I don’t know how often any of you, as readers of The Hood River News, stop by the office to conduct business, but I can tell you this: The feel of the building is much different today than it was when I first started here eight years ago.

Mostly because it’s emptier.

Earlier this month, the Komori was packed up and shipped to Eagle Web Press in Salem — a smaller press that handles jobs like posters and magazines. As already reported, the main printing press was closed in November, with printing operations also moving to Salem. No presses equal no one to operate them. We’ve gone from a staff of around 30 to about 11, and some of those positions are shared with The Dalles Chronicle.

The building is quieter without the presses, folders, insert stuffers and constant paper shipments coming in on semi-trucks, as well. It’s easier to write now, without all the commotion, but you’d be surprised how you can get used to cranking out text regardless of what’s banging around in the next room. Sometimes I miss it.

Slowly, pieces of the warehouse are being dismantled. The other day, Rick and Jose took down one wall of shelving. I imagine that the rest will soon follow suit.

It’s slightly hilarious, having a cavernous warehouse to the back of our rather tight-fitting quarters up front. The editorial staff shares what used to be our conference room, and ad staff space is the old publisher’s office. I suppose it’s a good thing we all get along.

But walking to the staff room or bathrooms, housed in the very back of our space, I can hear the click of my heels echoing on the concrete. Although upside: It’s a rare occurrence when I have to wait for the microwave these days.

The News did just hire two new employees of sorts: Carlos and Frederick, our “slow down kids.”

They’re signs, in case that didn’t translate, brought to you by the Hood River News Safety Committee.

The hope is that these two freestanding “kids” remind everyone driving through the parking lot to use caution. This is especially important considering we share building space with A Kidz Dental Zone, and children can frequently be spotted running to and from vehicles. Some of these are rather small children who can be hard to spot, not to mention rather fearless when it comes to popping suddenly out from behind a car. (And yes, that can happen even with adult supervision. Kids, you know. They don’t have fully formed brains.)

We are also housed across the street from the Hood River Library, and there lies the additional issues of kids crossing the street or being briefly in the street before parents and guardians can usher them safely to the sidewalk. And as I’ve already complained about (frequently), just because you’re in a crosswalk doesn’t mean people are going to stop.

We think Carlos and Frederick will serve as a good reminder for everyone to watch out and take care. It’s not like you can miss their neon yellow glow, let alone their bright orange flags or jaunty red hats.

(Okay, fine, the hats aren’t particularly jaunty, but this is my column and I can use whatever words I want. Um, if Chelsea and Kirby let me.)

Carlos and Frederick were a pain to put together, incidentally — not that I can tell you that from experience, as I was conveniently “working” when Kirby and Caleb began assembly. But I do know it took a couple of days before they made their debut in our parking lot: Frederick is down below, by the building, while Carlos is above, by El Cuate.

Ricardo and Lola Lopez, owners and operators of El Cuate (best tacos in Oregon! In our parking lot!) have adopted Carlos and have taken over the responsibility of setting him out each day and putting him away each night. Frederick is mostly chaperoned by Kelly, front office, and Kirby, editor.

One more note on our parking lot: We know that it’s large and that it’s convenient, and that it looks like a free lot suitable for public use.

It’s not.

Our parking lot is for those who are visiting either the News, A Kidz, AmeriTitle or El Cuate and, when you finish your business, you are asked to park elsewhere if you have other stops on your list. The problem we are running into is that people abuse the parking lot, as in, they park here whether they’re doing business or not — sometimes for hours on end.

This is an issue because, as businesses, we need space for our customers and employees to park. When, as an employee, you can’t find a spot in your own business parking lot, that’s a problem. I don’t mind parking at the top and walking down to leave the closer spaces for those who are visiting — we all do that as a service to our customers. But having to circle the lot in hopes that someone, somewhere, is leaving is a bit of a drag.

If you’re visiting the library, or the county offices, or just shopping downtown, then you need to park on the street and, yes, feed the meters.

(P.S. Businesses do not receive any of the money taken in by parking meters; it goes to the city. We hear a lot about people boycotting downtown businesses because of parking … but the meters are not something they control. Also, it’s a dollar for an hour downtown, a bargain when you consider how much you pay to park in Portland.)

If we catch you parking in our lot and walking away, chances are we will ask you to move your vehicle. It’s nothing personal. We know you’re “going to be parked for just a short time,” you’re “second generation” and you “do business here sometimes.”

You still need to park elsewhere.

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