Undercover Design Investigation: Brisas de Amor
Panama is home
to some pretty unique establishments, including roadside Chinese furniture stores, Fondas (where you can get a home cooked meal out of a house!) and colourful mini-supers (cross-breed between a convenience store and a supermarket), but the strangest of all has to be the local PUSH that I drive by on the Pan-American highway.
I’m so glad you asked!
A PUSH is a term given to the 24-hour motel-esque establishments (comprised of a garage and bedroom) that are located throughout Panama. It’s called a PUSH because you “push” a button to close the garage door behind you when you drive in. I guess what I’m trying to say is: A PUSH is a pay-by-the-hour sex-shack.
The PUSH and attracts a variety of patrons, mostly those who are looking to get away from their crowded family homes in order to spend some “quality” time with a loved one…
But really, a PUSH is most often used by corrupt politicians and prominent members of society who are looking to have affairs. (GROSS, right?!). The beauty of the PUSH? The entire process is completely “private” and anonymous.
Naturally, I had to explore the PUSH and see what it’s all about for myself (from a professional design-based perspective, of course!). Luckily for me, I had a few accomplices who accompanied me on my PUSH investigation. We had no idea what to expect.
Would the rooms be dirty? Ugly? (No doubt, I assumed) Large? Small? How many beds? We were about to find out!
After pulling into the garage, you PUSH a button to close the garage door. The button is connected to a censor that alerts the PUSH manager that there’s a new visitor. Suddenly, we heard a man’s voice call out from behind the closed bedroom door.
The man requested payment before unlocking the door.
The manager took the money, unlocked the door and disappeared through an alternative exit in the bedroom. We NEVER saw the manager (more importantly, the manager never saw US). It’s all part of the creepy anonymity.
And what did we see inside?
If you want to order a drink or even food (they have pizza and chicken fingers on the menu!) you slide open the window, yell out an order into a small closet with an opposite facing sliding window and then close the window. When your order is ready, there’s a knock on your sliding window. You open the window, leave the money on the ledge and knock on the opposite window. Crazy, right?! No one will ever see your face.
- Each wall was painted a different colour and only two walls had a wallpaper border (and the ceiling-mounted mirror was bordered with a multi-tiered, colourful ceiling treatment). Let’s not forget that the walls were VERY THIN. We could hear other people using the PUSH. *shudder*
- The bedspread had a floral pattern (hardly the kind of pattern that screams “sexy”?!) which is no doubt used to disguise stains.
- The bathroom light fixture was extremely out of place.
- The light bulbs each had different colour temperatures - the bathroom glowed “blue” while the bedroom was a combination of “blue” and “yellow” (tungsten and compact flourescent lamps).
- The floating bedside table was clearly an after-thought. Although, at least someone recognized that there’s no where to put your beer when using the bed.
- A grouping of controls for the radio in the room: one dial to change the station and another to control the volume, as well as a telephone (no idea who this is used to call).
- An unusual identification of an overhead smoke detector. I have no idea why this requires written identification – probably because most locals will have no idea what this unit is. I’d be surprised if the smoke detector actually functions.
- On the exterior: bright, neon lights illuminate the exterior that is decorated with a typical Panamanian mosaic tile design. The building resembles some kind of bowling alley or night-club hanger. Very strange.
And there you have it. A glimpse into one of the most mysterious venues in Panama.
Now, I must admit that I added a grunge-y filter to the photos, just to help convey how the space actually FELT. The room was surprisingly “clean” in terms of dust and dirt, but the atmosphere was particularly shady and disgusting.
I feel that the only way to showcase the PUSH properly is to play up the dirty grind-house feel of the interior. :)
And I must also admit that we had SO MUCH FUN.
We felt naughty for prying, but then again, I’m sure everyone who stops off at the PUSH feels quite naughty themselves (for different reasons, obviously).