Yesterday, while heading into the shared basement to do laundry, I locked myself out of the condo. I realized my blunder the moment I committed it, and grimaced silently. Since Jared was already on his way home, I figured I’d make the most of the next forty minutes. I entered our (unlocked!) storage unit in the basement, sat down on a plastic bin, and rifled through various semi-unpacked boxes. I found something I had been looking for for months, read an article in an outdated music magazine, perused the transcript of my 1989 bladder surgery, and laughed at some remnants of a party game called “The Paper Game” that some friends and I used to play quite often.
Then I came upon a photocopy of a former employer’s newsletter, and now we must back up several years to provide some context.
When I was eighteen, I began working at my first (and second to last) office job in Boston. The company had been established in 1895 as a sort of drafting supply and blueprints outfit, and had changed with the times as those technologies became obsolete. By the time I got there in aught-one, there were departments for digital imaging, large format printing, construction supplies, and survey equipment. I started as the receptionist and after a while switched to the inside sales department. I mainly sold paper, thus ensuring that by the time the original The Office series came to DVD in the US, I fully empathized with its characters. The current president was the nostalgic type, and he had a large archive of materials from the company’s one-hundred-plus year history which he loved to share with us youngins. One such item was the company’s first newsletter from June 1941, which opened hilariously with:
“Have you a transit that needs repairing? Or a microscope that is out of kilter? Or any scientific instrument that needs repairs?” It also cotained some great retro ads for tracing papers, and less explicably, a small section called Just For a Laugh which featured the following joke:
Judge: Guilty or not guilty?
Sambo: Not guilty, suh.
Judge: Have you ever been in jail?
Sambo: No, yo’ honah, ah nevah stole nuthin’ befo’.
After this trip down Shameful Memory Lane, I started to desire some fresh air, so I went outside and around to the front porch and sat by my impenetrable front door. Our building contains four separate units that share a common porch, and over the next twenty minutes I encountered the residents of each unit. First, one of the girls from Unit #1 returned home after a dog walk. By way of small talk I explained my situation, and she offered me the keys to her home, stating that she and Unit #2 had the same keys and that it was therefore worth a shot. I tried her key, but it didn’t work. She went inside. A short time later, the girl from Unit #2 came out. She too offered me her key and then told me she was heading out, but that I should go inside and watch sports with her husband if I was bored. Soon thereafter, the girl from Unit #3 came outside, and together we theorized that if Units 1 and 2 shared keys, then 3 and 4 might share a set as well. She gave me her key and it worked, and I entered my home at last. Roughly three minutes later, Jared came home, and I regaled him with Jim Crow era relics and tales of our friendly neighbors.