Cheers

When things are at their worst, one of the best answers is going to a familiar place. A place you know. A place where everybody knows you.

For me, that meant going back to work. I’ve been greeted by so many people in the newsroom the past two days, I could barely keep up. Many of these people I see every day but, caught up in the hectic happenings at a newspaper, I’d never said a word to them. Some work in departments with which I’d had no interaction. I wasn’t sure that many of these people knew I existed. And now they are taking the extra step of saying how good it is to see me back in the newsroom.

They ask how I’m doing and how my recovery is going. It’s usually just small conversation, but it means everything to know that they care and stand behind me.

As I was driving to work yesterday (March 11), I naturally wondered how I’d feel when I walked into the Sun building. To me, it wasn’t a question of whether things had changed, but how much. Eight weeks had seemed like a very long time.

But as I strode past the photo department and down the steps, I started to feel that electricity that only a newsroom can inspire. If anything had changed, I couldn’t tell. I felt like I’d been there the previous day. When I got to my desk, all the back issues of the Sun, books, a creased Orioles ticket stub from last season and other accoutrements were in the same place, just as I’d left them, preserved like the items in a time capsule. The dictionary was still open to the same spot — “fitted/flack” and “flack/flame stitch.” I scanned the pages in vain  to see whether I could remember the word I was looking up the last time I had flipped through.

This is a very chaotic time for me, the most chaotic of my life. I’ve been confronted with changes in seemingly all aspects of my life and I desperately want consistency. That’s what I found yesterday and today at the Sun. The sense of camaraderie here, of family, is still as strong as ever. These are people who stick with you through everything no matter what.

This has been a humbling experience in many ways, and that’s a big one. I was never one of those people who’d sit down at the desk and ask everyone around me how his or her weekend was. Editing jobs don’t leave time for it, and that kind of personality is hard to find in journalism anyway. Stay in the business long enough and the dry humor and sardonic wit that permeate newsrooms will coat you.

Dig below that layer and you will find another thing to be true about journalists: They genuinely care about people, and they deeply care about the people who sit beside them.

When I was in graduate school at the University of Maryland, a couple of my professors, Steve Crane and Adrianne Flynn, used “chrs” or “cheers” as the salutation in their emails. I’m sure they still do. I had never seen anyone use that term that before (or since), and I didn’t really understand it at the time. What did “cheers” have to do with journalism?

But now it has meaning to me, though probably unintended. Sometimes you wanna go where everybody knows your name. And for me, that’s the Baltimore Sun newsroom.

Chrs.

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