What’s for lunch? My Daily Conundrum
Working (“working”) in an office, you learn how to accustom yourself to what was once an unbearable boredom by gradually dulling your senses…playing solitaire or online poker or sudoku for hours on end, or in my case, reading every sports article on every sports website 5 times, then quickly browsing through a newspaper so I can pretend to be informed just enough to save face when someone corners me and wants to shoot the breeze about the latest election news, plummeting interest rates, or the current trajectory of the olympic torch. After a while, your brain goes numb, keeping only a few brain cells active so you can pull up a spreadsheet whenever a stealthy passerby enters the range of your peripheral vision. If done correctly, you can enter into a sufi-like trance until the little hand hits “5” and real life resumes outside of your cubicle-shaped confines.
However, there is one other instance during the workday in which I find the need to shake my mental mouse and take my brain off stand-by: lunchtime. When the dude behind me heats up the homemade food his wife makes and packs for him every day (lucky bastard), the amazing aroma floats over to my desk and bitch slaps me back to reality. At that time, there is only one thing on my mind – what the hell am I gonna eat for lunch today?? There are tons of options in Manhattan within walking distance, which is a bad thing for someone as indecisive as me. There are a host of variables that must be considered and re-evaluated daily before a decision can be made:
◊ proximity to my office…how far do I feel like walking? Am I gonna have a walking buddy today?
◊ weather – if it’s raining, should I order in, or just get some soup from the dude with the cart downstairs? If it’s a nice day, do i wanna go to a place where I can sit outside?
◊ what did I get yesterday, or the day before? I dont wanna eat the same thing again so soon.
◊ how expensive is this place I’m interested in? what excuse can I think of to warrant a guilt-free splurge?
◊ Do I feel like being healthy today, or did I run enough yesterday to deserve a delicious greasy cheeseburger and sweet potato fries?
◊ what?! I can only get two side dips with my quesadilla? I need salsa, guacamole, AND sour cream… the three of them together make the colors of the Mexican flag! Ok fine, guac and sour cream. I think I have some hot sauce packets in my desk anyway.
◊ Chicken or beef…chicken or beef…chicken or beef, or shrimp..no, shrimp is $2 extra…chicken or beef..chicken or beef..
◊ Does that place have a good lunch special? Do I get a free soup or something? I don’t feel like a valued customer unless I get my free side thing.
◊ How crowded does this place get? Do I feel like going to the burrito place and waiting for 20 minutes? Are the free (stale) chips and (watery) salsa they serve while you wait good enough to warrant that? (YES)
◊ How big are the portions there? Will it fill me up? Or better yet, will I have some extra to save for dinner? Two meals in one…SCORE!
There are countless other variables and permutations. For example, if my boss is out today then I might decide that a 2 hour lunch is completely acceptable and in fact would serve only to increase my morale and, by extension, my productivity. I also meet up friends for lunch sometimes and may want to go somewhere nicer and where I’m sure there will be seats without a long wait. If I’m sick I may narrow my choices down to warm, easily digestible things like soup and decide amongst that subset. And this doesn’t even take into consideration the days that we order in on the office tab, or when some people who had a lunch meeting ordered way too much food, and then we get an email from an astute assistant urging us to make a mad-dash to the kitchen and get the getting while it’s good.
With all these choices, my brain is forced into a rare flurry of activity before 5pm. It is a quagmire that I find myself enveloped in every day at the office. And though I dread the decision making process, I’m not a picky eater and usually enjoy whatever I end up with. And then, after I eat, always too quickly and with minimal chewing, I slowly fall back into my sufi-like trance, this time aided by an ascending digestive coma, ready to roam the labyrinthine annals of the world wide web once again .