Thursday, June 28, 2012
The room used to be a store front of some kind, but those days are long gone and now it stands almost devoid of personality. The walls are white and bare- the overhead lighting is blunt in its effectiveness, just bare bulbs screwed into the ceiling. It is basic at its more stark- like a prison cell. There are bars over the front plate glass window, which in theory protects the inhabitants from any wandering predators outside. The window is blocked from the street not just by metal bars but also by a large single piece of white painted particle board. The room is rectangular, efficient in its size.
Half a dozen people fill the room, all of them sitting in cheap cushioned chairs that are decades old. There is a heavy set young woman sitting on a chair towards the back left corner, she has a crocheted multicolored blanket across her knees. Her skin is pale and her hair is dark and stringy- she looks sixteen or seventeen and very small. She looks lost in the expanse of the room, lost even though I can see her and she can see me.
Five feet away from her is a man in his 20s, he has a scraggly blond beard and a tiny pot belly covered by a blue tank top with orange edging. Next to him, his 2 year old son sits happily on a chair. Almost all the eyes in the room are on the boy, a somewhat happy and clueless child who does not seem to mind being in the white vacuum of the space.
There is a young woman with dark hair closer to the door. Her arms are on her knees as she leans over, looking into my eyes. Her face is desolate, her eyes dull and without any expression, like she has seen a thousand horrible acts and closed herself off to all of them, resigned to her fate now.
In front of me, the only thing on the wall, is a cardboard cutout of a TV set. It is designed to look like an old fashioned analog TV with two knobs that were once used to change channels. It looks like something left over from an art class, perhaps a project critical of the media. The screen area is grayed out and the entire thing is two dimensional.
It is silent in the room. I can’t even hear the buzzing of the lights.
Monday, June 11, 2012
The center of the large square room is lined with eight rows of chairs. The chairs are padded and covered with a patchwork fabric design in deep purple hues. Each seat is latched to the chair beside it by a metal hook along its edge, creating straight rows of eight.
Along the periphery of the room are cubicles separated by thick gray fabric covered walls. Each separated desk faces the center of the room, though there are walls designed like sliding doors which can be opened or closed.
There are three cubicles that are open, the rest are blocked by the portable walls. There is one woman behind each visible desk, each with varying pale skin tones, but with the same portly figure and plump cheeks.
The desks are gray and long and uniform. There is a computer with a raised glowing screen and a wired telephone. Each different desk is decorated with the snapshots of loved ones and tiny figurines and mugs full of pencils.
Behind the perimeter of desks is another narrow perimeter of walking space which allows movement from desk to desk or easy reference to the several bookcases full of thick tax code books and reference material.
Beside the front door is a black man sitting behind the oversized receptionist desk. A rope barrier starts at the door and leads towards the reception desk, forcing anyone who might enter the double glass doors to head in one direction. As patrons enter he hands each one a paper number and motions for them to watch the glowing screen with red numerals.
Mounted to one of the walls is a large flat screen tv, it faces the rows of chairs and is tuned to a news station. Close-captioned subtitles move across the bottom of the screen and there are no speakers. Half a dozen people sit scattered among the chairs, each holding a number and staring straight ahead into the glowing monitor.
Mumbled voices and the muted tap of the women typing on their keyboards is the only sound.