Come lunch time at work, I really don’t know what to do with myself.
Potential solutions — go home, eat in the Register lunch room, munch in front of my computer — are not working.
For years I drove home to eat peanut butter on toast in blissful silence, away from newsroom hubbub.
This ritual fell apart when the paper moved to its new address on Soscol last summer. Going home became a drive too far.
So, what then?
Oxbow Public Market was but a seven-minute walk from the paper, but did Oxbow’s artisanal chefs make PB sandwiches? Also, there was the expense.
I began doing the sensible thing: eating at work with a new menu. Since August, I’ve been packing a turkey sandwich and a Tupperware container of plain yogurt with chopped banana.
This lunchbox routine felt very deja vu. I was a school boy again.
Unfortunately, I still had lunch issues. Where do I eat my sandwich and yogurt?
My most desirable spot — at my computer — was off limits. Because the Register now occupied pristine new digs, management had declared that there would be no eating at our desks.
I’m still grieving. How much fun it would be to scroll the Internet at noon, off the clock, while crumbing and schmearing my keyboard?
Banished from their work zones, many of my coworkers are convening in the lunchroom for their mid-day meal.
It’s a perfectly nice lunchroom. Lively wall art. Two microwaves and a fridge. Small tables offering the illusion of privacy.
But man is it bad!
Bad in the sense that everyone is seated cheek-by-jowl, aromas of grilled fish mix with those of popcorn and heated casserole leftovers to form a noxious blend. And silence reigns.
The silence is a respect thing. In such close quarters, no one wants to shatter another person’s solitude.
But the effect is weird. People fork in food, silently, scan their digital devices, silently. If our lunchroom were a movie, it would be titled “The Lunch of the Living Dead.”
I run in, grab my sack lunch from the refrigerator, and flee.
But to where? At first I chose the ‘loading dock” on the backside of the building, next to the Wine Train tracks and Vine Trail. A few companionable souls did the same thing. The fresh air and spurts of conversation were very nice.
Then winter arrived. All buttoned up, I lasted on the dock until Christmas, then the dreary chill broke my spirit. I bolted.
I’d seen other coworkers head to the parking lot and eat in their cars. They looked pitifully sad, but I thought I’d give it a try.
Things I’ve learned about car eating in recent weeks:
— Park in direct sunlight if possible to maximize solar warmth.
— Park facing something of visual interest. For a while I enjoyed watching traffic stream by on Soscol. It’s the whole world on parade. But that got old, so now I park facing a bush.
— Bring your iPad mini, preloaded with the day’s news since there’s no Wi-Fi.
The front passenger seat is probably the most comfortable spot for eating and reading, but I’ve never ended up there. I sit, cramped, in front of the steering wheel, in the drive position, iPad balanced on one knee, my sandwich on the other. I do not play the radio.
Car lunches are pleasant enough. I’m able to devour food and news without bad smells or chills. Except for loud radio sounds from passing vehicles, no bad noises either.
But be honest with me. Do I look pitifully sad eating in my car this way? Day after day? Like an office pariah?