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Joel Wass


Who knew a rat-infested, asbestos-filled office could mean so much to so many.

Last week, I e-mailed various Eyeopener alumni to inform them the paper was ditching its dungeon office–our home for 38 years–and moving into the Student Campus Centre at the end of the month.

I asked those interested in writing a brief reflection to send it to run in our upcoming paper. Considering the typical ineffectiveness of mass e-mailing, I figured I’d get four or five responses, tops. But lo and behold, almost every one of the so-called overworked “professionals” sent a response.

Thanks to their sudden sense of nostalgia, my one-week of reflections has turned into a two-week office homage. This week, we’re running reflections from Eye-alumni who have held various masthead–journalism jargon for staff–positions.

Our next issue will contain comments from former editors-in-chief. That’s right first-year students; I’m not the only sucker who’s taken this job.

Over four years I spent many hours, and many a night, at that dingy, hot, messy and arguably historic office. But there is one day in particular that stands out from all the rest. I had fallen asleep sometime in the early hours of a Tuesday morning on a ratty old couch. If I remember correctly, current Eyeopener editor-in-chief Joel Wass (editor’s note: It actually wasn’t me, but I’m sure the young man was handsome, nonetheless) had also camped out for the night and it was him who woke me up shortly before 9 a.m. He immediately went on to the internet and delivered the news that would radically change the world. A single commercial airplane had flown into the World Trade Centre in New York City. A few moments later, he refreshed his browser and reported back that a second plane had hit as well. Because there is no reception in the basement of Jorgenson Hall we were unable to watch the news on television, but we did listen to the live reports on the radio. Everyone stood around listening. Everyone was stunned. It took about half an hour for the shock to dissipate and for the crew of that year’s newspaper to spring into action.

Volunteers showed up with their cameras, eager students skipped their classes in true Eyeopener fashion, and we put together what I believe was a splendid package under the conditions. I had many memorable moments in my four years with the Eyeopener. Some were good, some not so good. But I will always remember Sept. 11, 2001 as one of the newspaper’s finest. – Allan Woods, National Post sports reporter

The Eyeopener introduced many of us to journalism, and its office gave us a sticky taste of the grit required to survive the profession. I’d wake up on those ancient couches and stagger down the hallway to the washroom to rinse the slime off my teeth and splash some water on my face, hoping the residue of trysts and street grime layered everywhere in the office would wash away. The sweaty smell of that basement never rinsed off entirely, and neither did the feeling that journalism involves a hellish effort and one hell of a good time. – Graeme Smith Globe and Mail reporter, Moscow bureau

Maybe–almost certainly–the walls of the new Eyeopener office will not be puke-bright yellow. Maybe–hell, it’s quite likely–the new office will not come equipped with eau de Salad King. Maybe–for the first week anyway–the new office will be rodent-free. But it won’t be the same, even when the mice, the stench of Thai food and the–God forbid–bright yellow walls make their return. If it ain’t in a basement–sweaty and stanky and hidden from the light of day–it ain’t The Eyeopener. But maybe that’s just me. – Jordan Heath-Rawlings, Toronto Star reporter

Like so many before me, The Eyeopener was a home away from home, a dingy, crappy home away from home, but a home away from home nonetheless. But hey, I grew up in Scarborough, so who knew? For the better part of two school years, second and third year, The Eyeopener was where I slept on Wednesday and Thursday nights and being adjacent to the Ryerson pub (once upon a time, circa 1976-79) might have been a factor in the sleepovers as well. My favourite Eyeopener office memory is probably the night myself, Gerry Nott, Bill Anderson, Ken Scott, Steve Mykolyn and Chris Vander Doelen, a little giddy from lack of sleep or maybe we were just drunk or whatever, found Kirk Makin’s black rubber boots (Wellingtons, I think they call them) from his days on the salmon boats in B.C., which were his prized possession, and we used a layout exacto knife to turn them into clogs. Now that was funny shit. Well, maybe you had to be there. Glad I was. Good luck in the new digs. – Bob McKenzie, TSN reporter & NHL analyst

If a list of the least consequential events in Canadian history is ever compiled–rest assured, it will be–the closing of the old eyeopener office will surely rank at the bottom. That said, few locations have enclosed so many episodes of joyful enterprise, political maneuvering, debaucherous misadventure, journalistic tomfoolery and deadly earnest truth-seeking. Our grotty, little shrine will remain truly sacred to the hundreds who sheltered in its embrace for three-year stints, desperately avoiding their program requirements.

To separate fact from fiction for future generations:

1) No annoying student council presidents are buried under the floorboards. In fact, they had to re-located to the bottom of Lake Devo after the mice complained of the bad smell.

2) Staffers who ran out of dope on production night did not troll the campus, offering to barter articles with ‘positive spin’ in return for hashish. What was the point, when you could simply scrape the walls of the photo bureau and get high on the shavings?

3) No one ever lost their virginity on a flea-infested, office couch. You’ve gotta have it to lose it, after all, and Eyeopener hiring criteria were always clear on this point. Farewell, then you moth-eaten, old den of inequity. – Kirk Makin, Globe and Mail crime reporter

There was no escaping the couches. They were unavoidable, like the musty smell they so graciously supplied to the entire Eyeopener office. The pastel sectionals had been there forever and were attached to stories of dry-humping predecessors and other nastiness. The big beige one just seemed to appear from the ether one day and the rumour was someone had picked it up from a curb-side garbage pile. They were disgusting, but frankly, so were we during the overnight shifts–all sweaty, farty and fatigued. Their appeal would inevitably increase as the hours crawled past and, like the office itself, the couches often felt like the safest, most comfortable places on campus. – Sean Fitz-Gerald, National Post sports reporter

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