I need a way for people to get my attention while I am wearing heaphones.
August 19, 2010 6:41 AM   Subscribe

How to attract the attention of a be-headphoned person in a cube across an aisle facing away from the entrance without touching them? Ideally this would be inexpensive and not require any hardwiring.

I sit in a cube with walls about five feet high facing the corner where my computer is located. There are walls on three sides of me when I am at my computer - my cube is rectangular with the entrance in the middle of one of the long walls. My coworker sits across the aisle.

When I am deep in the mysteries of Excel, I put on headphones to block out the sound of people talking around me. Unfortunately, when I am thus beguiled by Mark Lanegan or Ojos de Brujo or something, I can't hear when my coworker has something to tell me.

The ideal solution from my perspective would be a cheap battery operated LED light with a remote. Then I could put the LED in front of me and give her the remote. When she wished to commune with me she could just push the remote button, I would see the light flash, and we could have a confab.

I have not been able to find that sort of device. I've found all sorts of doorbells for the deaf with flashing lights, but they are all expensive and require wiring. I suppose I could go down to Radio Shack and get some LEDs and make what I am thinking of, but that seems like a lot of work.

Does anyone know of a manufacturer for something like that? Again, it would need to be cheap and have two pieces - a small light and a remote. Range is not an issue, she's less than five feet away.

I know that this is a needlessly Byzantine solution and we should just roll across the aisle or something.
posted by winna to Technology (32 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Nerf gun
posted by adamrice at 6:42 AM on August 19, 2010 [9 favorites]

Just knock on their desk, they will feel the vibrations.
posted by reishus at 6:43 AM on August 19, 2010

Instant Messaging.
posted by public at 6:44 AM on August 19, 2010 [12 favorites]

Best answer: Put a mirror on your desk and give her a flashlight.
posted by Faint of Butt at 6:46 AM on August 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Does she have a direct line of sight to you? You could give her a laser pointer that she could point at your monitor.

The CHIMP mirror might also be some help.
posted by mrsshotglass at 6:47 AM on August 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Laser pointer.
posted by hermitosis at 6:54 AM on August 19, 2010 [3 favorites]

There are lots of wireless products like this for the hard of hearing.

But I think a better idea would be a fishing pole, or just a long dowel and a piece of string, from which something funny could be dangled into the other person's cubicle.
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 7:01 AM on August 19, 2010

in my last few jobs, we just used instant messaging
posted by KogeLiz at 7:10 AM on August 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

Water gun.
posted by I'm Doing the Dishes at 7:15 AM on August 19, 2010

I'm with reishus, have her knock on your desk, you can feel the vibrations. Or give her permission to to throw paper at you. You could also both get really good at shooting rubber bands.
posted by edbles at 7:21 AM on August 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

Here, we use rubber bands.
posted by TomMelee at 7:25 AM on August 19, 2010

Best answer: If instant messaging is for some reason not a viable option, then I'd suggest a small remote control car. It's not quite a light, but it is an easily visible stimulus and a cheap one might run you about $15. This does depend pretty heavily on the atmosphere at your workplace though, some bosses may not be too keen on the idea.
posted by Saydur at 7:27 AM on August 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

This is what paper airplanes were MADE for! (Well, one reason.) Also, handwaving, mirror-n-light reflecting, IMing, and floor stomping.
posted by iamkimiam at 7:28 AM on August 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

Get a remote switch extension cord and plug a string of cheap christmas lights into it which are placed around your monitor. When she presses the switch, your cube becomes festive and you are in a good mood to answer whatever query she has for you.
posted by JJtheJetPlane at 7:28 AM on August 19, 2010 [5 favorites]

Via ThinkGeek
She could flip a swith
posted by doorsfan at 7:29 AM on August 19, 2010

This product better illustrates how the remote switch extension cords work: the lights are actually still plugged in at the outlet location, the switch is what is "extended" away from the outlet. Christmas lights are optional, any desk lamp or other illumination source would work.
posted by JJtheJetPlane at 7:31 AM on August 19, 2010

How about an airzooka? Nothing gets thrown at anyone, so nobody could be hurt, and there's an unlimited supply of ammo.
posted by Solomon at 7:35 AM on August 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

doorsfan: "Via ThinkGeek
She could flip a swith

You can get this same sort of thing (with all sorts of different controls) at Home Depot (or equivalent) as well. It was the first thing I thought of.
posted by JMOZ at 7:36 AM on August 19, 2010

Best answer: Wireless doorbell. You can turn the chime off and the strobe light on. $50 Home Depot.

