posted by Joe Anaya on July 9th, 2012

Being a writer, I mostly work alone at home. Despite the luxury of working in my pajamas for half the day, one negative is always having to eat alone. Typically, I eat leftovers in front of Tivo’d Sportscenter episodes, then back to my desk for more staring at the blank screen. But for the last couple of months, I’ve been working in an office with coworkers, which has been a nice change of pace. I like having lunch with my co-workers. But of course there’s the little lunchtime dance.

I start asking around to see who wants to go to lunch around 11 am. The group can’t get too big or you’ll never leave. For every person you ask to go to lunch, you add 15 minutes to when everyone’s ready to leave and you add another layer of complexity to where to eat.

With so few spots in the lunch crowd, you have to be selective on whom to ask to lunch. Typically, you end up with at least one person with whom you regularly eat lunch. Then the next tier is “people you like.” But you have to be careful because some workers can never get away. After being told three times, “I can leave in 15 minutes,” we’ll invoke the Pirates’ Code, “Any man who falls behind, gets left behind.” Not having eye patches and wooden legs, there is a twinge of guilt in un-inviting a lunch mate but low blood sugar makes me crabby and stop caring.

Every office has their cliques. Once I was new to an office space and three workers were heading out, I asked where they were headed. They tell me, “Lunch” and walk out. Now I don’t mind being left out, but it was odd. That seemed like the point where a normal person would say, “Lunch, you wanna come with us.” The time and place had been established and I would have just been another body. I’ve certainly been in work situations where there’ve been people feuding who didn’t want to have lunch with each other, but because I was new, I can’t imagine they already took a dislike to me. And if they didn’t like me, do what everyone else does and sneak out the back door or leave through different exits and meet in the parking lot.

Speaking of people to avoid, there’s always the boss who wants to have lunch with the staff. I’ve had bosses that were good guys, fun people to hang out with. Sometimes it’s a good bonding opportunity; sometimes it just ruins a perfectly good gripe session. When I’m in charge of people, I never ask to go with a group but often invite others to eat with me. They can decide if the want to suck up to me or complain about me behind my back.

Occasionally, I’ll wish for the simple days of solo eating. So, I’ll pack my lunch and eat sitting in front of the computer searching the web for sports highlights.

File Under Working Stiff