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At the start of the week I made a resolution: I would get up every day, put on a shirt with a collar, choose a good tie, step into shined shoes, and go to the office.
Previously I went downtown once a week to walk around and take the civic temperature, look at the construction projects, document the empty core. But this week I decided I would go to my desk, and sit there, and work. So I did.
The tie probably looked absurd, like an affectation, a sign of a bygone era – what’s next, bud, a straw boater? But you stand up straighter when you wear a tie. You feel put together. And you’ve always the option of loosening it with an aggravated growl if things get bad. What do people who wear nothing but sweatshirts do to indicate that they’re serious and ragged and ready to cut through the nonsense and get that damned Peter Parker to get some pictures of that damned Spider-Man menace, already?
The Last-Man-on-Earth vibe is strong downtown . . .
. . . except for the workers in bright safety vests working on all the things that need fixing or building. There was fresh landscaping around the building across the street, waiting for someone to admire it. There were new signs in the skyway telling us to cough into our elbow crook, and stay home if sick – hey thanks, never heard any of that.
The first day back at my desk was strange. The fourth felt absolutely normal. Except that the office was completely empty.
Well, almost; there’s one other writer who decided to do go back, and a few others drift in. “There’s no one here!” growled our famously cantankerous sportswriter when I saw him last week. “It’s the safest place in town!”
But today I was all alone. The newsroom is a large place. It has many wings, several floors. The lights are on, the monitors are all running – people were supposed to leave their PCs on for remote access. All of the big news monitors and displays of web traffic and story-trending were dark; a monitor by the door played congrats to the people who had service anniversaries in March. The big board where the month’s feature stories are planned was likewise stuck on March. I felt, again, like Charlton Heston in post-plague Los Angeles, looking at a calendar from long ago.
Except Chuck didn’t have access to fresh pizza. I did. The pizza joint in the skyway was open. It never closed. On a normal day they had 25 huge pizzas in every possible combination ready for the lunch crowd – maybe ten pies today, but it was hot and fresh. I had lunch at my desk, using a knife and fork I’d brought from home. Man, it was delicious. Then I filed a column, thinking: if there wasn’t any newspaper – if there wasn’t anyone else – I would still do this, for a while. But then I’d stop.
Had a call with some new Ricochet advertisers. You’ll love them! I discussed the new products while wandering around the empty office, ending up in the big conference room where the top editors assemble the paper, sitting in the big chair at the end of the long table, feeling like the pirate in the Tom Hanks movie. I am the editor now.
While I was on the call I got a notification from my phone: my parking meter was about to expire. Another routine from the Before Times. I fired up the app and added some time. When I’d done that on Monday, it had felt like an echo of a previous life; now it was routine. Again.
Left the office at the usual time, and walked past the great globe in the lobby. It’s a relic from our old building, restored. It revolves at the same pace as the Earth itself. When the Wuhan Virus slammed down they turned it off, and it’s been stuck in the same damned place ever since.
It will be plugged in again, soon. And the globe will turn.Published in