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March 31, 2005

Floor 7: Part II

Chase Turner

      The last time around I promised to elaborate on what I like to call, “the soma lab.” Well, I don’t really call it that, it was just a cliffhanger for the story and I thought it sounded catchy.

      I suppose I could call it the Soma Lab, but that’s just a little too Huxllian for me. I don’t designate every room I enter with a specific moniker, I’m far too pessimistic for that sort of creativity. So our once again nameless room is situated very strangely. I think at this point when the architects were drawing up the plans for the building the mushrooms really started to hit.

      Envision yourself scurrying down the hallway of whatever miserable place you work. And if you don’t work in an office, go to hell, because it’s probably pretty similar to an office. Whether you’re actually working or just walking around aimlessly to avoid working doesn’t matter. Everything is in its right place, until the corridor opens up and you’re in the middle of a cross between furniture store and rainforest. Well, maybe that’s a tad vivid, but there are couches and chairs and plants. It’s probably more like the Rainforest Café in the Mall of America. And there are people. Lots of overweight ones who smoke menthol 100s and presumably drink boxed wine as the sun goes down and the fluorescent lighting goes on. And crumbs from 1978 and stains that soiled the carpet during the Eisenhower administration (undoubtedly a result of all that pesky duck and covering). It’s a sort of oasis in limbo, lying between the cafeteria that overlooks the sinister river and the endless “cubes” where some are destined to spend 30% of their lives. A staging area, neither here nor there, where the weary rest their bones until the bell hits and their short time between lunch and work is up.

      The little hallway nook is host to a peculiar phenomenon indeed. It’s something of a singularity; in that I’m fairly optimistic that nothing like it exists anywhere else in the universe. At any point during the workday, you can find all types of Yesmar County employees plopped down on the chairs, sound asleep. Snoring, drool, the whole nine yards. To avoid suspicion, I join the ranks. Never has sleeping with a crowd of strangers been less enjoyable. People self-medicate depression through sleep, briefly circumventing reality and retreating into their minds. The best seat in the house is in the corner next to the hallway, where you’re invisible to walkers-by yet you can view the entire enclave. Most importantly, you can rest your head freely against the wall. The only problem is that everyone knows this is the most comfortable seat, and so everyone sits in it. There’s another problem too. Because so many people sit in this chair all day and lean their head against the same wall in the same position, there is a giant dark black stain in the shape of a head on the otherwise cream-colored wall. Once I noticed the stain, it was very difficult to sleep, ever. Even in my own home, I lie awake at night thinking about the stain. It haunts me. I think it’s alive. Will the stain grow larger tomorrow? Maybe it will continue to grow until it envelops the entire building. Does the stain have consciousness? No one knows for certain, but I have my suspicions. It’s plotting a take-over, I can feel it! From the post-stain awareness point on, I sit in the next chair over, alert as a teenage boy who just stumbled upon his first Playboy magazine. I study every move with solicitous precision, reveling in the employees’ reveries.

      Among the frequenters are three women named Dolores, two named Edna, and a Bertha. Also included is a woman who simply goes by “Kicks,” but her real name is probably Hazel or Genevieve. Just as the baby named Jeeves is doomed to a life of servitude, branding one’s child with these labels seems to destine them for civil service. One of the Doloreses appears to descend from turtle rather than ape. Bertha adores inter-office conflict but needs her nap time; she minds her own business in the sleepy alcove. Kicks wears sweat suits every day and is extraordinarily paranoid of everything. Edna #2 brings her lunch over from the nearby canteen, stinking it up for everyone else. For her, a typical hot lunch consists of Meatloaf and Potatoes, or some other variant of the “comfort food” often associated with high school cafeterias. It is this writer’s opinion that comfort food should be confined to the home, for as it leaves the familial realm the words “comfort” and “food” are often no longer relevant. I’m not comfortabe in a cafeteria, and powdered eggs and corned beef aren’t going to ameliorate the situation.

      An unnamed large man is also among the regulars. Large is something of a misnomer; this guy is frickin’ huge. He has man-breasts and smells like cabbage. He also has sleep apnea. For simplicity’s sake and in ode to a certain Palahniuk novel, we’ll call him Bob. One day I was reading and Bob had been sitting in his spot for about an hour, and I was worried. He looks dead, I thought. Maybe he was sleeping, but then why wasn’t he snoring like usual? A crowd started to gather. “He smells like he’s been dead for hours,” someone exclaimed.

      ‘No, that’s how he normally smells,” I informed them. I prodded one of his massive flabby arms with the side of my book. Nothing. He’s fucking dead.

      Read Chase’s Blog. If you missed part 1, find it on the blog.

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