The AT&T Discovery District, as seen from Akard and Main

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A Few Thoughts About Returning to Work in a Downtown Dallas Office

Today was a pretty good little day.

In early March of 2020, most everyone from D Magazine went running for their lives. We left the office for the great Work From Home Experiment. Today was my first day back. Oh, I’d stepped foot in the office (to steal a computer monitor, to grab some books), but today was the first time in more than a year that I returned to work. If you’re inclined, here is what I observed:

I forgot where to drive downtown on my way in. No, I didn’t get lost. But I took a turn that made no sense and had to double back. For someone who has worked downtown for well over a decade, that’s kind of like forgetting your child’s first name.

There is plenty of space in the office fridge.

Every physical space is a time machine with its own temporal calibration. My house, for example, goes in fast forward. I can’t explain it. But when I work in my home office (aka the guest bedroom), I’ll find myself looking up at the clock and going, “It’s 1:30?! What the hell just happened?” Time moves very quickly, which is to say, I feel like I’m not getting as much done as I need to. The office, on the other hand, appears to be a time machine that goes in slow motion. At 1:30 today, I went, “It’s not 4 o’clock?!” I don’t mean that to sound negative. Not at all. Rather, I got so much accomplished by 1:30 that I was surprised the day wasn’t already done, despite how many conversations I’d had with co-workers.

People in the office like to talk to you. I work with people I like. It’s fun to talk to people.

The coffee in the office is not as good as the coffee at my house. I can deal with that. The coffee at my house is expensive; in the office, it’s free!

So is toilet paper.

One day this week, I am going to need to spend an entire morning cleaning my desk and workspace. When we bolted at the start of the pandemic, we left this place like the old farmhouse in Interstellar that became a museum. Every book and prison letter and stack of papers in its historically accurate pre-pandemic state. In other words, a total mess. I’m going to put all my crap on Zac’s desk.

Speaking of Zac, he delivered a 13,000-word manuscript that needed attention. So I took a walk for a late lunch and a long read. City Tavern is gone, I discovered, replaced by a joint called Ye Old Scarlet Pumpernickel Tavern. [Note: Please see the correction about City Tavern in the comments below.] I’m not sure how I feel about that. I can’t share any more with you at this point, because YOSPT doesn’t open till 4, which seems dumb.

Frankie’s is still there. Thank God. I sat at the bar and ate a buffalo chicken wrap and drank a beer and listened to a guy next to me, new to town from Minneapolis, make two friends who bought him a shot of whiskey. That made me happy. So did Zac’s story. You’ll get to read it in the June issue (albeit a shorter version).

On the walk back to work, I noticed a new vantage point provided by the huge video screen at the AT&T Discovery District (pictured above). I noticed that all the street work on Ervay has finished. I noticed how much dogshit is on downtown’s sidewalks and that the traffic still seems about 60 percent of what it was when we split. A new building was finished while we were gone. Another is going up next door. Stuff is happening out there.

It’s good to be vaccinated and back at work — at the office. Today felt almost miraculously normal.

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