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Arnold Norman of Arnold's Office Furniture

Memoirs of an Office Cubicle – Part I: The Golden Office Chair of Ergonomics

Cubicle aficionados link the late great Robert Propst with the invention of the cubicle.  The story goes something like this…

While working at the office furniture company, Herman Miller, Mr. Propst designed the first “cubicle workstation” for Mr. Herman Miller.  In a secret file titled, “Operation Golden Chair of Ergonomics” the two great minds hashed out the blueprint for dimensional cubical relay.

This series will not be so much about the creation of the cubicle, but rather regarding great moments in cubicle history that includes a series of personal interviews with some of the most influential cubiclists and cubicles in history.  Yes, I’m interviewing actual cubicles.

Foreword

It was around June when I initially got the call about writing the piece.  I was a bit skeptical at first – just as you should be now.  You see, I’m not a medium, a channeler, or a soothsayer.  I’m just a writer.  An Intrigued wordsmith and historian.

Sir Arnold spoke of “The Golden Office Chair of Ergonomics” in emails titled, “This Email Will Self Destruct in 5 Minutes.”  Three computers later, I realized he meant business.  This chair was special.  The ergonomic controls work as a device that enables dimensional transportation to any cubicle system ever created. While in the chair, communication with the cubicle system itself is possible (don’t ask me how).

After a series of x-file like correspondences with Arnold, I decided it was in my best interest to pursue this story.

destiny [des-tuh-nee]
noun, plural destinies.

  1. something that is to happen or has happened to a particular person or thing; lot or fortune.

And so it was, that on a hot June afternoon, I embarked on a journey that would change the face of office furniture lore as we know it today.   

I was in a deep analysis and a bit nervous of the situation at hand.  Pink Floyd’s “Comfortably Numb” played in the background as I pulled up to 313 West 4th Street Bridgeport, PA 19405.  Siri happily announced,  “you have reached your destination.”  

As I got out of the car, Arnold was curbside, prompt to greet me with open arms.  He wore a crisp suit that fashioned a white handkerchief, brown lapels, and cufflinks that advertised the catchy phrase “President of the United States”.  His grey hair swirled in the breeze.  It looked like a Tesla energy machine demonstration.  

tesla machine

When he shook my hand, his presence reminded me of being a child and watching the Andy Griffith show.  I noticed his unusual dialect from the onset.  It was straight out of the Hudsucker Proxy.  And yes, if he were to have attempted to sell me a hula hoop, I would have bought ten.

<Arnold>  Stable the horses young rogue, we have much to discuss!
<Logan>  I…drive a Honda, sir.
<Arnold>  No need for sir around these parts, sonny!  Anyways it’s got a horse in the engine don’t it!
<Logan>  Huh?
<Arnold>  Horsepower, my boy!  Giddy up!

It was at this moment where I said to myself, “Dude’s gotta have a merit badge in pun linguistics.”

Sir Arnold’s Profile:

  • Mid-seventies
  • Dresses business professional
  • Hair like Einstein
  • May believe he is the President of the United States
  • Enthusiastic about office furniture and horses

The outside of Arnold’s Office Furniture looked like an industrial warehouse.  When I walked through the doors, I was in awe.  Bridgeport, Pennsylvania had transformed into an emporium of office furniture history.  There were  L, U, and bullet-shaped desks laid out as far as the eye could see.  Some had walls, some were standalone.  Some looked modern, rustic, clean, contemporary – there were cubicle systems of all types and they each had a different theme.  Some were brand new, some were used, and a select few of the workstations must have been made before the industrial revolution.  This was incredible!

Arnold excitedly hurried me through the labyrinth of workstations.  It was right after we walked past the Herman Miller Red Refurbished Ethospace Cubes that I noticed a cubicle system that was dedicated to a famous pop star of the 1980’s.  A street sign sprinkled with stardust was embedded into the panel that read “Bowieville”.  

david-bowie

From there, a long hallway led to Arnold’s office.  The hallway was host to various works of art, all depicting the cubicle workstation.  The classic Steelcase Montage was done by a surrealist and was a real beauty.  It was as if the office furniture and cubicle had melded into one!  As I stopped in front of the painting, Arnold looked at me with a grin.

<Arnold>  Back in the 60’s, I called my friend Salvador about purchasing the “Golden Telephone”.  When he came to Arnold’s Office Furniture to finalize the transaction, the man known as Dali became inspired.  He stayed for weeks working on the piece.  

We admired the piece together.

<Arnold>  This painting suuure does look real – don’t it sonny!
 (Arnold was most proud.)

Logan chuckles in disbelief and then shakes his head.

As we continued onward to Arnold’s office, I noticed a peculiar looking door.  It had no knobs, but I could see the molding outlay and hinges.  I could feel my energy pull towards the strange architecture, and as I took a step closer toward my destiny, Arnold put his hand on my shoulder and ushered me into his office…

(TO BE CONTINUED)

 

Posted by Mark LePine

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