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Thursday, March 24, 2005

… the meme entry the other day about lunch habits had me thinking waaaaay back about all the lunchtimes that I ever had.

When I was a kid in Catholic school we all got marched out around 11:30 in the morning to have lunch for 45 minutes, and we’d sit on these awful Kelly green wood benches that either had been heated to almost burning by the sun, or were still wet from the fog/mist of the day. Why Kelly green? Because that was one of the school colors. But I digress…

As with every elementary school playground, you had your usual sets of kids – the ones who traded lunches, the ones who gobbled everything down so fast you wonder now if they even chewed or tasted any of it and they did this so that they could maximize their playground time, and those who just sat there. Some sat with friends, some sat alone.

I varied between the last two, depending on who decided that they were my friends at that time. Children are so fickle, and I was so open hearted. I liked everyone, didn’t hold a thing against anyone, and wasn’t aggressive *at all*. I ate lunch alone a lot and wished that I could just stay in the classroom and work on homework or extra credit or something. And it never helps when your mom insists on you carrying some large generic construction worker style metal lunchbox instead of a brown paper bag or a plastic box like everyone else (“After all, it’s got to last the entire year, and we might as well get something that could last a couple of years”). *THAT* was pretty embarrassing, and while I didn’t think I was going to live, I did.

I learned quickly to stop being so open-hearted after I got whacked upside the head with someone else’s metal lunchbox because theirs was pretty, but it couldn’t hold a big sized Thermos of soup (the only thing that that lunch box was good for) for those cold days. 2nd graders can be so cruel. She banged me on the head (from behind), I saw stars, and I gave her a black eye for her trouble and her laughter. With my fist, not my box, as I believed that sometimes direct retribution without the assistance of implements was a good thing. Mom still thinks that that whack on the back of my head is responsible for my vision going downhill 18 months later, and for the astigmatism that I have (yes, I know it couldn’t be, but this is my Mom we’re talking about, remember?)

High school was more of the same, except I brought paper bags and nasty tuna sandwiches that were always soggy. That and mom didn’t know how to make tuna salad, or she chose not to. The sandwich was white bread, mayo, tuna, sometimes an iceberg lettuce leaf would sneak in, but usually not. That’s it. And when I say tuna, I mean tuna. Not tuna mixed with mayo and relish and pickle juice or chopped up celery. Just tuna, straight from the can. That’s ok, I guess. I still like tuna straight from the can. I ate lunch alone a lot while in high school, except for the last two years when I was part of a regular group on the stairs (where I met my oldest friend, the sportswriter), but even that sort of broke apart in the last 6 months of high school, and I ate in the yearbook office (I was editor, I could do that and work at the same time).

College… I ate alone a lot unless I was with the musician boyfriend, or a couple of other friends. But even those friendships somehow broke apart, and I continued to eat alone. I learned to hate eating alone and always had a book with me or something so that I didn't look like some loser who always sat alone at lunch but instead someone who was taking advantage of time to study.

Yes, I know that still made me look like a loser.

Then work. I started to work. That made things really easy for lunch. I was able to do what I always wanted all those years ago in grade school – just get my food and sit at my desk and keep working. You could consider it my extra credit or something. Oh sure, I’d go out to lunch with one person or another once in a while, but most of the time it was my desk and work. That’s still true to this day, although I’m feeling the pull a little more. There are places to walk to, and I have friends that I could eat with.

But when I go looking for them, they’re not at their desks… or anywhere else to be found in a quick search. And if they run off to lunch, since I’m in a sort of out of the way area of the office, it’s not the common reaction to see me and say “hey, come on, we’re getting out of this place!”. So, daily, I still walk out, grab lunch, and come back to my desk to work. And if there's a gathering or production floor lunch, I always make sure I'm a little late to it all so that I can just join a group because about half the time I'll sit down at a table and no one joins me (maybe I just don't sit where they can see me or they're simply just not looking). Funny how those childhood wishes come true, isn’t it…

…I guess it’s just another life lesson in “Be careful what you wish for”.