In defense of late lunch | Bleader

In defense of late lunch

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Pigeons congregate in the shade during Londons heatwave of 2003. Good thinking!
  • Pigeons congregate in the shade during London's heat wave of 2003. Good thinking!
Since I rarely have the money to go on vacation, I welcome any event that upsets my daily routine—or, to use the current jargon, my work-life balance. Last week’s heat wave was one such event. I don’t have air conditioning in my apartment, which doubles as my workplace, so I had to reorganize my schedule in order to be out when the sun was at its most oppressive. Sure, I could have taken my laptop to an air-conditioned library, but where’s the challenge in that?

For several days I woke up just after sunrise, wrote until 10 AM, then evacuated my building till dinnertime. In the evenings, I’d try to shake off the heat and write again. The final hours of the day felt like the last leg of a marathon, an effort to exert a few more thoughts before my mind collapsed. Though I’m glad to be back on my regular schedule, I enjoyed the change of pace while it lasted.

The experience reminded me of the late-afternoon lunch breaks I took when I was working downtown office jobs. I liked to wander the Loop when it wasn’t so noisy and packed with pedestrians: it felt as though I was getting away with something. I’d read in front of skyscrapers or eat lunch in a mostly empty diner, savoring the languid pace of the business district at 3 PM. I observed the other men and women who weren’t tied to desks and imagined what adventures they could be off to. (Eric Rohmer dramatized this liminal time beautifully in his Chloe in the Afternoon, as did Jonathan Demme in the opening scenes of Something Wild. I wonder why there aren’t more movies set during this period; it’s such fertile ground for stories.) This was much more satisfying than stepping out at noon or 1 PM. Eating with the mobs during lunch hour didn’t feel like a break so much as an extension of the working day: everyone I saw seemed to eat only so they could return to their jobs.

My lunch breaks probably taught me as much about adult life as any of the clerical jobs I held (which should tell you how difficult these jobs actually were). They taught me the value of stolen time, the moments when you could claim a bit of free-form thought from an otherwise rigidly ordered day.

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