Coming Home

I visited an old friend the other day.  I hadn’t planned to.  In fact, I had several other things I was supposed to be doing, but….it just happened.  She’s looking good, much better than when I last saw her.  She’s had a lot of professional help with her rehabilitation.  It won’t be long till she will be fit to be seen by the public.  I’m talking about the building where I worked for almost 20 years.

I dropped the wife off at the cancer clinic at the hospital for blood-work assessment.  Coming from a family rife with various types of cancer, she has been on a yearly testing schedule for bone cancer.  The steadily reducing warning counts of the past five years are now well back within normal range, and only need a family physician to monitor a yearly blood test.

While she was at the cancer clinic, for an unpredictable amount of time, I was supposed to drop off a package at our massage therapist/ osteopath, do a drop-off/pickup at the daughter’s, and stop at the optometrist and have a nose pad installed on my glasses.  I made the massage therapy delivery, and headed for the daughters place.  About halfway between the two, not too far off what laughably passes for a straight line in this city, was my old plant.

It’s been bought by a company in Toronto and is undergoing what’s known as *urban densification*.  Just outside the actual downtown area, on the main street, it sits across the road from new School of Optometry and School of Pharmacy buildings of the community college.  It’s being cleaned and subdivided to provide office space.  Already, a large engineering firm has committed to a big chunk.  Google had leased space in a reconditioned tannery building two blocks away, but after only a year, finds it needs more room, and is ready to move in as soon as reconstruction is complete.

I thought, I’d like to drive past and just have a look at the front, to see what changes had been wrought.  Well, if I’m this close, I’ll pull through the parking lot across the street for a better view….if I’m in the lot, I might as well park the car and get out for a better look….if I’m out of the car, I might as well walk across the street and see if I can step inside.  If I’m inside, I might as well get arrested for trespass.

It’s amazing how alike, and yet how completely different the old girl looks.  I speak of *a plant*, but it is actually a coalescence of thirteen brick buildings, the newest with concrete floor heights that don’t match all the wooden floors of the others.  We used to have to go down one elevator, across the loading dock, and back up a different elevator, to get loads from one sector to another.  The oldest building has a 1906 cornerstone, while the newest(?), is dated 1956.

The section which used to supply 35,000 volts of electrical power is not needed, and has been torn out and replaced with a garden and fountain area, in front of a new, recessed, glassed-in entrance.  I walked up and tried the door.  It was unlocked.  I walked in and began orienting myself.  The old shipping elevator has been removed, and the shaft is an open-core stairway.  Two new hydraulic passenger elevators have been installed back near the new doors.

A workman wandered near, but I’m not worried about workmen.  They’re not paid to make executive decisions if I look like I know what I’m doing.  “Can I help you?”  Oh damn.  It turns out to be the job foreman.  I admit I’m just looking around because I worked here for 20 years.  It turns out I’m not the only one.  He’s had five or six guys here already.  I expected to get kicked out, but this guy is so proud of what he’s done, he gave me a mini-tour.

The black paint has been scraped off the ceilings.  Pipes have been scoured and repainted.  The inside brick has been sandblasted.  The dust and cobwebs of a hundred years have been cleaned away.  Cracked support beams have been replaced by solid new, B.C. Douglas fir.  Decrepit wooden floors have been overlaid with thin Styrofoam, and then a thin coat of self-leveling concrete poured on top.  On the third floor, where we had large plywood plugs in holes in the wall for machine insertion, is now floor-to-ceiling glass-wall for an office-worker view of downtown.

The single largest item of rehab was the windows.  498 rotten, dried-out wooden frames with broken or cracked glass, some repaired with opaque, colored Plexiglas, have been torn out.  They have all been replaced with aluminum-framed, state-of-the-art, argon-filled, double thermo-pane assemblies.  The only reason we didn’t freeze on frigid winter days, was the fact that we worked with hot vinyl parts.  In the mill-room where it was compounded, the thermometer read 90 F….in February.

I very much appreciated this man taking the time to let me revisit an old friend, and I thanked him profusely.  It’s still a bit of a heartbreaker to lose a job and get kicked out of a long-term workplace, but it’s nice to know that the old girl is getting a much-needed facelift, and will survive to provide a whole new generation with a place to accomplish productive deeds.


W.T.F. Inc.

BrainRants has written about some of “those people” who don’t even have to go out of their way to piss the rest of us off, in an office environment.  Some of these asshats are inspired naturals, who keep the pot of pass-me-another-ammo-clip, filled to the brim.  Since he, and others, have covered the irksome, I felt I might expound about the odd but entertaining.  Anyone who has ever worked in an office will recognise some of these people.

When I was much younger, I worked at a metal fabrication plant.  What with sales orders, purchase orders, drawings, specs, billings, and general correspondence, there was enough work for a full-time file clerk.  The old gal who was there when I started had been with them since the days of quill and vellum.  She hadn’t turned 65, but her husband had, and he wanted to retire to Florida, or Buttfuckistan, so she gave two weeks notice that she was quitting.

I just lost the young crowd again.  Nowadays, there is no “notice”!  Especially with computers, it is so easy for a dissatisfied employee to seriously screw an employer.  If I were quitting, I’d order a lifetime supply of Mongolian porn and arrange for 87 loads of manure to be dumped in the parking lot.  As soon as you indicate that you’re quitting, an armed guard escorts you out of the building, while a couple of your “friends” ransack your desk, keep all the good stuff, and bring you the pitiful balance in a cardboard box.

The office manager interviewed a number of possible replacements, and settled on one in particular.  It’s hard to judge someone from four desks away, but she seemed like a nice person.  She started the next Monday to get a week’s training, and then Betty Rubble disappeared. just had a post about the name of the song we all sing when we do our ABCs.  It’s Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.  In the discussion thread, I was interested to note a significant number of people who admitted that they had to sing the song, aloud or in their minds, to know that D went before E, or S before T.

It was painful to see the new clerk perched on a wheeled stool, in front of the filing cabinets all day, her lips moving as if in prayer.  She had a desk, but never got back to it except to pick up another pile of paper.  The old clerk had made it look easy.  Of course, when she started, there were only 15 letters in the alphabet.  She had time for three unauthorized smoke breaks a day, as well as finishing 15/30 minutes early, to gossip with the receptionist.  At the end of the first week, the new gal was behind by a pile of files almost as tall as she was.

At the beginning of the second week, the office manager took her desk calendar and wrote the alphabet in black marker, across the top.  It always sat on top of the cabinets as she worked.  That, and some assistance from a couple of the other clerks, and by the end of the second week, she was caught up and managed to stay that way.  I know jobs can be hard to find but, maybe that job was one she shouldn’t have applied for.

The company president travelled on business, and needed the paid travel invoices for tax purposes.  His secretary came out one day to look for one for a trip booked through Clare Miller Travel Agency.  The two of them searched and searched.  No file for Miller and nothing in M misc.  No file for Clare, and nothing in C misc.  No file for Agency, and nothing in A misc.  No file for Travel, they even looked for Ticket, nothing in T misc.  Finally, the irked secretary demanded, “If you had an invoice for Clare Miller Travel Agency, where would you file it?”  The response came back, “What color would it be?”  What side of your desk do you put your coffee on?  What difference does it make?  “Well,” she said, When I can’t find where things go, I look for other invoices the same color, and file it with them.”  Two weeks later we had a new, literate, file clerk.

This office was the first one I worked in that was air-conditioned, a pleasant perk on hot summer days.  It had been installed after the building itself was built, so some of the windows still opened.  Winters were when the problem surfaced.  There were two women in the office who were constantly fighting about the temperature.  This was also the first place where I saw one of those lockable Plexiglas covers installed over the thermostat.  I have carried a work knife since I was twelve.  Cheeky Monkey!  I knew how to use the blade to change the setting.  I never did it, and I never told either of the hens that I knew how.  What made it ironically amusing was that, the one with the short-sleeved blouse, at the desk beside the panoply of windows at the front (one of which she insisted on keeping cracked open), was the one who was too hot.  The one with the desk in the back corner, bundled up in two sweaters, beside the steam radiator, was the one who was always too cold.  A nice, constant 72 F, winter and summer.  Not having been issued ovaries, I never understood.

I see a few of you nodding your heads.  You’ve worked with some of these WTFs in your time too.  Perhaps we’ll wander down Nostalgia Lane and visit a couple more another day.