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Lunch!

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It’s shopworn joke: “The only subject that I liked in school was lunch.” Let’s not be too quick to dismiss lunch, though. It has proven to be more important than most of the classes I took. And now that I’ve efficiently disposed of 16 lbs of leftover turkey it’s time to give thanks for the only element of daily life that always holds genuine promise: lunch.

Let’s bracket the target here. For most of us, breakfast is something that has to fit into a thin crack in our schedules. As for dinner, it often has the air of the compulsory about it; you’re going to be sleeping on the couch if you make a habit of skipping family dinners.

Sandwiched between these constraints, lunch can hold some real promise, at least to the extent that nobody is holding a loaded time clock to your head. I’ve been fortunate enough to evade that threat since high school.

Lunch is elastic and it scales well. Maybe it will be a two-minute lunch, maybe it will be a 90-minute meal with pals, but whichever route I’ll take, it’s because it makes the most sense for the circumstances.

I will note that a day with a 90-minute lunch is never a lost day, even if everything else has gone wrong.

The acme of efficiency would be to knock out all your work before lunch, so when you’re leaving the office for lunch you’re also leaving for the day. I’ve seen a few people pull this off, but, alas, only a few.

In theory, though, it should be common, at least in the broader office workforce. I suspect that, on average, fewer than six hours of work really get done over an eight-hour workday. If you could just front-load that six hours and get it done, well, problem solved. Life would be one long picnic.

The computerized office has been rolling for almost 40 years now, but in spite of all the “efficiency” everyone was worshiping, work is no less time-consuming now than it was back then. That’s not a quirk of technology, it’s a quirk of human nature. Human nature has a very weird way of evaluating time. Technology has merely made us more efficient at pursuing our inefficient proclivities.

With that in mind, I don’t perceive that people have more time for lunch in 2018 than they did in 1980.

One constant overhang with the lunch thing is the attempt to wring some productivity out of it. The “business lunch,” which flew the ensign of the “power lunch” (yuck) in the 1980s, is a longstanding component of professional life.

I know there are many good reasons for this approach, but I’ll confess I’m a little cagey about agreeing when I hear the phrase, “Let’s do lunch.” That’s because in corporate life I once realized that an entire week of lunches with buzzword-spouting bores had somehow soaked into my appointment book. Have you ever noticed that interesting people are always uniquely interesting, but bores tend to be identically boring? Once again, technology has showed its hand by solidifying this facet of human nature.

Anyway, also on the corporate front, I’ll admit that I never had the heart to enforce tight lunch schedules onto workers. Everybody deserves some wiggle room. Lunch is a good place to offer it.

One great thing about Saipan is that I never had lunch with people I didn’t actually want to have lunch with. Life is better that way.

I’m not diligent about managing my small expenses, and I’m not so great about managing my calories, either, and lunch is just beneath the threshold at which I’m willing to pay attention on either count.

Rolling back to the post-Thanksgiving context, I suspect the penchant for turkey might be an American thing, because many people I know, including my own wife, wonder how I can belly up to a daily stream of turkey sandwiches for lunch. I don’t think turkey is a big sell in the West Pacific, but I can’t claim to have really studied the subject.

I was going to tell a pal about these exciting developments in my recent turkey consumption, so I called and suggested that we have lunch.

He seemed a bit evasive, though. He wouldn’t commit to anything. He must be busy.

Ed Stephens Jr. | Special to the Saipan Tribune
Visit Ed Stephens Jr. at EdStephensJr.com. His column runs every Friday.

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