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Editor's Page: Out of Office
Packing up my longtime desk brought back plenty of memories.
Daniel Cook
Publish Date: March 9, 2021   |  Tags:   Editors Page

I'm hopelessly nostalgic. The familiar past has always provided me with more comfort than the uncertain future. I feel more wistful than sad when it's time to move on, but big changes always make me look back to what was instead of ahead to what will be.

This month marks a year since the start of the pandemic. When infection rates began to soar last March, our editorial team hastily transitioned to home workspaces where we planned to stay until the coronavirus was contained. We haven't seen each other in person since.

We're currently looking for a new office, one that's more aligned with a hybrid work model, so last month I drove the familiar commute for the final time to clean out the desk I'd sat behind for 16 years.

It felt strange to see my office frozen in time after being away for so long. The March 2020 sheet still showed on the desk calendar. The business card of someone I had interviewed a year ago sat next to my phone. My bobbleheads were covered in a fine layer of dust.

I sat down in my chair and thought back to the years spent in that spot sweating deadlines and wondering if we'd get issues to the printer on time. We always did, somehow, some way. The streak continues today, but it was nearly over before it began. A mix-up when we first moved into the then-brand-new office forced us to produce an entire issue without internet access. I'm still not sure how we did it.

The office sits near a rock quarry, where semi-regular blasts would rattle the building. I'd hardly notice the brief swayings, but one afternoon the swaying didn't stop for several minutes when a 5.9 earthquake shook the east coast.

I once drove to the office on a Saturday morning to grab some work that had to get done over the weekend. After turning on my computer, I ran back outside to grab a flash drive from my car.

Click.

The door to the common entrance had swung shut and locked automatically, separating me from my keys and cellphone. I stood, empty-handed in the deserted office park, legitimately wondering how I'd get out of the predicament. Panic set in until a woman from one of the building's other tenants miraculously arrived and let me back in.

I've triggered the alarm system several times over the years after hitting a wrong number on the keypad or completely blanking on the code under pressure. I once showed the responding police officer an article I'd bylined to prove I worked there. He looked at the magazine, up at me and back down to his notepad without saying a word. Clearly he wasn't a fan of practical, tip-based writing.

It's in my office where I received a call from my pregnant wife, telling me to come home quickly because my daughter was on the way. It's where my toddler son sat quietly beside me, drawing the pictures that hung on my corkboard until I unpinned them last month.

It's where I cried quietly the day my dog died.

It's where my childhood alarm clock radio, positioned just-so by the window to improve reception, let me check in on afternoon Phillies games during their run to the 2008 World Series title.

It's where emotions ran high with jobs well done and mistakes gone bad, forming bonds over the years with coworkers who became friends and began to feel like family.

If you stay long enough, an office evolves from brick and mortar workspace to home away from home. Before leaving mine for the last time, I took a look back and then turned to face whatever comes next. OSM

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