We live in a fast world. Speed is of essence. Fast food. Fast service and rapid action. Wars are judged on their rapidity of achieving the desired conclusion. Records are measured in relative speed and it is the fastest that is exalted. Have you ever heard of the man who can finish 100 metres in the slowest time? Of course not. Speed. If a trip takes longer than expected then the time is "wasted". Flushed down the drain. Somewhere there must be the depository of all those lost seconds. Like in Pratchett's Thief of Time there must be the monks of time stealing time from one part and placing it elsewhere where it is needed.
The much reviled Maltese Public Servant was a sans-pareil time juggler. Working on borrowed time meant having that second job that you could preferably keep up with during office hours. This was very well parodied by Paolo Villaggio in the great film "Il Secondo Tragico Fantozzi". Time must not, at all costs, be wasted. You are most probably paid in accordance to the amount of time you work (yes, I can already see the comments by those ignorant punters who never tire of the same stuff and cannot resist the jibe at bloggers at work ... go ahead skip the rest and click on comment - no anonimity is allowed).
Time. Hours. Seconds. Minutes. Yet in our world there are still elaborately constructed and irritatingly designed capsules where, given the right motive, you can sit and read or observe while time seems to wind down to a near halt. They have not been the subject of much scientific study but these veritable time machines are extremely intriguing. They are spaces built intentionally for their occupants to wait for time to pass. They are an important link in the time-space continuum. They are Waiting Rooms.
I find them absolutely fascinating. Doctor, dentist, lawyer or insurance agency. You will inevitably have passed through a waiting room sometime in your life. It is one of the absolute democratic places. Once you qualify for being present therein then you are equal to all inside. The only difference is that you know who will be leaving first. I was lucky enough to be in a waiting room at 7.55 am this morning. A weird one at that. It was the waiting room for a company specialising in changing tyres. This is where the whole population of Luxembourg converges at the beginning of winter to switch from summer to winter tyres and have their wheels aligned for the oncoming glacial period.
So there we were. The secretary, the arab looking guy, the Italian looking guy, the old woman acting like a duchess, the black woman, the technogeek armed with laptop and fourty other odd souls. All exhibiting one or more traits of "a person in a waiting room". Old men reading "Femme Actuelle" and holding it up as though it was their perfectly natural choice every time they walked into a press shop. The idiot who chose to wear turqoise socks under his black suit and in his black shoes and who was now perfectly aware that his ankles had become a perfect form of entertainment for many in the room who needed a distraction. The two luxembourgers conversing in their sing-song language about whoknowswhat at this unearthly hour.
The magazines are always chosen by some sadistic freak who picks out the least readable and most irritating of them all. Of course they must be minimum two years old in accordance to Directive 44/99 EC Concerning Distribution of Journals and other Media in Spaces reserved for Waiting for a Service (hereunder referred to as "The Directive"). The same directive provides that there must be a minimum of one complicated machine to provide food or beverage and - in deference ot the rule of unavoidable monopolies and services in a dominant position - such aforesaid food and beverage must be of the inedible and undrinkable kind.
"The machine" provides the classic "person in the waiting room decides to use the machine" sketch. Such person spends ten times the average time to find the right amount of change. Inserts such change only to find that aforesaid machine accepts coins from the Reign of Charles V and preferably pieces of eight. At this point all other persons in the room develop a sudden interest in wall-gazing. No one will proffer the right coin to the person who thus has to fish into his socks to find his last piece of eight for the day. The machine will then proceed to request for personal identification and passport prior to providing a menu in hindi or sanskrit for the choice of product which will in any case turn out to be sold out.
At the end the red in the face customer will cling to his moth eaten paper glass of cup-a-soup (Extra Sugar) and offer a smile of resignation that says "I put money in the drinks machine for a coffee but all I got is this lousy Chicken Noodle Soup". The lifespan of such glass has been calculated to be around fourty seconds, or in other words, the time it takes for its beleagured owner to reach the uncomfortable seat (in accordance with the Directive) and balance it on the only table in the room (the one laden with Femme Actuelle, Die Auto von Trier and An Abbreviated Version of the Upanishad in Tamil). It is here that chicken soup man discovers that the table has one leg shorter than the other three and will now perform the slow motion tilt that will terminate in a chicken soup on floor (with noodles under sofa) display.
The whole action takes four long seconds and could have been avoided. I say could since Chicken Soup Person is perfectly placed to avoid the tragedy by a quick reflex action to stop the fall and catch the broth. But we all know that Chicken Soup man is aware of the fact that "The Adventure of Chicken Soup Man" has just leapfrogged over "Man in Turqoise Socks" in the Waiting Room box office hits of latest attractions. It is this added attention that at the moment of truth forces chicken soup man to perfectly imitate a headless duck with acute pruritis. The supposedly saving action only succeds to splash the contents of the soup in all directions around him in much the same way as the metaphoric faeces that strikes the instrument of cool ventilation.
In the moments of silence that follow the murderous intent emanting from victims of the Chicken Soup Spread could be sniffed by an alsatian with one nostril. Red faced chicken soup man could never, in one lifetime, pick up any remnants of honour and pride and proceeds to mop up the disaster using the centerfold pages of Femme Actulle, 1969 (recipe of choucroute alsacienne)....
I'd love to go on... but it will take another post to do so. Time will not wait, so The Waiting Room will need a deuxiême partie. See you later then.