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Thursday, September 9, 2010

Today At Noon ...

Every day at work, I get seriously queasy around 11:30 a.m. It's not because I'm hungry or that I often skip breakfast ... the most important meal of the day. No, it's because at that precise moment, someone sticks their head up from their desk or leans out their office door or peeks around their cubicle and asks "What's everyone doing for lunch?"

Lunch for me, if I'm lucky, is a closed office door so I can just close my eyes or return personal calls and e-mails so I can stay in touch with my friends and family ... emphasis on friends. Sometimes I leave the office and "veg out" at a local coffeehouse or go and grab drive-thru and just sit somewhere and enjoy being away from deadlines and details.

But if unprepared ... like most of the time ... with believable "plans" or plausible excuses, I get enmeshed in the noon-time theatrics of about 12 people making plans to provide their bodies with less than nutritional comestibles. And the saddest part is that the conversation is like a script ... the same thing every day with a few ad libs for variety.

Our department manager ... "The Boss" ... always wants Chinese take-out. It's about the only thing on which he and I see eye-to-eye. I swear I could polish off a carton of Moo Goo Gai Pan or Shrimp Lo Mein or Garlic Pork and Snow Peas or Szechuan Beef every single day!

But then we have Penny ... sweet, lovable, good-sized Penny. Penny is a beautiful curvy woman with an obsession about her weight. She's also under the delusion that the word "salad" is synonymous with adjectives like "low fat" and "healthy." I enjoy a good salad with lots of tomato and cucumber and big slivers of mushroom. Some egg and bleu cheese and bacon never hurts either. And if you top it with fresh white pepper and fat-free Vidalia onion dressing you've created Heaven in a bowl! Penny's leanings run more toward less veggies and more breaded chicken strips and heavy, spicy dressing that glops on the lettuce more like a gravy. Well the lettuce part is healthy ... right?

Then there's Steve. He's a wild card when it comes to lunch plans because his calm, boring demeanor disguises the heart of a culinary adventurer. At his lowest setting, Steve insists on pizza with pineapple and spicy sausage ... or anchovies and hot peppers. At his upper range, Steve has convinced me ... much to my delight ... to try "kani" and "tako" and "hamachi" and yummy "spider rolls" from a great sushi bar nearby.

ur office "traditionalist" is Henry. He knows every burger joint within five square miles and he knows what kind of pickles they use and whether spicy mustard is a standard or special request. When we order out for burgers and a place says they don't have Swiss cheese or avocado slices, Henry gets on the phone and the order is "worked out."

I think Jeanette was placed in our office just to ruffle feathers. She's an outspoken Vegan ... I don't think that requires any more explanation. Pain in the ass during holidays and potluck events. On those days, she brings and lot and takes about the same amount of food back home. We smell it in leftovers for days!

And of course we have Stephanie and Gail. These two women always acquiesce to the majority in the group, but they always add "or we could all go out" to the discussion in a cute, sing-song manner. They work in open cubicles, but I swear they act like they're in a cage all day or shackled to their desks. They get this look in their eyes like lunch outside the office might give them the chance to make their "escape."

But the real key to our department's eating habits ... actually, for most of the building ... is Melody. A more recent addition to our team, Melody is young, cute, blond, and perky. She knows her way around a spreadsheet like no one I know and she's one of those individuals who spends the last 20 minutes of the workday tidying up her desk and files to the point where her area looks like an empty desk that no one's using. Around the first of the year, Melody decided to create a menu book of all the take-out spots in the area, popular restaurants, and even bakeries and caterers and party supply places. It has become the "Rosetta stone" of the office; the book itself is crafted and organized to the standards of an Olympic-level scrapbooker. I'm not kidding ... our accounting and legal departments combined don't pay that much attention to detail.

Sometimes when the big hand is on the 6 and the little hand is just over the 11, I long for the simplicity of elementary school. When lunch convened back then, the choices were either the meal your Mom "packed" ... which could be upgraded with carefully-orchestrated trades and swaps between strategically-aligned parties in the manner of a childhood NATO ... or shuffling along the metal cafeteria "line" to receive your tray of various victuals designed to address ... or mimic ... the basic food groups. An d damn if the chocolate milk and apple crisp weren't like manna from the gods.

POINT OF RANT: I always push for lunch with "The Boss" ... he has the type of ego that often prompts him to pick up the check!!

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