I was driving downhill, westbound with the Bay before me, when I heard about it. Well, not about it as much as the other thing. He’d just been in a ride-sharing vehicle. Someone had gotten out nearby and said something about hearing that people died.
Naturally, he thought of me and texted to ask if I’d gotten to write about it. I hadn’t, but a co-worker had. I told him I’d listened to it the night before as it happened, bits of fact strobing in and out of view through static and signals from other incidents, followed by a tweet not seen in real-time but shared by a different co-worker.
Coming back, I saw there would be just enough time for me to go and see for myself before a newsroom training session on listening to and searching through services that offer archived dispatcher logs. So I went there, parked my car and got out and saw it. I took pictures. Then I left.
A year later, dozens of people are gone. They should still be in the building, arguing about stories and photos, and grumpily wondering where the time to cover meetings and budgets will come from, but they’re not.
The unexpected wonder on the anniversary of this newspaper winning that thing a year ago is having more clarity about why all those people are gone, and seeing what good that clarity does for others in the same situation dozens and hundreds and thousands of miles away.
I wish I could say things were looking up because of this, but all I see are wood beams, metal pipes and the sheet metal that workers have been installing in a far corner of the newsroom to try to slow down a chilly draft that’s been giving us the shivers and creeps for months now.
Nothing about these little ticks of time, these pockets of space, should surprise me. I don’t feel surprised in the moment, only after when I look back and behind me. There is just enough time before my shift, so I call ahead and make an order for pick-up. The person who takes it recognizes me, and I recognize her.
I drive over and find a parking place, get out of my car and walk in, mouth the words to the same early-1980s hit song I remember enjoying years ago and screwing up so badly at karaoke last month. I pay for my order, pick it up and head back out where people with the ability to drink a pint glass of cold beer outside in the early spring midday sunshine do just that.
No matter how busy your day is, you’re probably better off moving, eating or reminding yourself of your humanity. On a day off, you can probably fit in at least one of those activities. If you’re lucky like me, you can hit all three. Today, that also meant getting to huff and puff up and down one of the steeper neighborhood hills, watching the adaptive photochromic material in my glasses do their thing if I caught my reflection in an unbroken window of a parked car, en route to the Grand Lake theater for a matinee of “The Shape Of Water.” Guillermo del Toro occasionally makes great movies but, thirteen Oscar nominations aside, not this time. I’m still thinking hard about just why. Is it better than a classic monster movie with dashes of “Amelie,” “The Artist” and “Hairspray”? Yes, but, argh.
It was one of those days where the branches look particularly bare and the sidewalks seem especially wet, but the rain doesn’t clean the air and the chill just sort of hangs there and taunts you underneath your collar and down your socks, a day for closed conference-room doors and poker-faced concentration while listening to distant decisions heading toward the newsrooms where reporters and photographers and editors work.
It was, as it turned out, also a day for another company’s announcement about a new tool, beta-testing right now in a popular Mid-South city and much, much closer by as soon as next week, after more than a year in development.