Put the button on the outside of your cube and then anyone can get your attention.

But my first vote would be for the nerf gun.
posted by phunniemee at 7:42 AM on August 19, 2010

My coworker who operates like this has a golf ball sized concave mirror attached to the top of his monitor so he can see people approaching to talk to him.
posted by Brittanie at 7:55 AM on August 19, 2010

Best answer: Remote lightswitch with a lamp/other attention getting device plugged into it.
My local dept. store has several different varieties.
From keyfob type ones to ones that look like a regular wall switch.
posted by madajb at 7:56 AM on August 19, 2010

Yeah, the boring solution is to knock sharply on the desk or the cubicle wall. Unless you're using isolating headphones of some kind or are playing it loud enough to cause gradual hearing loss, I'd be surprised if that doesn't cut through the music.
posted by Johnny Assay at 7:59 AM on August 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

Instant messaging, yes.
posted by beerbajay at 8:21 AM on August 19, 2010

Don't Karaoke microphones interject a voice into music playing on speakers? Do they work via headphones?
posted by CathyG at 8:26 AM on August 19, 2010

Response by poster: We do have IM, but for some reason she likes to talk out loud. I am not sure why since I sound like a duck with a head cold at the best of times, but I am trying to meet her needs.

I think the little toy car would be fun and easy! We will see how that goes.

I also have the mirrors, but because people like to come into my cube from any number of odd trajectories my mirror cannot monitor all the space through which visitors may trek. Also, I think some people delight in sneaking up - those folks would appear at my elbow like office ninjas anyway, so I am not all that concerned about anyone but my immediate peer.
posted by winna at 9:28 AM on August 19, 2010

We just tend to throw things at each other. Pens, pencils, rubber bands, etc. The best thing we've found so far is a kinder suprise plastic inner-egg thing. Usually, I'll be chugging away at a spreadsheet, or working with a DB query, and the egg will land on my desk. If I ignore that, it can escalate to a sharpened pencil thrown at the back of my head. (It's usually directed at me; I wear isolating headphones and tend to get asked 20 questions a day or more.)
posted by [citation needed] at 10:02 AM on August 19, 2010

We do have IM, but for some reason she likes to talk out loud.

Couldn't she just send you an IM that says, "Take off your headphones, I want to talk to you?"

But I guess all the other suggestions are more fun!
posted by magnificent frigatebird at 11:11 AM on August 19, 2010 [2 favorites]

a little flashlight that she can aim at wherever you are looking. A laser pointer is a bad idea! it can reflect off of your monitor and into your eyes. I once had a director do this when they were giving me notes on my work, and I was seeing spots for a long time.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 12:47 PM on August 19, 2010

Use Google Talk
posted by strongdad at 1:21 PM on August 19, 2010

Step 1: If possible, hang a reflective surface somewhere in your cube. Even something simple like a CD might work, or maybe a glass surface, like a framed photo.

Step 2: laser pointer, reflected off that surface into the coworker's cube.

It's more fun if the laser doesn't obviously come from your cubicle :)
posted by 2oh1 at 9:51 PM on August 19, 2010

I had exactly your problem a few years ago. I used something like this and really liked how it stopped people sneaking up on me--and it only cost like $5. I put it on top of my monitor and positioned it so that when someone appeared in my doorway, I'd notice the movement in my peripheral vision.
posted by oceanmorning at 2:46 AM on August 20, 2010

My assistant throws paper clips at me. Sometimes they hit me, sometimes they bounce in front of me, but they never fail to get my attention.
posted by youngergirl44 at 6:11 PM on August 21, 2010

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