Waiting Room

The narrow waiting room contains 30 chairs upholstered in navy fabric with a disturbing sheen. The color scheme of the place is predominately beige and royal blue. One wall contains a Lucite rack of outdated magazines. Further down is a generic “Keurig” type coffee maker, and I’m pleased to see that there are six varieties of coffee. Half a dozen men, all clad in flannel, wait to see the workmen’s compensation doctor. Injuries aside, they’re a pretty happy looking lot—they’re not at work after all. Those callused hands are taking a rest, wrapped around a cup of premium joe or tapping fingers idly on the armrest.

The television is the focal point. There is a program featuring the “21 Sexiest Beach Bars.” They are counting down, traveling around the world, spending a few minutes at each idyllic locale. The formula is the same at each: treacly sweet, but potent cocktails and beautiful bodies. The eyes of my fellow proles gleam rapaciously. The camera keeps tracking retreating female backsides while the voiceover touts the specific features of each destination. The workers look longingly at those tan buttocks and follow each subtle movement as those round brown orbs move independently … you can see their eyes track back and forth spasmodically, desperate not to miss any fleshy detail. And then the drinks. Mouths water over big fruity cocktails and schooners of ice-cold beer.

Ah, to be lounging on a beach, taking it all in, cold drink in convalescing hand. A well-deserved rest it would be. The camera continues its weird cropping, featuring a sequence of torso shots. A new form of locomotion propels a new creature composed of breasts bellies, thighs, and buttocks, each part firm and smooth, perfect as if turned out by the same precision machine.

The countdown reaches number one and it’s a club in South Beach. Florida! Finally something within reach. But these men won’t be going to Miami. When that vacation finally rolls around, if they can afford it, they’ll go to the panhandle, some place like Destin. There will be no sultry Brazilians or Italians or Spaniards, no Chileñas bonitas or New York girls, down for a weekend of partying. Under the waiving confederate flag will be haggard white wives, voices raspy from generic cigarettes. The men’s huge bellies will be neon white. There will be a cooler of light beer. A worker who blissfully has no work to do for a few days will scratch his lobster red belly and fart. He’ll scan the beach, looking for a beautiful, exotic woman. He’ll remember that television show he once saw in a waiting room on a cold damp December day in Saint Louis, with a bloody rag tied around his hand. His brow will furrow as he tries to square this experience with that recollection. He’ll take another swig of beer.

It’s hot and it’s humid and he’s painfully sun-burnt and there’s sand in his trunks and these kids won’t stop screaming and running and kicking sand in his beer. What the hell? Might as well go back to the motel and see what’s on the tube.