I know of no other movie that better captures the essence of the corporate cubicle life than the cult classic from 1999, Office Space. If you have not seen this gem of a movie yet, then you now have plans for the weekend. You can thank me later.
I first saw Office Space in the year following my graduation from college when I was getting my first taste of the disappointing post-collegiate office lifestyle. The repetitive 9-5 grind with three weeks annual vacation was certainly a shock to the system after 16 years of schooling with summers off. I fearfully stared into my future and saw four decades of this meaningless monotony and fled back to the familiar comforts of the university after only one year in the so-called real world.
The crux of Office Space―and perhaps this site as well―is summed up brilliantly by the main character, Peter Gibbons (played by Ron Livingston), in the following short clip.
One of the most unforgettable characters in the movie has to be the infamous Bill Lumbergh, Peter’s boss. Rarely has the self-serving, self-satisfied, uncaring, manipulative corporate lifer executive been better portrayed than by Lumbergh (played perfectly by Gary Cole).
From the matching suspenders and tie combinations to the white collars on non-white dress shirts and back to the suspenders used in conjunction with a belt, there is no way to ever forget the memory of Bill Lumbergh in this lifetime. The phony informal friendliness, drawn-out speech, and the omnipresent Initech coffee mug are all trademarks of this hyper-caffeinated, Porsche-driving yuppie nightmare of a boss.
There are too many classic scenes in Office Space to fit into one article (or a dozen), but the scene where Peter first meets the Bobs―consultants drafted in to downsize, or “rightsize,” Initech―reminded me of the strategies that I regularly employed to pass the required eight hours in the office.
To be faithful to historical accuracy, I never spaced out for an hour staring at my desk or at my computer monitor. That’s what the world wide web and pointless texting are for after all. I usually worked in some ping pong or foosball, long walks, “agua” breaks, coffee preparation followed by a 45-minute conversation with a work buddy plotting our escape from the place of our detention―I mean, employment.
The movie begins at the start of a brand new work week on Monday morning. It is worth noting that there were zero greetings of “Happy Monday” in this movie since it was made in the relatively more civilized 20th century.
However, there was mention of the peculiar condition or ailment referred to as “a case of the Mondays.” Neither this phrase nor “Happy Monday” has a place in our overly tolerant, post-modern office culture. We must draw the line somewhere in the sand and hold ourselves to whatever diminished standards radical relativism has left us.
“Thanks a bunch, Milton.”