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Sunday, June 22, 2008

My Wooden Co-Worker

I work in a tourist attraction, a Western-themed mini-mall, along the corridor of which sit scattered statues and things referred to as "picture-taking props." There's an old wooden cowboy, a horse saddle sat astride a horizontal wooden barrel, and a wooden statue of Poker Alice sitting on a bench with five cards in her hand and a cigar in her mouth.

Just outside the entry to the bookstore in whic I work is what has to be the most popular picture-taking spot in the entire place: a wooden statue of a well-endowed, bare-legged, blonde-curled saloon girl wearing only a tiny red bustier-type piece and a flamboyant hat. She sits on a bench with an arm draped across the back, beckoning the passers-by to come and sit with her for a bit: curious little boys who don't yet understand how impolite it is to grope a woman's chest; doughy middle-aged men in khaki shorts and polo shirts dragging along begrudging wives and small armies of pre-teens; awkward teenage boys who try not to look like they're contemplating the improbable size of that heaving wooden cleavage; and old men who do know the improprieties of groping a woman's chest but laugh heartily as they do it anyway.

This tourist prop is an endless source of amusement for me throughout the day. The occasional dirty old man aside, I do enjoy seeing people's reactions to my scantily-clad colleague. I laugh at the two-year-olds who climb her like a jungle gym and open-palm her bosoms as they stare into her expressionless wooden face--many of them don't yet fully grasp the difference between real and fake. (Wow, I just realized what a double entendre--no, triple entendre--that sounds like.)

I derive great satisfaction from listening to the Mid-Western moms who cajole their embarrased pre-teen sons--"come on, don't be so shy, put your arm around her"--while they fumble with the camera. I especially enjoy, and was at first quite surprised by, the bus-loads of senior citizens, who seem to have the most fun with my wooden co-worker. The old gentlemen put a hand on her knee while the gray-haired women laugh and snap their pictures. Not to get too deep, especially on a subject such as this, but it makes me think about the cyclical nature of human life: these aged, wrinkled, arthritically-bent folks who laugh like children--albeit children who are past, or more likely well into, a sexually active life, fully get the joke, and are perfectly at ease casually joking about it with one another.

The only thing is, I've noticed, this poor saloon girl never gets a thank-you. People come, people laugh, people touch, people take pictures, people leave. People.

I've collected a handful of things I've overheard said about her in particular, the best of which are:

Teenage girl: "What's with all the wooden people?"

Young girl: "I think she had plastic surgery, Dad."


Old man: "She's what ya call a hard body."

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