Johnny America




The lab left the voice­mail about my test re­sults on my father’s birth­day. He would’ve been six­ty-four. Do you still have Ad As­tra on tap? Or an­oth­er am­ber-ish ale? Okay, yes, then one of those and a small pop­corn. I felt the phone buzzing through my jack­et pock­et as I doped the ’corn with salt and nu­tri­tion­al yeast and parme­san, but there was no use in an­swer­ing in the hub­bub of the con­ces­sions stand. I walked up the stairs to the bal­cony mez­za­nine and set my spread of snacks on the win­dow sill. The voice­mail pre­view read: Wakarusa Labs, 01:09. I told my­self that one minute and nine sec­onds was very like­ly, very prob­a­bly, al­most cer­tain­ly good news. But then again it could be a quick im­plor­ing to please call the doc­tor to dis­cuss your test re­sults, posthaste, trailed by a ly­ing minute of dead air. I took a quaff of beer, pressed play, and said a quick atheist’s prayer for clear scans.

There are few plea­sures in the salaried of­fice-work­er life as eas­i­ly achieved and re­fresh­ing as cut­ting out for half an af­ter­noon to watch a movie, alone, with a beer and a small pop­corn all your own. Your co-work­ers will know that you have an “ap­point­ment,” should they hap­pen to ask or look at your Out­look cal­en­dar, but sta­tis­ti­cal­ly, prob­a­bilis­ti­cal­ly, they won’t do ei­ther. You’ll just do your work, dis­ap­pear for a cou­ple hours and then reap­pear, then do your work again— an in­fi­nite re­cur­ring Ac­tion Item you’ll re­peat every day and every week for months and years un­til one day when the doctor’s of­fice fi­nal­ly calls with test re­sults that de­mand an im­me­di­ate re­turn di­al. A so-so flick, good with a group, be­comes sub­lime when en­joyed with­out dis­cus­sion of which mediocre movie to see when, or where, and the oblig­a­tory post-view­ing dis­cus­sion of whether it was a film or movie or just some­thing some­thing that hap­pened on screen in­volv­ing a tremen­dous num­ber of celebri­ties. Pop­corn, so de­li­cious when shared, be­comes a deca­dence when trans­mo­gri­fied by the dark mag­ic of a so­lo mat­inée. Spare your­self an oc­ca­sion­al af­ter­noon of meet­ing min­utes and con­fer­ence calls and en­joy your­self; the snack bar is wait­ing for you.

Filed under Commentary on March 13th, 2020

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[…] In my hard­scrab­ble younger years, the laun­dro­mat was a nec­es­sary but even then, most­ly plea­sur­able des­ti­na­tion. Now that I’m mid­dle aged and mid­dle class with a pri­vate laun­dry room of my own, it has evolved in­to an occa­sion­al treat— some­thing on the or­der of a Caramel Mac­chi­a­to that I real­ly shouldn’t or duck­ing out of work to catch a matinée. […]

[…] sing again the plea­sures of the so­lo mat­inée, of the sump­tu­ous expe­ri­ence of watch­ing a movie […]

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