurtling 5,500 miles across the U.S. and Canada (I was scheduled to teach college composition at the University of Alaska Anchorage; wrote my syllabus between Minneapolis and Medicine Hat).
The succeeding home office: a mostly unfurnished room in a mostly unfurnished basement up in Palmer — you know, Sarah Palin’s Alaska? The desk, and our bed, came from a hotel in Des Moines, Iowa, circa 1932. How do I know? They were labeled and signed. This remains baffling to me, and not just why someone went to the trouble and expense of transporting 70-year-old secondhand hotel furniture all the way from Iowa. I mean, who dates furniture in the first place? Does it ever expire? Obviously our landlords didn’t think so.
A year later, when I arrived in Juneau with steady work, I went out and bought the finest pre-fab desk Fred Meyer had to offer. Sure, the drawers didn’t quite align and the whole thing started coming apart when I tried to move it. I left it where I built it and plugged in my iMac, ready to get down to business.
Then my wife had a baby, then another baby — what office-mate would do that for you, either? — and my home office started doubling as a nursery. Unlike their mother, my children made terrible office-mates. Crying during conference calls, emailing gobbledygook to clients when left unattended for a split second, always begging me to play with them instead of updating my Facebook page. Spit-up doesn’t clean out of keyboards nearly as well as you’d think. Ditto blowout diapers.
The minute my youngest started pre-school, we began a home remodel, relegating my desk to the garage. Don’t get me wrong. I liked working amidst caulk and I definitely got a kick out of checking my email and sharpening my chainsaw at the same time. Also, nothing like a little car exhaust to kick-start those creative juices. But ultimately, I couldn’t find the right mojo in there; after all, it’s a garage. With a utility sink full of soaking soiled training pants.
Despair not, though. Recently, I’ve made major strides by moving my home office back inside my actual home. My desk is huge and free of head injury hazards, my window overlooks two mountains, a bridge, a tram and, at least twice this past fall, a double rainbow. There’s also a fold-out couch. Badass.
What’s more, my boss and I share uncannily similar decorating taste. In fact, he personally directed me to break out all my Star Wars bric-a-brac, including, but not limited to: action figures, Pez dispensers, collectible Taco Bell cups and a promo I boosted from the Brooklyn Museum of Art’s “Star Wars: The Magic of Myth” exhibit in 2002. Speaking of which, anyone know the statute of limitations for art theft?
I’ve also got concert posters, a portrait of the “Simpsons” extended cast and a beer placard. You heard me, a beer placard. In fact, my wife and I have taken to calling my office the “dorm room.” The only thing I’m missing is a shower caddy. And a picture of Albert Einstein sticking out his tongue.
I totally sit there in standard issue RA attire, too — hoodie sweatshirt, mesh lacrosse shorts. Just the other day, my kids and I turned out the lights, grabbed some glow sticks, and danced around like crazy to a live Grateful Dead bootleg. I put the trippy screensaver on the computer and everything.
Now I just need some paying work and I’ll be all set.
• Geoff Kirsch is a lives and writes in Juneau. You can find more of his work at www.geoffkirsch.com.