Speaking of workspaces . . .
I opened my e-mail this morning to find a photograph (seen below) from my pal Marron, with whom I shared an office in my first years on Capitol Hill in the early 1990s. She and I (and usually two, sometimes three, others) worked in this office in the U.S. Senate Dirksen Building — a building that had all the charm of a 1960s-era high school — from 1990 until about 1995. It was here that we first learned that airplanes were on their way to the Middle East for the opening volleys of first Iraq war, where she and I answered phones over Columbus Day weekend during the infamous Clarence Thomas hearings, and where we generally worked long into the night when the Senate was in session. Marron and I could also get into quite a bit of trouble together; we took great delight in pranking our fellow staffers, and each other. (Marron once crashed our office phone system by forwarding every phone in the office to my direct line.)
Anyway, if you think from watching television or movies that the life of a Hill staffer is glamorous, and that we all work at enormous oak desks in offices lined with gigantic bookshelves crammed with leather-bound books and framed prints of the Founding Fathers on the wall, well . . . not so much. Here’s me in my workspace in 1991 or so, as photographed by Marron from her desk across from me (you can see her own inbox in the foreground):
(Click on it if you want to embiggen it and enjoy me in all my twentysomething glory.)
Yeah, that’s me with a head full of hair. Shut up. Given the way I’m dressed, the Senate was likely in an extended recess, when we didn’t have to wear our usual suits and could come in a bit more casually dressed.
Sitting on the desk in front of me is one of those gigantic old IBM desktop computers. Back in the early 1990s, the only people in our office who had desktops were the low folks on the totem pole — and that’s because we were using them to draft responses to constituent mail, which we could then save onto an inner-office network, where anyone with a desktop could pull them up. And let me tell you, we worked those things hard, responding to about 10,000 pieces of mail each month. (And as Marron reminded me in her e-mail accompanying this photo, it wasn’t too long after this picture was taken that my computer monitor actually caught fire.)
All other office business — including a rudimentary e-mail system — was carried out on computers we called The DeeGees — old green-screened Data General computers, hooked into a central system that made it possible to share files and send messages. Mine was on the desk’s return, just behind the clunky IBM. (If you think your computer currently takes up too much space on your desk, try having two.)
The bookshelf to the left in the photo was my filing system — and you can see that, even then, I was still a black binder kinda guy. There was an old dot-matrix printer in the space just behind the bookshelf, where our assistant press secretary would print out wire stories once each day, making a loud zzzt zzzt zzt! for about 30 minutes.
The television you see — which we used to monitor the Senate floor — wasn’t mine or Marron’s; it belonged to another staffer we all called Joe T, who had one of the two desks next to the window. And on the wall? Not Founding Fathers, but Georgia O’Keeffe prints (the one behind my desk was a painting of the Taos Pueblo) and framed photos of New Mexico scenery. And it looks like I also had a small promo poster for Alan Moore’s V for Vendetta taped to the wall just above my DeeGee.
Finally, it appears there’s a pile of papers on the desk in front of me. Some things never change. Apart from the hair, of course.