What could have been one of life’s most emotionally trying events turned out — for me, at least — to be nothing more than a brief look in the rear-view mirror.
It was the ritualistic selling of the family home by the aging parents, the dissolution of the home in which five kids came of age, then one by one flew the coop, returning only for the occasional Christmas holiday or major birthday party. The Reins’ house was at 3104 King Street in Endwell, New York, the phone was 607-748-0168, and on some autumn day in the early 1980s, the parents set sail for a permanent new home in Mesa, Arizona.
The house had been sold, the furniture loaded into a large U-Haul truck, and my parents, aided by one of my uncles, were ready to drive west. The five kids all returned from far-flung corners of the United States to bear witness to the momentous occasion. As the truck began to pull away, we five kids took our place in the front yard, beginning the obligatory waves that our parents had offered in years past, as kids and grandkids had departed from family gatherings.
But there were no return waves from the U-Haul, no longing glances in the rear-view mirror. I had the perfect angle to look into that rear-view mirror and see the three of them obviously engaged in animated conversation, laughing like scoundrels who had just gotten out of Dodge, or at least retirees heading out for western skies.
I feel a little bit like that as I close the doors on 22 years at 12 Roszel Road, Suite C-205.
Like a lot of things in life, moving into 12 Roszel had been done out of pure necessity — needing more space. It was a new location that seemed totally foreign to U.S. 1’s not-so-corporate lifestyle, and we all dreaded the change. But, also like a lot of things in life, the destination turned out to be better than we had ever envisioned, in several unexpected ways.
To get to 12 Roszel Road, we moved out of a two-story wood frame farmhouse at the corner of Route 1 and Mapleton Road. We saw that as an ironic commentary on the unique position we thought we occupied in the Route 1 corridor: In the thick of the corporate setting but not beholden to the corporate style. The old farmhouse, we thought, was a testament to that slightly counter-cultural voice we were trying to affect.
It might have been all that, but it was also a testament to the difficulty of heating an old wood frame structure in the dead of winter, to the amazingly strong and prolonged stench of a dead mouse somewhere in a wall cavity of that structure, and to the organizational challenges posed by a office working on three different levels — the first floor, the second, and then another one slightly in between.
When we moved over to the brick and glass uniformity of 12 Roszel Road, we suddenly discovered the joys of single floor efficiency. The office might have been more “corporate” but the paper remained as quirky as ever.
There were more surprises. The office at Mapleton Road and Route 1 had that bucolic farmhouse look as you passed it at 60 miles an hour on Route 1. But from the inside looking out, it had the feel of being in an urban center. The building shook when trucks ground to a halt at what was then a lighted intersection with Plainsboro Road. The trees planted alongside the stone wall between the house and the highway died a little more every year. A picnic table outside the place sat unused even on the best summer days.
Over at 12 Roszel, in the heart of the corporate corridor, we suddenly rediscovered nature. From the inside looking out, the new office had the feel of being in a nature preserve. A tiny stream and buffer of trees separated us from the New Jersey Hospital Association next door. Look carefully and you could see our resident herd of deer moving back and forth across the landscape. Late one winter night I left the office by the unlighted side door and stepped from the bright light of the office into the pitch black of night. Before my eyesight adjusted I heard the sound of heavy breathing. And then a rush of air as creatures bolted within inches of me. I had walked right into the middle of our deer, munching on the bushes lining our building.
In the heart of the corporate corridor, we suddenly discovered walking. Back at bucolic, semi-rural Mapleton Road, there was not a sidewalk in sight. With my bum knee I would have died trying to cross Route 1 in the precious seconds when the light was in my favor.
At 12 Roszel we discovered that you could easily walk from our office, cross the street to 13 Roszel Road, and then on a little-known path that would take you into the 100 series of Carnegie Center offices and to the Hyatt Regency Princeton.
In 2002, after I was given a stent to open up a 90 percent blocked artery, a walking program seemed in order. From our office at 12 Roszel Road, I motored down to the Carnegie Center, past the pond behind Carnegie 210, through the softball fields, and then to the clocktower at 504 Carnegie Center, and back. It was close to a 2.5-mile stroll and almost all of it was on pedestrian paths, with only two road crossings.
Of course the heart and soul of our little office at 12 Roszel were the people who shared the space with me. I won’t mention a single name, because if I mention anyone there will be someone else equally deserving of a thank you. So thank you all.
My personal office at 12 Roszel was the corner spot, with a commanding view of the front lawn and that deer path next door. But as time went by I spent more time in the production room, where I imagined a smart and no-nonsense reader on the other side of the desk, looking at each story I edited with varying degrees of skepticism, approval, boredom, or elation.
My imaginary reader was hard to please, but on some occasions I may have succeeded a little with the real ones. Last week’s column on the move received some encouraging reaction.
“Enjoyed your recent column,” wrote Jerry Lenaz, the professional planner who also once had an office at 12 Roszel Road. “It reminded me that progress and change affords a time of reflection. That reflection is precious and no matter where you may physically relocate the past will forever be a prelude to a new beginning. Good luck in your new home. Keep up the wonderful scope and informative, thought provoking articles that define U.S. 1.”
“Your publication has served this community above and beyond any other publications printed locally. It keeps us all connected. The formula works, for all of us. A change of venue can be healthy. I hope the new environment provides inspiration,” wrote Rick Burke, a real estate broker.
Faith Bahadurian, the food writer, posted this thought: “The community thanks you for those 22 years (and the ones before). It may be the end of one era, but I’m confident it’ll be the start of a good new one for U.S. 1.”
Here at Princess Road I have a new window on the world. It’s at the back of our ground floor space, looking out at the dumpsters that serve our office, a large storage container that will house our delivery supplies, and some loading docks and more dumpsters for the tenants on the other side of the parking lot. When we complete the fitout of our newly expanded space, I am scheduled to move into a new office in the front, with a window facing the front — another parking lot.
I am not complaining. In fact, I am looking forward to making the move, wherever it takes me. One thing’s for sure: I will not be looking into the rear-view mirror.