Monday, November 13, 2023

Some Offices Are Built To Be Playgrounds


When I was stationed in Wiesbaden, I worked at the American Arms Office Towers (AAOT). The building was dual use with one side having offices and the other side a military hotel. When I first arrived, I stayed in the hotel with two of my sons and walked to work, which was convenient. Originally, the entire thing had been a hotel, so most of the offices had their own shower and bathroom. Except for the offices being small, they were among the best I had in my entire career.

The building was six stories tall and in the shape of a hub and spoke, with a large circular center on each side that was open from the ground floor to the roof. Ringing the center rotunda was a walkway that looked down over the center. As a result, if you were on the sixth floor you could glance over the railing and see all the way to the bottom. At the bottom was a circular desk where security guards sat monitoring cameras and the entrances and exits. Overall, and aesthetically pleasing layout. 

Then came the day I was at the store and saw some of those little plastic parachute guys I had when I was a kid. If you are not familiar with them, they consist of a plastic soldier attached to a plastic parachute with strings.  You would fold with parachute up and then throw it into the air (some came with a slingshot to facilitate this).  If you got it up high enough, the chute would unfold and open and the solder would float gently to the ground.

As I picked one up, pondering getting one for my son, I had an idea. I could drop the parachute guy from the top of the rotunda at the AAOT and it would float all the way to the ground floor, as long as it didn't veer off course. Just that germ of a thought convinced me to pick up a couple of these toys and bring them home. 

One evening, after work, I put the parachute guys my pocket and headed back to the AAOT with my son. We strolled in, took the elevator to the sixth floor, and I handed him one the parachute guys and told him to throw it over the ledge. He did and we leaned over the rail and watched as it floated down six floors. I took the elevator back to the ground floor, retrieved the toy and put it on the elevator for the ride up. When it got there and the doors opened, my son retrieved the parachute guy and threw him over the ledge again. We did this numerous times that evening.

Before we left Wiesbaden, we would play like this from time to time. Sometimes if I had to run back to the building to check on something or retrieve a hot message, I would take my son along and we’d play the parachute game.

When my tour was finished, and as I was preparing to leave. I picked up a couple of dozen of these parachute guys and at my departure lunch I gave all of my staff one with an explanation of what I had been doing after hours. I can just imagine if all of them went up to the sixth floor at one time and through all of the parachute guys over the edge. It probably looked like a plastic army guy invasion.


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