Thursday, September 6, 2007

Be careful what you wish for...

Ever since Grub Street moved into our office in 2005, six windows on the east wall have been bricked over, ostensibly to save us from any construction site mishaps as Emerson built the behemoth dorm next door (sadly, this is not a joking matter: there WAS an accident, which sent a crane falling 8 stories and killed three people: a bystander and two construction workers. We were at work when it happened, and I'm sure none of us will ever forget the terrible accident scene).

Construction was completed last summer, in time for fall 2006 classes, but the bricks stayed up. Over last year, our feisty 84-year-old landlord would periodically appear on our floor, shouting to us from the hallway that the construction workers told her it would be next week, three weeks, mid-March, July, or some other date that the bricks would be removed. At first, we believed her (and them). Mid-March, we thought. Perfect! Just in time for our spring classes. But alas, the months dragged on and soon we forgot that those big black squares were windows at all. We got used to the interrogation-room quality of our small classroom, where the mixture of sunny yellow paint and lack of natural light made everyone appear a little jaundiced, as if after a long sea voyage. We went to IKEA and bought more floor lamps, decided that mood lighting was something that Grub Street could be known for.

Rumors abounded. The building that had been torn down to make way for dorm space had been a mafia building. Bodies were buried in the walls, and that's why they had to brick over our windows--as they tore into the structure, they didn't want us to see the ancient skulls and phalanges flying through the air. They had promised to leave eight feet of space between our building and theirs, so that light would still get to our floor, but we were convinced they hadn't: take down the bricks, and all we'd see was the concrete slab of Emerson, pressed as tight against 160 Boylston as a lover.

Finally, our building manager told us they were really coming to tear things down. We got ready, shuttling printers and papers to the hallway and generally reducing our office to even more of a mess than ever. And only one year and 2 weeks late, the construction workers really did arrive. Their method, which we have now been assessing for a full week, is for one man to chip at a brick with a pick and hammer while another man watches. When the brick is removed, it's dropped four stories down to a courtyard below, where another man is waiting to catch it. Luckily, a second man also stands below, watching the man waiting to catch the brick. As you might imagine, this is not a fast process. By the end of day one (which was supposed to be the only day), they had finished one window in the back room.

But o, what a difference it made! Even just that one window sends a flood of new light across the space, and the room appears to be twice as big as it used to be. Sonya and I kept walking back there, just to see it. We were ecstatic. Our space, which we have always loved, was about to become a million times better. Buh-bye, IKEA lamps, I thought happily.

Last night, they finished the yellow classroom, and like the back room, the difference is unbelievable. It's suddenly a place you want to hang out in, so hang out we did, standing next to our brand new view and occasionally poking our head outside to stare at the 8-foot-wide courtyard far below. As day turned into night, though, and the lights came on in the Emerson dorm rooms, we realized one thing that we hadn't really considered until then. 8 feet is not very much space, and those Emerson students are very, very close to us. As we looked out the window, we realized we were surrounded by activity. Personal, intimate activity, taking place in personal, intimate spaces. One woman had many bottles of Clorox wipes and a full-size plush statue of E.T. Another window revealed two girls in low-cut tops, ostensibly getting ready to go clubbing. A third had posters of beer girls and huge printouts taped to the glass that spell "508" (his room number?) When two shirtless boys stared back at us, and then one of them made some kind of lewd gesture, laughing, we went back to our desks, in our office where the bricks have yet to be removed.

And it was then that the other downside became clear: bricks are terrific sound insulators. Typing away at our keyboards, we heard noises unlike anything we've heard before. Whooping, cawing, that strange ululation people sometimes make in step aerobics classes, and this all at 5:30pm! We can only imagine what we'll hear when the parties begin.

All in all, natural light is worth any amount of leering shirtless boys and whooping underage drinkers. Our space is back to what it's supposed to look like, and we couldn't be happier. We think. We'll keep you posted.

In dread,
Whitney Scharer

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Oh, the in-class exercises... heh heh heh.