The arrival of the Silver Line to Tysons Corner got me thinking about my own experience with the place.
My very first home after college in the ’80s was Falls Church, just down the road. I worked as a busboy at Clyde’s in Tysons to supplement my income as a fledgling journalist, and if truth be told, I did better in tips working nights than I ever did in those days pulling down a salary as a reporter.
One night while busing a table, one of the diners recognized me from an assignment and suggested I do a story on the “other” Tysons, a warren of government offices that existed in the basement of the shopping mall across the street. Sure enough, he directed me to a nondescript door where all sorts of plainclothes people came and went during the day.
It was rumored the FBI had an office there, along with an outpost of the sheriff’s office and perhaps some super-secret agency dealing with satellites. One evening after work, I coaxed a janitor to give me the nickel tour of the subterranean complex, and he took me to a corridor lined with a variety of unremarkable offices. All were locked, except one that appeared to be recently abandoned.
I never got to the bottom of who actually occupied those offices; the janitor professed not to know. But he did sell me a couple plastic folding chairs he said someone had left behind. They cost me $5, and became the basis of my first dining room.
Somehow that experience helped me see Tysons not as some sterile shopping destination but as a real place. Over the years, I wound up doing many stories as the district evolved. I spent a week with bricklayers on scaffolding high above the Capital Beltway as they built the “handle” of the famous shopping bag building next to the mall. I returned to report on the opening of the Tower Club, marking one of Fairfax’s first real business clubs. There was the saga of a shopping mall Santa and new retail “firsts” to chronicle, the arrival of an Apple store or one catering to American Girls.
That was the era of the Tysons we know now, one of the first big “edge” cities to coalesce in the automobile-dependent suburbs. No longer on the edge of anything, I suspect the arrival of Metro will transform the place again, in ways many of us old timers can hardly perceive.