Sally Ellenberg blinked as the elevator doors opened and the eerie quiet of the city roomgreeted her. It could have been a bank, with its coordinated colors and bright lights, its rowsof computers purring as regiments of green letters marched across the screens. There weretimes when she half expected to see it the way it used to be, years ago. In fact, she had beenthinking on the way up of one summer night she had come to the
office withher father. She had visited many times as a child, so why was she thinking of that particularnight? Maybe it was the sudden spurt of warm weather, unusual for spring in Boston, andthe traffic jam she had just plowed through in Kenmore Square. There had been a traffic jamon that night many years ago too—the Sox were in town.As a child she had always loved riding up in the creaky old elevator—long sincereplaced—holding her father’s hand and inhaling his familiar aroma, equal parts cigarettesmoke, aftershave and sweat, the latter a musky, comforting smell. She would wait,expectantly, for the doors to open. The scene awaiting her was as magical to a child’s eye asif it had been filled with elves and trolls and dragons from her storybooks. Mere dragons, intruth, would be hard-pressed to compete with the gritty energy of the world she was about toenter.When the doors creaked open, the sounds and sights of the room would flood in: thestaccato dance of the huge black wire machines, the cries of “Copy!” that would send youngmen scurrying and, near her father’s desk, the police radio that chattered like an angrysquirrel. Men, and an occasional woman, pounded at typewriters and now and then cursed,adding to the symphony of noise. The whole room, the little girl imagined, was a giantsquid, its tentacles stretched across the planet. Information was sucked like plankton into itsinsatiable maw: fires, anniversaries, wars, ball games, bank robberies, the crowning of queens, and the death of presidents. Nothing could escape it. By age ten, Sally knew by heartthe number of bells that rang on the black wire machines and the magnitude of the eventsthey announced. She also knew it would not be possible for her to spend her life anyplaceelse.She stepped out of the elevator. It was all different now. The royal blue carpetingswallowed the sound of footsteps, and the high old ceiling that had seemed so far away wascovered by vanilla white ceiling tiles, lowered on a grid a respectable distance abovepeople’s heads. The computers hummed discreetly and nobody shrieked “Copy!” anymore.Reporters held their I phones to their ears and blogged about their stories, often not leavingtheir desks all day. Sometimes, she wished the elevator doors would open and the presentwould simply vanish, and there would be the room she remembered: noisy, profane, acrid,stuffy—magical.She walked across the room toward the city desk and saw Kevin Murphy wavingfrantically at her. Kevin was always in a sweat for early copy, to get as many words aspossible onto omnivorous website. Today, he seemed especially agitated.“Ellenberg, where the hell have you been? WEEI is saying that there was a goddamn riotat Boston University!”“Not a riot. A few busted heads, six arrests. They even dragged a few kids out of MarshChapel. Like the good old days.”“Why didn’t you call in? I’ve been shitting bricks, sitting here listening to EEI.”“I did call. I talked to Neil an hour ago. I told him I was coming back to write.”“Where the hell is Neil? I haven’t seen him for forty minutes.”“I saw him going out for dinner. I’ve got plenty of time, Kevin. It’s only five.”“Where the hell’s my Valium,” Kevin said, rummaging around in his desk drawer. “Iswear, this goddamn place is going to give me a heart attack. I’m type A, you know that!Did Samanski get any good stuff”?