Of course, I am talking about...quitting time.
Kidding, kidding. I'm really talking about lunchtime.
In addition to fulfilling our basic human need for food, our lunch breaks give us a chance to get to know each other, and share our views on the world in which we live. We have discussed Russia's invasion of Georgia, and the effect it will have on the Braves' attendance. We have debated the merits and legality of a $199 divorce in which only one party's signature is necessary. We have dissected Adrian Pennino's cyclical effect on Rocky Balboa's psyche, and her uncanny ability to believe in her husband's Quixotic (that's for you, Billy) dreams only when he is seconds away from actually realizing them:
Adrian (prior to the fight, when all odds are against Rocky, and in his greatest time of need): "You can't win!"The act of choosing, retrieving, and eating our lunches at once both unifies and divides us, gives us valuable glimpses into the lives of our colleagues and horrifies us with an overload of TMI. (Coincidentally, while we're on the topic of food, this type of TMI is much better and is actually quite delicious.)
Adrian (after Rocky's opponent is batterered, bloody, and face down on the canvas and the referree has counted to 8 1/2): "You can do it!"
The lunchtime process is not an easy one (despite the fact that we basically have five options which we rotate each week). It is fraught with politics, procedures, and rules that must be followed to ensure the overall happiness and efficiency of the Front Office. It has created clans and cliques -- seismic interoffice fault lines that can be crossed only at the crosser's own peril.
There are the Die-Hards, whose entire day seems to hinge on the midday meal. This group consists of myself, KJ, Ricky, and Joyce (who begins planning for, and incessantly asking about lunch at approximately 9:03 EST each morning...I think she has a tapeworm). We are the driving force, both literally and figuratively. We make the call, round up the troops, and use our caravan of cars to carry out the mission. I have often thought that without us, several of our colleagues would go without food altogether (which, in some cases, might not be a bad thing...Gary, I'm looking at you).
Then, there are the Occasionals -- Steve, Kevin, Rebecca, and Liz -- who may or may not place an order, depending on what the choice of the day is. Kevin likes roast beef but hates Wendy's. Rebecca likes tomato, basil & mozzarella soup. Liz likes to get out of the office. Steve likes the idea of someone bringing him his food, and hates the idea of leaving his desk. This is the group that must always be offered lunch, but will not always accept the invitation. The Wild Cards, if you will.
Steve, by the way, will ask what the options are at the designated lunch destination every day, despite the fact that he has heard these options thousands of times. Those of us being asked have given up on giving him accurate information:
Die Hard: We're going to the Soup Shop today, Steve. Want anything?On the other side of the ballpark lies the Ticket Office, and within its walls, Chris, John, and Pat -- the Hermits. These denizens of the T.O. are modern-day Yetis or Loch Ness Monsters. Tales of their exploits are legendary, yet they have never been captured on film, and are all but invisible to the naked eye. Days -- sometimes weeks -- can go by without catching a glimpse of these rare creatures outside of their habitat. Only Joyce, and Rob before her, has ever been able to escape the T.O.'s icy grip and enjoy quality time with the rest of humanity. No one knows what they eat, and no one asks.
Steve: What do they have there?
Die Hard: Soup.
Steve: Sounds good. I'll take one of those.
There is Sharon -- the Ninja -- who will magically appear at her desk only after the Die Hards have taken orders and left, or will order food and then disapper, leaving her food to sit untouched on her desk for the remainder of the day. In either case, guilt ensues.
There are the Accountants -- Sharif, Tatiana, and Olena -- who bring their lunches every day, and are both financially- and health-conscious. Wierdos.
There is Operations -- Vlad, Ponte, and Jesse -- who are one level up in terms of visibility from the T.O. We don't see them much, and we don't ask questions. They always seem to be doing something important.
And last, but not least, there is the Perone. Gary is an entity unto himself. He will make plans with three different people for the same time, field calls on three different phone lines while everyone else waits by the door, agree to go and never show up, or decide not to go and show up anyway. He always needs "five minutes," which invariably turn into 10, before finally, 15 minutes later, asking you to just pick him up whatever you're having and bring it back for him, thus making your 20-minute wait pointless.
Ahhh, lunchtime with the Cyclones. From pizza to paninis. From Value Meals to the Dollar Menu. From cold cuts to hot soup. It brings us together and tears us apart. And in the end, it all tastes like chicken.
What are we eating tomorrow?