Out of the university, I joined a tire company as a management intern and for months shared grimy tables and grimier chairs with the shop foreman in assorted production departments. I felt like Grand Panjandrum when, after a year, I had a clean table of my own in the central office.
A few years later, I joined another company as the chief of a division, and was rewarded with, not just an absurdly large office but also a private restroom. Three years later, the ownership changed, and the new chairman wanted me to fire all the old guard, despite their contracts. When, purely by chance, he did not get sued, he moved me to an even larger office, with a view of the park.
Things changed dramatically when I joined the diplomatic corps. I had imagined attending cocktail parties in white ties and tails. Instead I was sent to Haiti to track human rights violations and provide asylum to refugees. My virtual office became ramshackle churches and dilapidated hovels where hunted people hid, the only respite being my alternative office on coast guard cutters that retrieved fleeing refugees from sinking boats. I next went to Nepal, where for days my office was 9000 feet in the Himalayas, trying to find American hikers and mountaineers who had survived an avalanche.
Meanwhile, the digital revolution had come and stayed. When I joined Big Blue, they gave me a laptop and in effect told me to forget about an office, unless a client wanted me to sit in their office. I loved the new freedom and wanted to make it complete: in two years, I gave up the job and became a consultant.