You hear a lot of complaints from our employees about our ancient, energy-inefficient Free Press building on Second Street.
In the summer, one section of the newsroom is so warm despite air conditioning that two fans are going nonstop. If you walk to the other end of the newsroom, the copy editors are wearing bulky grandma sweaters and fingerless wool gloves so they can type. The furnace repair guy has been here often enough that I’m tempted to invite him over for my family Thanksgiving meal.
The windows in my second-story office leak so badly that I’m lucky lots of spare copies of newspapers are available to cram into the gaps to “weatherize” them in preparation for when winter winds whistle through and the vertical blinds wave in the indoor breeze.
As a result, I’ve moved my computer as far away from the windows as possible and have a view of the changing seasons as they affect the Cherry Street hill. In the last several weeks I’ve seen fall sneak into town, every day intensifying like someone was turning the “contrast” knob on an old color TV. During the past few days, the knob has been turned back and the colors have muted.
My window on the world downtown has given me a unique view over the years. When cars regularly collided at the intersection ad Second and Cherry streets because Cherry was a one-way that attracted confused out-of-town drivers, I could just crane my neck enough to see how bad the crash was and yell at John Cross to snap a photo if need be.
And for a few years every afternoon I would watch for the smoker in the upstairs office across the street. She would open up the window and lean out to exhale the smoke and flick ashes from her presumably non-smoking office.
Also, like clockwork, at about 4 p.m. daily, the swearing guy would curse a blue streak at a volume loud enough to disrupt indoor conversation as he walked down Second Street.
The addition of a park next to our building brought in new scenery for awhile before the city intervened. Guys, many of them with dogs, started hanging out all day, some of them imbibing. One day as I biked back from lunch to the side door of our building, I surprised a man relieving himself against a tree. “Really?” I said. “Oh, sorry,” he replied.
Overall, though, I like our downtown rat trap of a building. (OK, I know we occasionally have had homeless people and bats in the basement, but I don’t actually know and don’t want to know if rats have been sighted.) Being in the heart of downtown is an important location for a newspaper. Who’d want to be in some fancy industrial park in a new building that has efficient heating, cooling, plumbing and windows that actually close in the winter?
On my way into work on my bike one Saturday morning, I was surprised to see all the people downtown. They were driving, biking, walking, eating bagels on a patio, and strolling from sculpture to sculpture. And then I ran over a splash of vomit and remembered that a busy Friday night at the bars had preceded that Saturday morning.
Ah, to work in the glory and grit of a vibrant city.
Kathy Vos is daytime news editor. Call her at 344-6357 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.