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.
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