You’ve all been there. You only have so long to get where you’re going, place your order, and either dine in or carry out. Your boss won’t like it if you take extra time, and if you have to hit a time clock, it can mess up your pay.
Usually, brown-bagging is the better choice. It’s more economical, it’s usually healthier, it’s more efficient, and it’s almost always more expedient. But there are some days you just want to get out of the office for a bit and go a little wild with the lunch selection.
I’ve often thought that an hour was too long. Half an hour is never quite enough. I’ve done the math – the perfect lunch break is 47 minutes. Unless you wait until noon to go, along with everybody else in town. At that time you can’t accomplish much of anything and the whole hour can be whittled away in what seems like no time at all.
When my co-workers and I want to go out, we try to go at 11:30 in order to beat the lunch rush. That usually works. Except that sometimes it doesn’t.
Obstacles are everywhere.
Like the guy in front of us in what appeared at first glance to be a very short line. He was placing individual orders to carry out for everybody in his office. Or the lady that just couldn’t make up her mind at another location on a different day. Or the pizza guy we’d commissioned to deliver who was fifteen minutes late in his arrival.
But the one I’ll always remember was the guy in front of me at the ketchup counter. It’s that place where a vat of ketchup is hidden underneath the ledge with a periscopic pump used to fill up little tiny paper medicine cups. I don’t know about you, but an order of fries for me usually requires about five of those things.
Three of us were seated at the table and at some point I wanted more ketchup. I got up to go get it and there was a guy in front of me, blocking the ketchup pump, and so I waited. When an appropriately sufficient amount of time had passed, I began to get curious to know what was taking him so long. He wasn’t reaching for napkins, straws, or anything else that was provided for our dining convenience.
I’m fairly tall, so I was able to peek around his shoulder from a short distance behind him and watched with amusement at his activity. I watched him take the straw out of the plastic lid on his cup of lemonade, then take the lid off, and then dump the contents of one sugar packet into the cup, replace the straw to stir, then the lid, return the straw through the hole on top, and sip. Unsatisfied, he removed the straw, removed the lid, replaced the straw, dumped in another sugar packet, stirred, lidded, and sipped.
Still unsatisfied, he removed the straw, then the lid, added more sugar, stirred, replaced, and sipped again. This process was repeated until the girls were pointing at their wristwatches to signal that it was time to go. I couldn’t leave. Much like an impending train wreck, I just couldn’t look away. The precision with which this guy was repeating his remove, remove, dump, stir, replace, replace, sip process had me dumbfounded.
At one point he noticed that I was behind him. It didn’t slow him down any.
It certainly didn’t speed him up any, either.