Monday, May 23, 2011

11 Years, 5 months, One Dead Chair

It's a little odd sitting in an office that has been denuded of all my personal possessions as we wait for the witching hour -- 5:00 pm when the freight elevators are magically available for our "big" office move. I am sitting in a chair that tilts a little bit to the left.  It's old and worn and being left behind as we march down Manhattan to our new digs.  Hard to believe but we've been here 11 years and five months.  The chair has served me well.

I remember like it was yesterday our move into this office back in December 1999.  We were coming from a space we had outgrown on the upper East side of New York City.  That office -- unlike the office I am sitting in now -- had the advantage of being just across the street from Bloomingdale's and just above Gino's.  Gino's was a great NYC institution -- an all-cash Italian restaurant with grumpy Italian waiters from the old country.  It closed last year -- a victim of a landlord's desire to make more rent money.  I recently strolled by and a cupcake store was just opening.  If Gino's with its full menu and host of regulars couldn't make it -- how can a cupcake store make it?

At that time, what we were losing in location, we were gaining in technology.  We went from shared dial up lines to high speed Internet.  The phone system was upgraded and we got a build-out from the landlord here at the Empire State Building (ESB).  More importantly, we got a FREE pass to the top just because we were tenants on the 8th floor.  A pass that let you bump the line both going up and coming down.  On this last day of our tenancy, our building IDs would get us past the line but we'd only get a 50% discount and we would have to wait in the metal detector line.  What's the fun in that?

The IDs and the metal detectors are a post 9/11 phenomenon.  It felt particularly vulnerable being in the ESB with the new security procedures and the mark of being the tallest building standing in NYC upon us.  Weekly bomb scares didn't help much.  We would set meeting places only to move these further away after each such scare.

I remember the first day back -- the only doors open were the 5th avenue doors and the line snaked all the way around the corner -- on both sides of the building.  Tourists and tenants intermingled.  The building got better at moving people in and up over time and now they have quite a fancy little system going with visitor passes and guards at every door who say "Welcome to the Empire State Building."   I will miss them.  I will also miss Melania, the woman who cleans our offices.  It was sad saying good bye to her today -- she is thinking of retiring next year after 27 years on the ESB staff.  One thing I won't miss is the scrum of tour salespeople in brightly colored jackets selling bus tours and tours of the building.

The lines to the top have changed.  It used to be that the week between Xmas and New Years we could barely get through to our elevators as the line twisted and turned around both sides of the lobby.  Tourists would move aside with a glare -- only after we had assured them that we were just trying to get to our offices.  Every once in a while one or the other of us would pluck an unsuspecting family out of the line and whisk them to the top.  Free and fast.  Now, they've done some renovations and folks come in the front door and head right upstairs.  Same lines, different location.  Leaving us tenants to frolic in the wide hallways of the first floor of one of the grand old buildings in NYC.

The conference room has seen a lot of wedding and baby showers and a fair number of send-offs as folks went back to graduate school or off to pursue their dreams.  It also saw a memorable ruining of the beautiful wood table on the very first day we were in the office.  We had ordered a pizza lunch and placed the very hot boxes on the table where they promptly left very large white spots (heat on wood is not a good thing).  We've spent the last 11 1/2 years covering those spots up with place mats!  I won't miss that.

It is a little bittersweet to be moving after eleven and a half years in the same location but the vagaries of the New York real estate market mean that it makes more sense for us to do so.  We'll save on rent and end up with newer, more technologically advanced offices.  Much like 11 years ago when we first moved to the 8th floor of the ESB.  I have learned more than I ever wanted to know about commercial real estate in NYC, voice over Internet protocol, office furniture, and NYC construction.  I've also learned that an office, like a home, has things hidden away in nooks and crannies.  Things like typewriter ribbons for long-defunct equipment.

Merril just stopped by -- she, like me, moved into this office suite when it was all brand-spanking new with the latest technology.  It's sad she said and I agreed.

Having said that, I think we'll be happy in our new space with the lipstick red file cabinets and the views of the Brooklyn Bridge.  For lunch we'll have South Street Seaport and Battery Park is just a few short blocks away.  Best of all, we've found the Starbucks around the corner.  I know it will take a while for them to learn my name and my drink order.  But learn it they will,  And, at some point, our new digs will feel like we've always been there.

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