“The top floors are offices but the first two floors are just stores. Just office after office because there’s a lot of space. And some floors you go to and it’s just construction, like empty,” he said.
We’re walking down a hall. I’m 10 paces ahead. He’s telling his friend about a building he knows nothing about.
The 12th floor of the historic Merchandise Mart, a 1930 warehouse and showplace for Marshall Field’s, is today filled with tech startups. They glomp around a “digital startup incubator” called 1871. That’s a place that offers promising apps and websites all the workspace, wifi and coffee they need to get their projects off the ground.
The last time I went to 1871, I counted eight Razor scooters the startup technorati were using to get around the gamely clad office space.
The hallway down to 1871 is a split of time. The left wall is a graffiti-influenced schizoid mural of colors and semi-Euclidian geometry. The right wall is mid-century office building, down to the taupe paint and intermittent mail chutes decorated with 1960s postal service mascot Mr. ZIP.
And the two aspiring technocrats were behind me, an educated Lennie and George of the digital space, one lecturing the other on the building they walked through.
“It’s a historic building.”
“Why’s it so historic?”
“Because it’s been here so long!”
As a person who has the ability to say “I don’t know,” I always find people with this dedication to bullshit cute. It’s usually a guy, although this particular combination of arrogance and insecurity knows no gender.
It’s a type of person who would rather spin together nonsense histories than say “Hm. I’ll look that up.” It’s a type of person who thinks he’ll lose the esteem of his peers if he doesn’t happen to know anything at hand, whether it’s politics, music, sports or the construction history of a riverfront building that work happened to bring him to.
“I think it was made for the merchants at a time when goods came in by boat.”
That, by the way, is false.
I sped ahead of the voice spinning tales down the hallway, walked to 1871 for the meet-and-greet of tour guides there to hear a pitch from a new booking software app.
There, at last, I was among people who know what they’re talking about.