A Nostalgic Trip to the Manchester Building, Calgary, with its Hallway, through which I had Walked on Nov. 27, 1980, for the first time as an Employee of Imperial Oil Research, where I worked till August 1989, before moving to Houston on an intra-company assignment with Exxon Production Research Company, where I worked for 3.5 years, before returning to Imperial Oil, Calgary, but in a new location and a new building, inaugurated by Brian Mulroney, a former Prime Minister of Canada, and which building won the Building of the Year Award in Canada, and from where I retired in 2016 after 36 years of continuous employment with Imperial and ExxonMobil, surviving so many rounds of lay-offs and associated mess and stress. It was the stress which drove me to run marathons.
On Jan. 06, 2020, I was in the neighbourhood for a doctor's appointment at 68th Avenue, followed by a planned visit to the Fitness Depot on 58th Ave. to pick up some fitness resistance loops and check out a treadmill with a decline feature for downhill marathon training. The research building was on 50th Ave., 25 km away from home. And out of the way.
The Lexus Hybrid, with the entered address of the Fitness Depot in the GPS and going east on 58th Ave., could not resist the nostalgic pull of the two-story red-brick building of its owner's (moi) once place of employment, during which he used to drive its relatives: then a new orange Toyota Tercel and a new silver Toyota Corolla, both of which he sold before moving to Houston, to a colleague, originally from Iran and who paid for both cars by cash from under his bedroom mattress. To the owner's utter surprise, who preferred cash from banks or a cheque!
The Hybrid turned left on 3rd street, allowing the owner to be at the building to attend to his nostalgic needs, including visiting the lot, where its relatives used to be parked for free, and where each year Calgary Stampede Breakfast used to be held, attended by well-behaved children in strollers and holding helium-inflated balloons, and wives of employees, all attired for the occasion.
In a lab inside which Manchester Building, the employee from Matlab, Bangladesh, made his first patented invention, and had done research that led to receiving his first most significant innovation award from the employer. Those memories and others, some fond, a few unfond, crossed the owner's mind, as he walked through the memory lane in the once-frequented hallowed hallway.
Once with 100% occupancy and owned by the owner's company, the building, sold in 1989, needed occupants in 2020 for its own existence. A "For Lease" sign was on display on the front glass door, sadly signalling the severity of its existential threat to a potential building developer. On display on the door in white was also 339 - 50th Ave SE, the address of the once-proud and -productive Manchester Research Building of Imperial Oil. The way it was in the eighties.
Outside on 50th Ave., the Hybrid was waiting patiently for another chore --- the planned trip to the Fitness Depot on 700 - 58 Ave. SE. Also perhaps wondering about the whereabouts of its two elderly relatives: the Tercel and the Corolla. "Are they still in service?
Or in a resting place for of-no-use-anymore cars, making rooms for the new in the streets?" It could also be thinking of what to become of it one day, when its use ceases to exist. Cars and humans and research buildings, among others, both have one common threat, the Hybrid philosophized. That of existence!
At home, its owner's wife was wondering and waiting for hearing the sound of "safe return" in that of the garage door sliding up and folding in to a horizontal position inside. It was past his lunch time. And the Hybrid's nap time. In the fleeting earthly existence of both: one a man and the other a car, each with its own real or artificial brain, each with its own beginning and end.
The writer is a freelance contributor
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