published Sunday, September 29th, 2013

Kennedy: Having an office has its rewards

About 10 months ago I moved from a cubicle to an office. Both work spaces have their advantages, but the office is growing on me.

Our newsroom is a big, open space with offices on the perimeter. There are advantages to being out in the middle of the newsroom. When there's a big, breaking news story, for example, the newsroom buzzes like a middle-school cafeteria.

On the other hand, one of the disadvantages is that on a slow news day it still buzzes like a middle-school cafeteria -- which makes it seem sort of, well, middle-schoolish.

Still, you can learn quite a bit about your co-workers just by overhearing their phone calls: who's smart, who's nervous, who's on a short leash at home, who hasn't paid their light bill, who's planning the whole month of January around Chattacon.

It had been about 13 years since I had an office of my own, and I had forgotten some of the perks.

One day last week, I made a list:

• My office is the only one in the newsroom that doesn't have a window that opens on the newsroom, so I can actually close the door and be invisible for a few seconds.

I have used this perk several times recently to tuck in my shirttail and adjust my britches -- the result of some weight loss. This is a bit like Russian Roulette, however, since at any point someone could burst through the door and I would appear to have both hands jammed down my pants. I believe this would be frowned upon.

• In an office, you do have a little more phone privacy. There is a tradition in our sports department to rain down catcalls on people who talk openly to their spouses or significant others on a cellphone.

For instance, when you use the universal sign off -- "Love you, honey" -- some sports joker is guaranteed to shout out the moment you hang up: "So, how's old Steve doing?" (Not that there's anything wrong with that.)

• I have a very active startle reflex. In a cubical, I was forever jumping out of my skin when someone appeared from nowhere behind my chair.

In an office, there's a bit more warning, as most people knock on the doorframe before entering. The exception are the kamikaze sparrows that dive to their deaths against my giant office windows that face outside and are about two feet from my right ear. When one of them hits, I scream and fluids fly out of my nose.

I have a theory that, from very high in the sky, my bald spot must look like a robin's nest with an egg in it.

• The same giant windows where the birds splatter face the eastern sky. On sunny summer days, heat waves reflect on my office wall like a lava lamp until about noon.

Being of fair complexion, I have hung film negatives on my windows to block out the harmful UV rays. This is functional but not that attractive -- which, come to think of it, is also a pretty good description of me.

• When you're sitting in a cubicle, you are forever standing up just to talk to someone sitting four feet away. With all this standing and sitting, standing and sitting, I'll bet that if you looked at the newsroom from the sky it would appear to be a giant game of Whack-A-Mole.

• When I was in high school, I developed a stupid human skill -- I can drum my fingers at eight beats per second for exactly as long as it takes somebody to say: "Would you please stop!" Now I can execute my drum rolls without interruption.

• I guess I should feel good about the fact that I have friends who stop by my office at all points of the day to chat with me. They think that, since I'm the opinion editor, I must be interested in everyone's opinion on everything.

Not so much.

Contact Mark Kennedy at mkennedy@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6645. Follow him on Twitter @TFPCOLUMNIST. Subscribe to his Facebook updates at www.facebook.com/mkennedycolumnist.

about Mark Kennedy...

Mark Kennedy is a Times Free Press columnist and editor. He writes the "LIfe Stories" human interest column for the City section and the "Family Life" column for the Life section. He also writes an automotive column, “Test Drive,” for the Business section. For 13 years, Kennedy was features editor of the newspaper, and before that he was the newspaper’s first Sunday editor. The Times Free Press Life section won the state press award for ...

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