Cubes and stalls

Speaking of dumping core... they seem to have some funny ideas about privacy in the US.

I'd never understood all the talk of cubes on slashdot. Surely, I thought, that's only for call-center workers? Workers whose employers don't care about them, and aren't content with treating them as interchangeable work units — they need the workers to know how low is the esteem in which they're held.

And then you look around in San Jose and Santa Clara, and they're ubiquitous. Walk through the world's largest (and, granted, sunniest) industrial estate, and look in the windows, and all you see are these high-walled cells. Even really nice-looking buildings, such as Nvidia's, are furnished like this.

It's like Brazil without the dentistry.

So I can see now why slashdot has so many ads for knick-knacks to clutter cubicles with. I always thought it odd, because I saw the slashdot crowd as primarily male, and the collection of knick-knacks as primarily a female preoccupation. (Not that men don't have collecting instincts; they just seem to be more of the "complete the set" persuasion.)

Something I don't get, though, is why the natives seem happy with the situation. For the bunch of Brits I know, it was intolerably depressing. Within a day, the cube walls were partially dismantled, and we now have some kind of Mondrian take on open-plan. The natives, though, seem to like things the way they are. Where they have glass panels between cubes, they've covered them over with posters. Where there would be natural light, they've drawn the blinds. There's now a natural light gradient directly proportional to the Brit density.

So maybe, I wonder, they like their privacy?

And then I need to go [that's a euphemism, like the sign where I live that promises a fine for anyone "walking their dog" on the lawn], and I'm confused. I'm confused about many things, though I've had some explained.

For example: the reason there are urinals so low a dog could use them is, I'm told, because they have to be usable by people in wheelchairs. The only wheelchair user I know is female, so I can't ask whether she'd seriously consider using a urinal. (I could, of course, but her answer wouldn't be interesting in the directly pertinent sense.)

So at least I don't have to worry about the secret army of midgets that infests public restrooms.

The real wonder, though, are the toilet stalls.

The first thing you notice is that they don't go down to the ground. You can recognize the occupant of the end stall by their shoes, socks, and belt buckle. That's how high they start.

They don't go up very far, though. Certainly nowhere near the ceiling, and not even above the height of a tall man. During those parts of the operation where you stand, I can hold a face-to-face conversation with a coworker who happens to be using a urinal. I know this, because I've done it. You can't not talk, because it's too weird otherwise. Like being buried up to the neck, naked, next to one another. I call that weird.

The doors seem to have unnecessarily fiddly handles. Call me Mr Burns, but I don't like touching anything I don't have to. I know how many people don't wash their hands. I like things I can operate with a kick or an elbow nudge. Not a "handle" so small it has to be grasped between thumb and forefinger like a china teacup.

Most taps (faucets), strangely, seem to be sensibly designed for elbow use. Though observation suggests that most people either don't realize this, or don't care. Maybe they haven't watched enough hospital drama?

[Apologies, while I'm here, to whichever member of staff at Dave+Buster's had to climb over (or under) to unlock the stall I locked from outside, just to see if the lock was as stupidly designed as it appeared to be. It was, and I was left with a door only unlockable from the inside, locked from the outside.]

Not content with stall walls being too short (in both vertical directions), a lot of the doors don't fit either. There are gaps wide enough to see through, both on the lock side and the hinge side. (This is actually less common, and doesn't seem to apply to most restaurants. Prior observations do.)

I used to think the unisex toilets in "Ally McBeal" were a joke. I'm no longer quite so certain.

And now I'm left thinking of Midsummer Night's Dream, and the references to Calista Flockhart/Helena's personage, her tall personage, compared to Anna Friel/Hermia's minimus, of hindering knot-grass made. And whether either of them would be visible to talk to.

Will my idea of a person's height forever be tarnished by the question of whether their head would be above or below the stall wall?

If only I'd been brought up in ancient Britain, maybe I wouldn't care?