|2007-03-08 Columns |
|Signing Off From The Southeastern Building|
|March 08, 2007|
After 14 years in the same office in the historic Southeastern Building, The World Headquarters of The Rhinoceros Times is moving this week. According to my rough calculations, we have produced about 700 newspapers from this office, but next week we'll be in the Irvin Arcade at 216 West Market St.
Despite what you may hear or read elsewhere, the real reason for this move is so that our county editor, Scott Yost, will not have to walk so far to the Old Guilford County Court House. We aren't directly across the street, but almost.
Driving to work early this morning before there was any traffic, I wondered how often in the next couple of weeks my car would fall into the same route I have driven so many times and I would find myself in the Davie Street Parking Deck. Speaking of the Davie Street deck, we will all miss Sue and Ray, who operate it. They have a kind word or two every day, with the possible exception of Monday, when they have to pick up all the beer bottles and trash deposited by people enjoying free parking over the weekend.
Those who are familiar with my office might wonder how it looks stripped down, ready for the move, and I have to say that after about 20 hours of hard work getting rid of stuff that has piled up over the years, it doesn't look much different than it did when I started cleaning up. It appears that despite my best intentions I am going to be filling boxes with stuff that should go in the trashcan because I don't have time to look through a huge stack of paper for the two pages of information that are irreplaceable. Some folks don't seem to understand that you can't go back and do an interview over again.
I can just see myself calling up former City Manager Ed Kitchen and saying, remember back during the drought when Greensboro was on water restrictions and there was a rumor that the city staff had plans to evacuate the city and I asked you if it was true? Do you remember what you said?
That isn't going to happen. Admittedly those notes from years past should not still be on my desk but should be safely filed away in some file cabinet, but they aren't. And the problem is not just keeping notes of interviews – the problem lies in the hundreds of slips of paper with telephone numbers and no name, or notes that today are completely illegible, or a notice about untreated wastewater flowing into Buffalo Creek in 1997, a bill from Smithsonian magazine telling me that my subscription is going to run out in 2001 if I don't put a check in the mail immediately, and the cord for a camera that was lost or stolen some time before the turn of the last century, but the cord looks so useful still in its plastic bag that it's hard to just throw it away.
What is amazing to me is not my lack of organization, but the fact that I fill up at least two trash cans every week and I can barely keep a path to my desk open.
I remember coming into this office for the first time. My brother Willy, the publisher of this newspaper and my boss, found this space that had not been used in years. He told me that this office would be like a homecoming for me but wouldn't tell me exactly where it was, and I had no idea what he was talking about. When we walked in the building I knew, because I had had an office on the third floor of this building from 1981 to 1986. I was, in theory, a freelance writer, but I believe I mostly read and slept in my office. Writing is tough with deadlines; without deadlines I find it nearly impossible, especially with a comfortable hammock in the office, which I had.
When I first saw the place I do remember thinking that the carpet would have to have it replaced, and 14 years later it actually doesn't look any worse than it did when we moved in. Scott asked if he could take a piece with him in case of nuclear attack. He is convinced that the carpet is indestructible and wrapping up in a piece would be the equivalent of going down in a 1950's era fallout shelter.
I believe when we moved in here, The Rhino Times had four employees: Willy, me, the Muse and one saleswoman. I actually don't remember exactly how many people we had working here, but do know that I had a Macintosh IIci, which had an 80-megabyte hard drive, and I couldn't imagine what I was going to do with all of that memory.
We started out with one room, and through the years have expanded into the other eight rooms on this floor, all the way back to the alley. Our next expansion, if we had stayed, was going to be to the basement, where we have been shoving stuff for years. For about five years we had parties once a year in the boardroom and the huge bank vault in our basement, then we stopped having Christmas parties down there and started filling the place up with old computers, old furniture, books, bikes – all the things people put in basements and garages.
About five years ago I bought a new desk for my office and it sat right outside the door for two years until I cleared enough space to move it into my office. Now it is so covered with paper that my officemates were startled to see the desk actually has a top. I am thankful that I didn't get the desk in my office sooner because it would just be worse.
However, as a new office resolution, I am pledging not to let myself get so far behind again. If it means I have to fill up four trash cans a week with paper, then I'll just have to do it.
A fellow who I worked with just when offices had started throwing away typewriters and using laser printers said he thought Weyerhaeuser had invented the laser printer because he used so much more paper than he did when letters and such had to be retyped. At least around here the idea of a paperless office is further from reality than it was when we moved into the office with one printer, instead of the four or five that we have now.
Well, that's all from the historic Southeastern Building.