One of the more bemusing conventions of modern society is the tendency to arrange many social engagements around food.
I think I’ve got it figured out (not that it’s that difficult). I mean, we don’t have to see family, friends and co-workers (well, maybe them, but only for a little bit), but we do have to eat. And since we’re going to eat anyway, why not double down and take care of a social connection as well.
We’re setting aside the whole internet/texting avenue of keeping in touch, since that’s just an electronic version of an old-fashioned “How are you doing?” letter. No, we’re talking here about real live (gasp) face-to-face meetings.
At work, you have the “lunch meeting”, a terrible creation designed to steal away a worker’s only free time in the day while inflicting further damage of forcing them to talk (and listen to) business while eating. Talk about ruining an appetite.
For the most part, lunch at work is used to “escape” the responsibilities of the day and find a mental break with some like-minded friends. It works, trust me. Those of you who believe it’s better to eat at your desk to “get ahead” are only cheating yourselves of some badly needed fresh air. Besides, no one ever really “gets ahead”. Nowhere does the phrase “nature abhors a vacuum” fit better than in the uncanny refilling of your inbox.
Another favorite pastime is the family meal. This is the time-honored “we haven’t seen you in a while, would you like to come over/meet us somewhere” for breakfast/lunch/dinner. It’s a good one with family that lives in the general vicinity (say, within about an hour’s drive), since it can be a recurring theme without causing much disruption in anyone’s day.
Then there’s the “catch-up”. This tends to be my most frequent meal arrangement. I try to stay in touch with many past friends and former co-workers, but I’m not particularly fond of phone calls. If I’m going to inflict my personality on someone, I prefer they not have the option of retreat. Although, now I think of it, perhaps that explains why I have such problems getting those lunches scheduled.
Probably the only downside to this common connection is actually deciding on the place to eat. If this isn’t figured out beforehand, befuddlement can ensue. Many has been the time I’m driving (I usually have the biggest car which holds more people) and we arrive at a critical intersection undecided which way to turn (left for Chinese? right for salad? highway for something different?). After that many lunches together, you tend to get a lot of “I’m easy. What do you want to eat?” Rare is the time a lunch location is decided before leaving the parking lot at someone’s home/work/wherever. I guess that just adds to the adventure!
It’s funny that food is used as the source of these get-togethers, since it’s both unseemly and unclear to talk with your mouth stuffed. Nevertheless, this does seem to be the most easily coordinated time to meet and catch-up with people, regardless of the complex math skills required at the end of the meals to figure out who owes what (the even split should work, but everyone has probably had a meal with that certain someone who orders the full rack of ribs to your soup and salad).
I’d like to tell you some funny lunch stories, but this post reminded me I haven’t seen my Dad in a week or so. I should check and see if he’s free for lunch, so we can catch-up.