When I got to work this morning, I had the unique experience of receiving an email that I had sent (unknowingly to myself) almost twenty years earlier.
In the late summer of 1994, I was working as an intern for a local newspaper, writing record reviews and slice of life features, when the office I was in collapsed due to lapses in building codes and specifications.
Because I was an intern and occupied the lower-most office of the building’s sub-floor structure, I was left out of the initial count of the office’s occupants. I guess my parents just assumed I had run away or something. They have no valid explanation for why they didn’t file a missing persons report, let alone rush to the scene of the collapsed ruin of steel and brick that had formerly been the office building that their son had been interning at for six months.
Anyway, I was actually somewhat lucky to be trapped where I was because my “office” was in reality, nothing more than a converted bathroom. It was also where they stored the snacks and the sodas. So I had food, running water and a toilet. That, plus the fact that I still had power, meant that I could ride things out for a while, if need be.
I expected that I would be rescued in a timely fashion, because I had no idea of the carnage above me. After a few days though, I began to imagine being trapped down there forever and I started to ration my snack packs of Doritos and Cheetos and limit myself to one Mt. Dew per day.
My only companion was my Compaq Presario 4250 running Windows 3.0. I played a lot of Mine Sweeper and drew tons of crudely proportioned naked ladies on MS Paint. But most of all I listened to music on it because the CD Maxi Single of the Spin Doctors’ “Jimmy Olsen’s Blues” was stuck in the cd tray on repeat and the only way I could get it to stop was to turn off the whole thing.
Being that I was a journalist of sorts and the show must go on, I decided the best way to make the most of my time in isolation would be to write a review of this stupid song. I could no longer hide from it, not even in sleep, because now I was hearing it in my dreams.
The article itself was unremarkable and wordy. I will summarize it by saying that my point of view was that the song was extremely sexist, with Lois Lane being a mere object for these two men to fight over.
When it was done, I emailed it my editor at the paper over my 300 baud dialup modem. You have to remember, this was back in the early days of email. It took a long time to send even simple text pieces and just forget about sending anything like a picture!
Unbeknownst to me, the damage to the foundation was so extensive that the office was deemed a lost cause and because everybody (who mattered, I guess) was accounted for, it was a complete teardown. In its place was built a brand new, shiny glass and steel monstrosity some 15 floors high.
Fortunately for me, all those people needed a place to park and so when they were expanding the garage, they stumbled upon my little cubby and gazed at me in wonder that somebody could have survived 16 months in such a confined space.
After a few weeks in the hospital to recuperate and get me back over the hundred pound mark, I set about on a whirlwind publicity tour. Everybody couldn’t get enough of the “guy trapped in the bathroom” as someone had taken to naming me. Until, of course, everybody got sick of me and the party was over.
I returned to my simple. quiet life, eventually working my way up to editor in chief at the the same paper I had interned for all those years ago.
And that’s where I left off. I sent an email to my editor and now I am the editor. It only took 20 years for the internet to deliver the damn thing.
Sure, if I had the chance to tell my 20 years future self something about what was on my mind, living my life right now, I hope it would be more profound than a scathing rant against a one-hit wonder, but it is what it is. I try to just be thankful I got out of there without having to dip into the Sour Cream & Onion Lays.