From the Archives

by Adam Reger

I love looking at old stuff; in particular, paging through old magazines and poking around in boxes and folders with printed materials from another time.

As they say, the past is a different country. They do things differently there. The fashion is weird, everyone is skinnier, and they smoke in restaurants.

A recent find that delighted me:

This pamphlet was in some materials at the Heinz History Center’s archives, in its collection for Falk Lab School, where I work as communications coordinator. I was in heaven sifting through old letters and photographs, finding mimeographed newsletters and faded yearbooks.

The only thing was, it was hard to concentrate. I was there this past Wednesday, when some piece of human garbage was busy calling in hoax “swatting” calls to a bunch of schools across Pennsylvania. One of them was Central Catholic High School in Oakland, close enough to the University of Pittsburgh and to Falk that I started getting text messages about it: emergeny notifications from Falk, then from Pitt’s emergency network, then from my wife. Falk went into a modified lockdown, then Pitt did as well.

My daughter attends Falk and it was unsettling, to say the least, to be at the History Center, three or four miles away, and to not know anything about what was going on, much less to be able to do anything about it. I’d picked that day to go because I was getting kicked out of my office for a couple hours to accommodate some Middle School students taking tests, but it felt like I’d been asleep on the job.

I’m struggling to find a way to button this all up.

The present intrudes upon the past.

Try as we might, we cannot escape the present by digging through the dusty archives of a bygone past.

I’m half-joking with these fusty takes, but maybe there’s something there, something about how it’s a fiction to see some compressed, simple reality in the past, as if people in those times didn’t have troubles. Their collars were wider and they didn’t curse as much or as casually we do, but just look at that pamphlet. People dropping out of high school and straight-up turning into ghosts! I’d call that a real problem.