Besides grading at-home puzzles, I updated the database in Westchester on Tuesday. The main purpose of this trip was to pick up return envelopes (ran out, and Will doesn't come to the city every week anymore) and answer sheets (soon to run out, though I can always xerox more) for the at-homes. And as long as I was there, stamps. It only took a few hours to enter the info requests, by-mail and online registrations, and other updates that had come in since I was last there in mid-April, so I also opened and sorted NYT mail. Geez, there are a lot of submissions, and most will never see print.
I had 8 minutes until a return train, but we still stopped at the P.O. across from the station. The new postage is $1.14 and there was only time to buy $1 stamps (they claimed they didn't have enough .14s). I made the 4:43 and stopped at the Grand Central P.O. for the rest. It's been completely remodeled since I used to go there every week to pick up P.O. box mail for a self-help group in the '80s. I just needed stamps, so stood on line at the Postal Store. They said .14 and .07 cent stamps didn't exist (so much for P-ville not having enough), and suggested .10s and .04s. So now I have enough postage for 100 envelopes. I think I have more than 100 puzzles to grade, so I'll probably do this again soon.
Leaving the P.O., I saw a branch of my bank across the street and decided to deposit the checks I'd been carrying around with a deposit slip dated 6/8. The first line of the preprinted slip says "Cash" and I forgot to cross it out as usual, and the teller made me add that check to the one on the next line and initial it. Whatever. They were locking the doors to close when I left at 6.
I had a heavy bag of envelopes and answers, and it was rush hour. My choices were shuttle or Flushing across and then uptown on the West Side, or uptown East and crosstown bus. For some reason, I thought the all-subway choice would involve more carrying or be more crowded, so I opted to go East.
BAD idea. Trudging up the steps at 96th and Lex, I saw a large group of people waiting for the bus. And large raindrops were beginning to fall. I considered heading back to the subway and going downtown and then across and up to stay dry, but waited it out. I took the plastic bag from my "American Cannibal" water bottle and lay it over the top of the envelopes. When a bus finally came, it was a regular one, not one of those long double-sizes, and was packed. I held back for the next bus, following right behind. Walking to the back, the farmost corner seat I like was empty, but the person in the last side seat let me sit down. Chivalry is not dead.
I didn't realize I'd be spending quite so much time with these people. As the bus filled, the rain started pouring down in earnest. I wondered if the trip would take long enough to beat out the rain and keep my envelopes dry. Be careful what you wish for! The bus inched along r..e..a..l..l..y s..l..o..w..l..y. This is some rush hour! When it finally turned up Madison there were police barricades on 97th. Transom flooded! The driver announced he'd go across on 110th and then back down CPW. This was actually better for me, as I could get off closer to home, but it took a really really long time as all the crosstown traffic was doing the same thing. It was a bit too dark to read, so I listened to a girl complain on her cell ("I've been on the f*ing bus like SIX HOURS!") and then order sushi, as the resident Philosopher (since Qaqaq wasn't there) reasoned at least we were seated, dry, and had homes. Yes, definitely better than standing, wet, and homeless.
CPW was the first street free of traffic, and I almost didn't recognize my stop coming from the north. I disembarked with relief into no more rain and it was still daylight. Stopping at the store for diet blondies and rice cakes, I finally arrived home - at 8 p.m. I was very glad to be dry and in my home. And the envelopes never got wet.
After all that excitement, I had to go to the Times the next day. The puzzles were ready in late afternoon, and I arrived to see people packing and Will's stuff gone, as well as the computer guy's down the hall. The phone didn't work either. I was directed to the still-connected phone of an NPL member's brother (but couldn't figure out it was set to headset) and told Will he'd been moved to the new building. He reached the computer guy, who said he'd meet me at the elevator of the new place.
The new building was filled with movers. I didn't have an updated pass and waited at the guard desk while the guard talked on the phone, but finally gave up and just walked in among the movers. Keith met me at the elevator and walked me to Will's new desk. His stuff had been moved but not all unpacked, but it was set up enough for me to work, including finding a printer. I asked a passing woman for directions to the ladies' room, and en route saw some famous names on the cubicles (we're with the Culture reporters - I'm not sure if his former neighbors from Style and Tech are nearby).
Bathroom problems seem to be following me from the other office. While there was enough toilet paper, it was really thin. I always use 2-ply, and this seemed like extra-thin 1-ply. Maybe it's environmentally better (or just cheaper), but blecch. I might have to bring my own again. The faucets were the kind you had to wave your hands under, and kept turning off when you were still soapy (and the shiny metal sink will be hard to keep clean). At least they had real paper towels instead of those hot-air machines.
Despite my kvetching, the new building is spectacular. The desk is near a wall of windows (in most of Will's many locations in the old building, the outside world was not visible), and there are balconies and atria looking down into the other floors. Really stunning. Not exactly a private work environment for many, but exactly how you'd imagine a modern newsroom. A worker on a ladder wiring the ceiling recognized me from "Wordplay."
On the way out, I asked the guard how I could get a new pass, and he directed me to the front desk at the old building. Over there, the guy said I'd have to come between 10-11 a.m., so I'll have to do that soon; puzzles are never ready that early so it will require a special trip.