Hallway Bumper Cars (sans car)

I swear, something about the way the hallways and doorways are laid out at MSFT is completely counterintuitive as far as actual usability goes. I can’t quite put my finger on it – they don’t seem any narrower than other hallways, but somehow people are always in each others’ way or awkwardly almost crashing into each other around blind corners (which don’t seem any blinder than normal corners, but somehow they’re worse). In the hallways, if two people are paused to have a conversation, it’s incredibly hard to get by without feeling like you’re in a mosh pit, even if they courteously stand to the side. But I swear the measurements aren’t any different from other corporate buildings I’ve worked in! Even in the kitchens, which are spacious and seemingly well-laid-out, it’s always awkward if there’s more than one person, because both people will sort of inadvertently block the path to whatever device the other person needed. And, I mean, I’ve been in kitchens half this size frequented by twice as many people, and never felt the same strain. Truly uncanny.

It sort of reminds me of when I was living in Barcelona, and I took a trip to Pisa to visit my friend Kendra. In Barcelona the custom when meeting someone new was to kiss once on each cheek if it was girl-meeting-girl or boy-meeting-girl (boys meeting boys would usually shake hands, I think. Maybe. I don’t really know, because it was never necessary for me to learn that one). So when Kendra told me that the Italians in Pisa also did one kiss on each cheek, I figured I was in the clear, since I wouldn’t have to adjust my normal behavior. But every time I met someone, which was pretty much daily, it would be this totally awkward exchange where neither of our heads was in the right place at the right time, and we’d nearly crack skulls, and it was generally just not the pleasant, friendly, tactile, barrier-breaking experience it had been in Barcelona. It took me until my last day there to realize that it was because in Pisa, they start on the left side and then go right, whereas in Barcelona they start right and go left. So essentially, every person I met I had inadvertently tried to kiss on the lips. Suddenly all the awkwardness made sense, and as soon as I realized I needed to adjust my Barcelona kiss to the Pisa direction, all went much more smoothly.

…And that’s why I keep waiting for something similar to click here – some seemingly subtle but eventually obvious indicator of why the hell no one can seem to walk down a hallway, enter/exit a restroom, stall, conference room, office, or kitchen, or grab a cup of coffee, or a glass of water, or a phone call, or an elevator, without awkwardly dancing around and nearly crashing into their fellow MSFT employees. The thing is, though, I’ve paid close attention to this out of morbid curiosity since I started back in February, and I can’t come up with any explanation – and if the Pisa trip was any indication, you’d think I’d have grasped it by now (that was a ten-day trip, and I got it on day nine). Unless it’s something directly proportional to the total amount of time I’m to spend here, it should be cleary by now. I think we really are just all very awkward, and lost in our own worlds, and in a hurry to get back to where we’re going.

That, and, they probably hired a frickin’ programmer to do the architecture.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *