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.

 

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