Last week I lost an office but I gained a cubicle. It was all part of the state’s plan to join the effort to rid western civilization of the scourge known as privacy. It’s true that some employees have done everything in their power to prove they don’t deserve privacy, spending their time on the clock performing a wide range of activities unrelated to that which they are paid to do. My problem isn’t the lack of privacy though. If I had privacy issues, do you think I’d discuss as much as I do on this blog? No, my problem is all the damn quiet.

When my group was in a suite of private offices we all spoke at a normal volume, and there was something comforting in the sounds of a busy office. Now when folks speak it’s in hushed tones, practicing good cube etiquette. It’s damned unsettling. There’s something about a whisper that’s sinister. Conspiracy, death, disease, gossip… it’s all associated with an ominous whisper. Even when someone does make a loud noise, it’s oddly muted by all these infernal cloth partitions. It doesn’t go away, it just has the sharp edges filed off, making every sound seem like a desperate church whisper. If you’ve ever been to a church with lots of carpeting and plush pews, you know what I’m talking about. Sounds are dull and uneventful, compared to the sounds of our old offices, with lots of hard surfaces that kept the noise alive and vibrant.

The sounds of hustle were like a cue to work hard, maybe even a catalyst. It kept me awake and alert, like a workout mix. Now, even though the faint sound of a pencil dropping can be pinpointed from half a dozen cubes down the row, it’s like someone singing a soft lullaby. The way I’ve been sleeping lately, that’s the last thing I need. Even worse, with all the whispering I’d probably have a nightmare.

Give the gift of words.