Space: The Final Frontier
By Stanley Bing

(FORTUNE Magazine) – As I stroll around my new office these days and marvel at my power and magnificence, I have to reach around myself to pat me on the back. It's hard to do but fun, once you get the hang of it. CEOs do it all the time, but I'm not one of those, so I don't avail myself of the privilege all that often.

This time, however, I have to hand it to me. I have a big fat space that's way too good for my actual stature, and I love it. You can have one too, if you pay no attention to the way you're supposed to do things and adhere to the most important rule of organizational life: It is better to beg forgiveness than to ask permission.

Here's the story.

A few months ago I promoted a couple of my people to vice presidential rank. That meant they were entitled to bigger offices, according to company policy. Where before they had one window, they were now allowed two. So we knocked out a storage space or some damn thing, and pretty soon both had brand-new enclosures with new carpeting and furniture that made my existing acreage look like the monkey house at a petting zoo in a suburb of Toronto.

Feeling like a fug-ugly slug at the bottom of a sump pump, I walked out into the vast dominion of my assistant and said to her, "Dee, I want a bigger office. I know it's going to cut into your space, and I hope you don't mind."

"Hey," said she. "You're the man." I liked that a lot.

So Dee went about setting up the situation. Where before I had two windows, I would now have three. But what I didn't know is that only hirsute nabobs of presidential rank were allowed three. Not knowing that, I didn't consider it. I just gave the order and retreated into the warren that had been my home since 1995 and waited for changes to happen.

Guys showed up. They measured things. They stood around and called me "Mr. Bing" and took stock of what was up. After a week or so Norbert, the guy in charge of offices, came by.

"Congratulations, Mr. Bing," he said, and shook my hand gravely. "Your office expansion has cleared the highest levels."

"Really?" I said. "It required some kind of clearance?"

Norbert looked at me as if I were making a witticism at his expense. "Yes, Mr. Bing. At the highest levels."

Well, I thought, that's nice. I like to have things cleared at the highest levels.

Construction began, and went on until my friend Bob happened by. Bob is the world's nicest guy, you should know, and unflappable. The most I have seen him register is mild disgust at the vagaries of existence. That is good, because he is in charge of controlling all financial aspects of the corporation, so if he had a short fuse it might not go well for people.

Anyhow, Bob happened by and saw that my walls were down and that there were six or seven guys in my office discussing things. I was in California at the time, thank goodness.

"What's this?" he asked.

"It's Mr. Bing's new office," they told him.

"I didn't approve any new construction," said Bob.

"It was approved at the highest levels," they told him.

Quite naturally the top of Bob's head blew off, and he stopped construction entirely and kicked some butts down the block and let it be known that this was not the way to do things, and in the end, since I had no walls and the situation had slipped beyond his control, he signed the necessary papers, and by the time I got back to New York City my new office was done.

"There was a little problem while you were away," said Dee, and she told me about it.

"He...halted construction?" This made me a little nervous. I called Bob.

"Well! Hello, Mr. President!" said Bob as he made his way across the vastness of my new space. I explained to Bob that it had been cleared at the highest levels. He told me that yes, it had, but not at his level. As the guy in charge of the matter, he quite naturally thought that he should have been one of the levels at which such a matter should have been cleared. I agreed with him.

"I guess complete ignorance of proper procedure sometimes works to one's benefit, huh?" I said as I walked him to the door.

"No duh," said Bob, and laughed that little laugh that controllers must master to exist in the world without going mad.

So in the end, this turns out to be a happy story. People are calling my new place the Bing wing, and I don't mind. And tonight I'm going to take Bob out for a martini. He's a good pal for putting up with all of this. And some proper procedures really shouldn't be ignored, you know?