Who will I debate with now?

Ashley Babbitt

The summer before I went off to college in Buffalo I worked with Headwaters Youth Conservation Corps. I learned how to cut wood with a saw, use a hammer, build foot-bridges, maintain trails … a bunch of stuff. It was pretty cool. I met some interesting folks, and my best friend also was on board the team with me. Basically we got to spend all summer out in the woods. I can’t complain about that. Anyway, one of the aforementioned interesting individuals was the recently departed staff writer for The Evening Sun, Kevin Doonan.

It was June of 2006. I remember Kevin started later than the rest of us. He graduated from Sherburne. I want to say I learned his first day that he played soccer, but maybe I made that up. He could carry heavier things than I could. Quick with come-backs and had a laugh you could hear from the other side of Rogers Conservation Center. His plans were to go to school in Potsdam, which he did.

The following summer, between freshman and sophomore year of college, we all returned for a summer of working in the woods, Kevin included. It was sometime during that stint with Headwaters that I had a run-in with poison ivy (or oak, or sumac … poison something). It wasn’t fun. Regardless, I think it’s safe today all of us in the group learned a lot and grew as people.

From 2007 to 2013 Kevin and I crossed paths once, at The Blarney Stone Pub in Norwich. Just a quick, “Hey, how are ya?” and swapped a couple memories from Headwaters. We both attended Binghamton University, but we didn’t cross paths once. I commuted.

Then, I got a job as a staff writer for The Evening Sun. Lo and behold, Kevin Doonan was also employed by Snyder Communications. Starting a new job can be nerve-wrecking, but it was neat to know that I wasn’t going to be solely working with strangers – even though I would have no problem with that.

Senior reporter Shawn Magrath, Kevin Doonan, and little “cub reporter” me, rounded out the reporter staff for Chenango County’s Monday-Friday publication – aside from Sports Editor Pat Newell, who attends games and handles all of the local sports action solo.

I sometimes see on social media sites people complaining about how they can’t stand their job, or the people they work with. These folks can’t wait for Friday to roll around because they’re unhappy with how they’re spending their days. This isn’t the case with me.

The dynamic of the office was terrific. Kevin’s laughter was infectious – albeit loud, and Shawn is always spot-on with one-liners when they’re least expected. Kevin would walk in with a bang and Shawn’s swagger when entering the building was often undetectable, though I’ve since caught on.

Shawn keeps the plants thoroughly watered (even the one in the kitchen), and I’m always aware of when he is about to make a phone call … he is sure to clear his throat every single time.

Kevin would have a bagel in the morning – half of which he usually ate on his 25 mile commute each morning. Then he’d eat a yogurt at some point. …It’s just funny the things you pick up when spending a good chunk of the day with the same folks.

Prior to deadline is quiet time. I have to admit, we weren’t always silent. Some mornings we were reminded by The Evening Sun’s Managing Editor Brian Golden we had time to converse after 10 a.m.

We had many “firsts” as a team of reporters. The first time we all stood up from our desks in sync. The first time we were all in the office kitchen at the same time. The first time we left at the same time. …Fun things.

We’ve taken photos of “copious amounts” of marijuana, followed fires, documented recoveries of bodies, attended arraignments of alleged murderers.

Shawn – a stranger to me in the beginning – is quick-witted and has terrific math skills. If you’re wondering how old someone is if they were born in December of 1927, and need the answer quickly, ask Shawn. He’s also great at keeping track of the milk in the fridge and – of course – writing. It seems he is lucky, too. Just about every morning he catches the green light at the intersection we both have to go through to get to the office. I sit there at the red light, waiting to go straight, and he takes his right, cruising right on by and beating me to work. I point at him every time this happens. He never sees me, but strangers do, and I get weird looks.

Kevin and I hardly ever see eye-to-eye, on about any issue you could think of. Well, I guess there were a couple where our opinions were maybe-sort-of-semi-similar, but for the most part, no way. We could spend hours debating about gun rights, transparency of government, police accountability, economics, crimes that are malum prohibitum, if cats are better than dogs, and which types of coconut water are tastier than others. Literally, so much fun.

Shawn interjects here and there, but for the most part his opinion on the above matters remain somewhat of a mystery to me, and I enjoy that. Although I know he prefers dogs.

We all got our work done, but still had time to enjoy the fun in it. After all, what’s a job if it only feels like a job? I have said this before, but I’m in this to live for living. I can’t let my occupation define me as a person, it’s not how I roll. Waking up every day and being excited about what’s going to ensue … that’s awesome.

That being said, Kevin has opted to pack up camp and head to Baltimore. I’m happy for my friend and former co-worker. I’m absolutely sure he will have a terrific time. And if the wind is right, we’ll all still be able to hear him laugh from six hours away.

The only thing that stays the same is change. While the dynamics of the office without Kevin’s presence will certainly be altered, it should be fun and exciting nonetheless. The entirety of The Evening Sun’s staff will certainly be a little busier now, but it’s nothing we can’t handle. We’re pretty hardcore. Especially Shawn (you should see him as he departs the office to go to a meeting … talk about pumped up).

Alright, this has been long enough. Good luck, Kevin. Thanks for giving me all the junk you had on your desk you didn’t want.

I shall now be cliché and quote Bob Dylan … “The times they are a’changin’.”