Thursday, November 20, 2008

Review of my office building

I have almost always worked for large companies. Which means I have almost always worked in large, crowded office buildings, most recently for a company that literally has hundreds of acres of cubicles, some of the plots so large that they have to deploy noise canceling systems to dull the roar of thousands of keyboards and phone conversations and flatulent engineers (I used to sit next to one, so I should know).

Now that I work for a small company, I've had to make a few adjustments. I've already mentioned that I don't need to schedule appointments to talk to people--I can just walk over to their desks. But I'm also getting used to working in an office building that has multiple tenants. So I thought I'd write up a review of who else works here.

On the first and second floor we have a swanky architecture firm. Lots of hardwood and glass and bare metal in there. All the women and most of the men die their hair. Even the men who don't die their hair use expensive gels to keep their fauxhawks in place. Unless they don't have hair or have spared us from the "thinning hair but wears a fauxhawk anyway" look, in which case they have a stylish beard or shave everything but wear nicely tailored shirts. I could never work in this office simply because I would never meet the style threshold. I often wonder where these people live if they're spending that much money on their appearance. Maybe they just don't buy bikes or skis.

I have no idea who is on the third or fifth floors of the building, because we are on the fourth floor, and I obviously can't enter the building from the third or fifth floor because this isn't Minneapolis and we have no skyway. I only know the architects are on floors one and two because I can see the stairs through their glass doors from the lobby.

Our neighbors on the fourth floor are an interesting bunch. I enjoy the fact that I can sneak out during the day a couple times a week for a lunch ride or come in a few minutes late because I did some early morning backcountry laps. But we have it rough compared to our neighbors.

Right next to us is a company that I have no idea what they do. I looked at their website, and I still have no idea. All I know is that they are gone every day by 5:00. I mean the office is empty and locked. No putting in extra hours to get the work done. It's like they're all paid hourly and have a no overtime policy.

Next to them is a financial planning office. In the interest of full discolure, my parents are clients of said office, and my sister used to work there. When my sister worked there, the whole office would shut down at noon, and they all went out to lunch together. On the company. Not sure if that's still the policy, but judging by the waistlines of two of the guys that work there, they certainly aren't missing very many meals. That place is also a ghost town at 5:00 p.m.

Down the hall is an office I have seen a total of two people come in and out from. They are a branch of a company that's received a tidy sum of government bailout, so they must all be busy counting our tax dollars. Down from them are some hippy lawyers. You know the kind, they wear jeans and hiking boots and sport coats and cowboy hats. I don't know who their clients are or what kind of law practice it is, but I'm sure if those walls could talk...

Across the hall from us is a dentist's office. I went into the wrong field. They are gone at noon two days a week and never there on Fridays. They specialize in cosmetic dentistry, and based on the appearance of the office, there is some serious cashflow moving through there.

Of course, if I ever wanted to get an inside look at any of my neighbors, I could probably pull it off. One of my colleagues mentioned last night that one night he left his keys at his desk and there was nobody to let him back in. Nobody but the cleaning crew that is. They gladly opened the office door for him. I asked if they escorted him to his desk to get his keys and made sure he wasn't doing anything suspicious. "No, they just let me in."

Isn't social engineering great? We can put all the safeguards in the world on data and property, and all it takes is some smooth talking to compromise every bit of it, as I pointed out to a major news organization some time ago. It needn't be some brilliant kid breaking into a secure system like in War Games, just some smart thieves who give the background check companies enough data to identify an individual, and for a nominal fee get back everything necessary to steal that individual's identity.

If the security threats don't make you nervous inside the building, then all you have to do is step outside and go around the corner. The street we're on is quiet and stately, lined with historic mansions, cathedrals, and even the Masonic Temple. The next street over, though, is another story. The apartments where the crazy people live are there, and you can overhear this at the 7 eleven: "Hey man, where you been?" "Oh, I'm over at the Salvation Army." And in case you were wondering, he wasn't working at the Salvation Army, either.

But I don't mean to complain. I actually really like working in the city versus some suburban park or campus. And as urban locations go, ours is a good one. Relatively quiet and safe, covered parking, and just a few blocks from one of the coolest bike shops in the valley. Add in colleagues who are up for a spontaneous evening of carpaccio and Bond movies, and it's a good place to be.

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