Somewhere in Portland, there’s a very old building, and that very old building has a very, very old basement. An incredible basement, a video-game-level basement, a set-decorator’s dream basement.
And when you walk past the janitors office, with the wonderfully decked halls…
And tromp down a sunken hallway…
You find a old room. Mostly empty, dusty, and dead quiet.
And then you start to look closer at the walls.
And you start to see things.
(You see that Brown didn’t often pay his dime for coffee.)
(You see that a lot of calculation was done right on the wall.)
(You see that World War I was front and center on everyone’s mind.)
(You wonder what was being tallied, and if it was better to win or lose.)
(And you learn the tongue-in-check “rules” of the room.)
And eventually, you crawl behind a corner, and discover a bundle of conduit.
Conduit for every major internet carrier you’ve ever heard of.
Oh, right. You had almost forgotten.
This building, this basement, is the major internet hub for the entire region.
And a wall, where all this data enters the basement just as you did, you see them.
Somehow, still surrounding these cutting-edge, fiber-optic links that burst through the wall, they’re frozen in time, looking at you.
How are they still there? My god, 2012. Could they even imagine?
On the way out, you chat up a worker in the building.
And his story clicks it all into place.
Turns out, he claims, “they used to print The Oregonian down here, way back.”
The pressmen, one imagines, worked day and night down here, working the lumbering machines, spitting out another edition of the day’s business.
And when something caught their eye? Out came the scissors and the paste.
It’s almost too perfect.
The roar of the presses that ruled these rooms has been replaced, just as we all suspected, with the calculated silence of the conduit that carries our data. This data, in fact. These very photos.
100 years from now, when another one of you goes spelunking around this basement, that data, those bits, today’s moments, will likely be long, long gone.
But the women on the wall might still be waiting.