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Call me, maybe? Just not for the next few days

In 2020, the year of phone calls, I’ve been on a lot. Around the middle of October, I couldn’t wait until a time when I wouldn’t need to pick them up anymore. Now, I find myself wishing I could answer just one more.

I was standing on a balcony in Huntington Beach, Calif., the hotel television announcing the CDC’s new declaration of a pandemic, my email lighting up with Duke cancellation announcements, when Matthew Griffin called me. This would be the first of many, many calls. 

The gist of this one was clear: “We’re still going to take over the next volume of The Chronicle,” he said. Or something like that. I’m a reporter, you can’t expect me to get accurate quotes (for legal reasons, that’s a joke). 

I, for one, hadn’t been too worried about the fate of The Chronicle upon learning that the rest of the semester was remote. Because really, what was the worst that could happen? How difficult could it be to run the paper while we were all apart?

Answer: difficult.

The subsequent series of phone calls with Matthew occurred over the next 10 months as I stayed home through the summer and fall semesters. Between the surplus of news, ongoing discussions of how to cover the unfolding events and maintenance of normal editing shifts, I called someone from The Chronicle most every day. 

These calls weren’t simple. 

I paced outside of the house a lot. Sometimes, with the cool breeze coming from the Strait of Juan de Fuca, I grabbed the blanket from my bed and walked outside, enjoying playing with Quinaldo the dog as I tried to put myself into the shoes of my peers, whose summers were all turning out vastly different from how they intended. 

The weather turned colder, my blanket was insufficient for the Western Washington winds, and although the location of the phone calls changed, the content didn’t. Now, I was trying to put myself into the shoes of the students on campus, those in Durham and those at home with time differences much more difficult to calculate than my simple negative three (my elementary math teacher should be proud of me, I’ve never gotten so quick at subtraction).

After 10 months of taking Chronicle news calls from my car, it was time to take them from a Duke dorm.

Coming back to the Flowers 301 office in January brought mixed feelings. Walking in for the first time, it felt at first as though nothing had changed. Then, looking around, the small things started to pop out. 

The quote wall was different. The pictures had been replaced. The vending machine was no longer stocked with the cheapest Coke on campus. The bottle of Raid had been substituted for one of hand sanitizer.

Something felt wrong returning to the place that I had frequented the previous year, that I had seen in the background of Zoom calls nearly every day, a stranger in a once-familiar land. 

The one thing that hadn’t changed was the people. Yes, there were new amazing Chronicle members, but also the same friends that I had so greatly missed. 

You see, I had realized over the summer that The Chronicle is my biggest social outlet (please don’t pass judgement on this). Just sitting in the office, being around the people here, is one of the best parts of my Duke experience.

As I try to reflect on the past year, I find that all the memories are still too fresh to be properly digested. All those phone calls blur together. However, some moments from the spring stick out:

One, laying out my first paper. It was the retrospective we published March 8, a year after students were told the University was shutting down, and I hoarded a giant stack of copies to send to everyone I love. Matthew and I were up until 3:43 a.m. deciding between a photo of the Chapel or one of the BC Plaza. I can attest to the time because I’m looking at it right now, where it is written on the door here in the office, immortalized with our signatures in Sharpie. I think we made the right decision. 

Two, just last week as we were preparing our last print edition of The Chronicle for our volume. I arrived past midnight, bringing canned peaches from Georgia. We celebrated with half a peach skewered on a plastic knife as we again scrawled our signatures across the office door to mark the occasion.

Three, right now as I write this, sitting in the office on V. 116’s last day. My first draft was being written in the early afternoon. It then got sidelined by a requisite Chapel photo, iced coffee, editing discussions, Il Forno pizza, more editing discussions and a ping pong back-and-forth (so far). It’s now rapidly approaching midnight, and I’m still trying to preserve this last day as the minutes slip away.

I’m in a messy office surrounded by friends and the soft clicking of computer keys from around the room. I only got one Chronicle call today, which was nice. Tomorrow, I’m going to the Gardens and turning off the ringer. Then, the day after that, I’m turning it back on to be ready for V. 117 to call whenever they need something. 

I find it fitting that, for my final byline as Managing Editor, I have entirely eschewed formal style and voice. I hope that my predecessor, Nathan, won’t condemn it. I also hope that my successor, Nadia, calls me whenever she needs, because my ringer will always be on (metaphorically, at least) for The Chronicle.

It has been an honor and a privilege to bring you news, tell your stories and learn more about the University that has brought us all together. Thank you all.

Maria Morrison is a Trinity junior. She would like to thank everyone who gave her a call over the past year, for their guidance and friendship. This extends to alumni Nathan and Bre, for their continued investment in The Chronicle and eternal support for its writers; to Jake and the V.115 uppermast for their guidance and support; and especially my fellow uppermast this year for making V.116 what it was. I love you all. 

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