Decontamination was a bit worse than usual this time, mostly because one of the filter vents had clogged and was malfunctioning, resulting in a cycle twice as long as normal - the one remaining vent pumped merrily away in the ceiling of the small room built onto the reception area and I tried not to breathe too deeply. The sterile-packed suit given to me (with tongs) to change into turned out to have a tear in the plastic envelope and had to be replaced. This necessitated another delay as airlocks were opened, resealed, repressurized and (I never understood this part) sprayed down with an aerosolized pine fragrance with no antiseptic qualities whatsoever. "I didn't think it was safe until I smelled nature," I imagined the advertisement going. I would've written it down but my pen was in my briefcase and my briefcase was vacationing in an irradiation chamber, rotating slowly like microwave popcorn. I could see it through the window, and I knew it would be ever so slightly warm when I got it back, its plastic handle oddly pliable like stale taffy.
The bench I was sitting on (stainless steel) was slippery under my rear. The magazines were six months past irrelevant and laminated; this made them disconcertingly heavy. I could've crushed a walnut between its pages or, in a darker moment, done myself some serious damage with its razor-sharp edges. I wondered if that was intentional or not.
The receptionist's voice came through the intercom, warning me that the decontamination rinse was about to begin and I screwed my eyes shut, not that it would help - the gel hit me from all sides and I lifted my feet off the floor so that the backs of my thighs were covered.
I was instructed to stand and I did. I was instructed to turn in a slow circle and I did that, too. A blast of hot, metallic air blasted me from below and the gel evaporated, supposedly (though I had my doubts) taking any lingering bacteria with it. I was asked to confirm that, to the best of my knowledge, my medical forms were up-to-date and accurate, and a notation was made in my record that my cycle was complete.
My clothes had been discarded and replaced with similar ones as they were
designed to be - much like you can tell a seemingly upscale restaurant by the cut of the lapels on its loaner jacket, an upscale decon procedure could be spotted by the number of styles of jumpsuits available on the outside, and they happened to have my colors in stock. I slipped on my new outfit, rubbed out the inside of my mouth with a prepackaged lemony napkin and discarded it in the hole in the wall. Stepping out, the receptionist pointed to my briefcase in its bin from behind her window and directed me to the line where, if I was very lucky, I could get my coffee before going through this whole thing again once I got to my office building.
Fucking Mondays, I swear to god.