Monday, March 17, 2008

Suck It Up, It's Only Water

(This story is from 2005, while I was temping. It has absolutely nothing to do with my current coworkers)

It’s lunchtime. Your God-given, legally-entitled, sixty minutes of freedom. Do what ever you want, eat whatever you want, take a nap if you can get someone to wake you up.

But what if it's raining? Do you:

A) go out anyway and fetch your own lunch
B) leave it in God's hands and order in

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I’m sitting at my computer counting down the seconds to lunch when I hear the analysts talking about ordering in. None of them want to brave the weather, despite the fact that it was raining when they came to work.


They are ordering Indian food and even though I’m curious, I know better than to order lunch as part of a group. It is my hard-earned experience in this awkward subdivision of office politics and faux camaraderie that stops me in my tracks. When I turn them down, there is no insistence on their part because I’m just a temp, but their scoffing tells me that, in their eyes, I’m just a stupid temp.

When I worked in an Upper East Side boutique, a sly (bitchy) salesperson tricked me into ordering lunch with her. The place was on the west side of Manhattan and because we were on the east side, she used her powers of manipulation to make them deliver to our store—at a price. That’s where I came in. “The potatotes, get the potatoes,” she urged as I scanned the menu, unsure of what to order. $11.00 later, double what I would normally spend, I had a cold, weird lunch that I had to spill onto a paper plate and reheat in the microwave. I also had a wisdom that you just can’t get anywhere else.

It is because of events like this that I go it alone these days. I will endure ribbing, pelting hail, snow, and blistering heat to get my own lunch. I guess I would have made a good mailman. This is the one hour I can control—why leave it to chance?

So today, with the memories of “PotatoGate” still fresh in my head, I venture out into the rain. I pick up a salad and head back to eat at my desk. It takes me only fifteen minutes.

I see that the precious Indian food has not yet arrived. I say nothing, eating my salad and surfing the internet.

An hour passes, then two. I wonder if the analysts will resort to cannibalism to avoid the rain.

Frustrated, Jeffrey, the abused junior analyst, picks up the phone and dials the Indian restaurant.

“Hi, I placed an order two hours ago and--”
“Listen, I only have two guys and they are out. I have nobody on the floor and nobody wants to come down and pick up their lunch. I got people waiting all over the place. People like you.”
“Okaaaay,” says Jeffrey. He hangs up the phone, staring straight ahead.

And they say customer service is dead.

The lunch finally arrives and is dropped onto the small round conference table. The bag is attacked, torn open violently, while everyone digs for their lunch. Bears at a campsite. Tins of food are passed around, plastic forks grabbed, some falling to the floor. Soda cans are popped open. After a few seconds of silence, the sounds of a late and disappointing group lunch echo throughout the office.

“This isn’t what I ordered!”
“Well, here’s a five, so you owe me ten now…I think.”
“Fuck, everybody has twenties. Does anybody have singles?”
“Damn, we’re missing an order.”

I sit silently at my computer, taking it all in. They called me crazy for going out in such nasty weather. But while they all foam at the mouth over a cold, late lunch they all look pretty crazy to me.

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