The news spread quickly around the hospital the following morning as gossip was common currency and anything that dealt with sex had a special flair that captivated people’s curiosity and imagination, subliminally arguably, but definitely and unequivocally. The story had two slants, and each was spicy in its own right. The first one stated that someone saw Matthew, the stout orderly, around 11:30PM, go into a female employee’s car after work, an x-ray technician, in the parking lot and he remained there for quite some time and the car did have some rocking movement. The second one was even more tantalizing: a Nurse’s Aide angrily pounded against the side window to discover the couple in a very compromising position with Matthew on his back. It was everybody’s guess to explain the reason behind the anger.
Such juicy tales to regale the nosy as well as the indifferent are always part of the lore of any institution where both genders congregate. That it happened to Matthew was more a surprise than a prediction. He was a throwback character. A native of St Lucia, he had spent 25 years in the US Marines. He wore his military habits on his sleeves, hence his choice of very shiny boots, his erect posture while sitting, standing or walking. Punctuality was his hallmark. His speech was interspersed with military jargon using lingo such as “Roger that,” as a yes to an instruction. He referred to his ER department as “his base,” eschewing words like ward, floor. Tellingly, and in the most natural way, he quoted military time, “I dropped patient off at 19:08 hour for x-ray,” so routinely that his coworkers coined “Matthew-speak,” as description of his peculiar and precise speaking mannerisms. He kept exercising regularly in an effort to maintain his good figure of yore, yet a pesky and burgeoning slight paunch was showing, “thanks to the good snacks of you good folks,” he would say while gently rubbing it.
He had a passion for whistling, he excelled at it and by far it had become his calling card, his signature greeting. He would describe it as a soothing mechanism and, truth be told, it grew on the staff and that was one of the terms of his endearment among staff and patients alike. Very often it was the subject of conversation. People enjoyed it and missed it when he was not around.
He never frowned at the most unpleasant task. A drunkard that came to the ER cursing and carrying on, one was likely to ask him to help in the restraint if needed. That same drunkard, if filthy, would be his duty to clean. Either way, he carried out his duty amiably and professionally, all the while smiling and very likely whistling. He would bring patients to CT scan, x-ray, MRI, to the floor when admitted from the ER. He was well-known and well-liked. As it turned out, for more reasons than one.
Jovial but respectful, friendly but not flirty, elegant but not showy in his crisp, starchy snow-white uniform, low-key and not pompous, poised and not a braggart. He was deferential but not obsequious, polite but not a milquetoast, a great conversationalist but not loquacious, preferring pithy, philosophical, sentences but quite fluent in long meaningful exchanges. At the right forum, when and if prodded, he could enliven the atmosphere with his story telling, based on his vast experience of travelling all over the world.
An assignment was the civilian equivalent of a military mission with failure not an option to be considered. His imposing presence generated a binary response, fear or comfort. Either suited the staff in the ER who did like the umbrella of inherent protection against unruly visitors, especially at night. For that very reason, he often received requests to stay on or fill empty spots for the graveyard shift. More often than not, he did respond positively, adding more granny points to his well or basket of good will. At first glance, this would be puzzling that his name would be associated with a steamy scene.
He didn’t come across as a skirt chaser. Nor was he one. Peeling the layers of his complex persona, it would be noted that he had that uncanny ability to attract females without trying. An offer of candies, coffee, food, always seemed to come his way. He was not the type to decline and that seemed to have extended to physical touch. Among the nymphs at the locale, rumors had it he was very well endowed and he was deft at using his joystick. This parallel world that exists in every large institution is very much alive and such information carries its weight of gold. Not much sleuthing was needed to obtain the real scoop for this type of racy tale as loose tongues were always willing to wag.
Apparently that very same x-ray technician one day strategically, as if by accident, lightly stroked her curvy rump against Matthew’s crotch and his mound of firmness was a pleasant surprise. She took matters into her own hands in the very literal sense to confirm her suspicion and his reputation mushroomed among the underground cognoscenti. Unknown to folks outside the circle, some of his fans followed his schedule closely and from time to time would switch to match his schedule. The graveyard shift came with less supervision, more freedom, less work, all pluses to enjoy the fringe benefits such as meeting with Matthew incognito. Security guards turned a blind eye to frolicking among consenting adults. He was their buddy anyway. That technician considered herself to be the first among equals since she did the original exploration. The nurse’s aide, a girl friend of x-ray technician, also got into the fray and liked the joystick. She was acting in jest for Matthew that same evening didn’t stop by to see her.
From Matthew’s vantage, he wouldn’t be the aggressor but wouldn’t run away from a worthy proposition, all the while maintaining his composure. He remained unflappable in the face of the palaver about his tryst in the parking lot. “I enjoy and do my work very well,” he would say, or “Gossips are just that, gossips. I don’t dwell in that. I am here to work. What is there for me to do?” as he was asking for his assignment. His calm tone of voice, his demeanor long ago had impressed his superiors and always disarmed everyone. The tales about his prowess, far from dimming his star seemed to have raised it a notch. No one ever had any qualms about his performance at work. His off-colors exploits if not outright shenanigans populated the gray zone of behavior, aka consenting adults pushing the envelope of sexual adventure.
Matthew was an orderly with dependable, impeccable, work ethics. Never late, rarely absent, always able and willing to get the work done with warts and all. One day he said softly to a nurse making fun of a drunk patient in the ER, “No one is perfect. You would be surprised to know who loves to drink. A lot of respectable people, admirals, judges, priests, nurses, ministers, physicians, politicians, business executives, live off the bottle.” How true. No human being is flawless. We give a pass and forgive flaws but we are besotted by work performance. Substandard performance on the job is not forgivable. Matthew was an outstanding worker.