I miss lunches

Time to read: 4 minutes

Of all the things that the lockdown has robbed me of, I believe that lunches are the one I miss the most.

Going out to get lunch with colleagues was not easy. My colleagues are 85% men, and tend to power-walk everywhere. I am shorter than them, so I never wore heels because heels make me walk more slowly, and yet I still never managed to keep up with them. It was just like primary school, where you have to find a buddy to hold hands with and get back into class… and nobody will take your hand so most days you walk in with the teacher instead.
Sometimes I had a nice colleague who matched my pace, and we’d chat on the way to lunch and back. That was awesome.

I miss lunches.

Sometimes, I could catch them before they had run out to fetch whatever boring sandwich they were going to call lunch that day, and before they had munched it into keyboard-stuffing. And we would walk out to somewhere nicer than cheap-sandwich-shop. If the weather was acceptable and the place we went to had outdoor seats, I would encourage them to sit there. Take a real break. Talk.
Mostly, I listened. They ranted. Shared their thoughts and challenges. It is a known human hack that when you share something about yourself with another person you end up liking that other person. We bonded, a little.

I miss lunches.

Sometimes, we would walk to a nearby Itsu (takeaway Japanese) or something, and it was busy, and rainy, and crowded… so we went back to the office. And again I would encourage anyone who would listen to come to an area with a big table so we could all sit together and have lunch. And by lunch I mean a chat while we eat, mediterranean-style… though we’d spend less time on it. It was wonderful. It was rare.

I miss lunches.

My last lunch with colleagues was on Friday 6th March 2020, in a dark basement room in our offices, while undergoing communications training. The training was nice enough. The lunch was … something green in bowls. I remember worrying about being hungry later and whether I’d manage to see any daylight that day. The previous lunch had been the day before, in our Paris office. Probably involved a proper three-course meal, and some baguette. The Paris office has an amazing canteen! The seating is like in schools though: banqueting tables. The cacophony is unbelievable, 70% of the space has no natural light, and I don’t know that many people so I am always looking for table end in which to sit alone and read. Just like in school. But the food is good. Until a year ago, I would sometimes I go with a colleague and have a chat. It can be nice.

I miss lunches.

Now my lunches are a stressful affair. Trying to fit them into the working day, when I can barely cook, and I have to find energy and time to remember to order the ingredients, prepare the meal, cook it, eat it, and wash up by hand. While all of this running perfectly to time, despite accidents or doorbells, so I can be in front of yet another camera for yet another call at 14:00 sharp. Or 13:30. Or running a workshop. Who knows… It’s stressful. And eating while anxious is bad for you.

I miss lunches.

There are no lessons here. Just a simple fact. I miss sharing meals with humans. I’ve managed to share coffees and pastries while walking with two friends this past year. And some meals with my ex. Yes, that’s complicated. Today is the one-year anniversary of when he moved out of our flat. Neither of us had any time or opportunity to make new friends between his moving out and lockdown, and we have remained friends, so we’ve been each other’s human contact in a time of extreme isolation.
Three people. I have shared food and beverages with three people in the past year. Four, if you count a friend who joined me in Greece in August for ten days. That was bliss!! Took me a whole week to unknot a little and start to breathe. I wish I could teleport there, and spend a day looking at the sea, reading, having coffee with ham & cheese toasties, and walking along the water’s edge. And sharing a lunch of octopus and greek salad with my friend.

I miss lunches.

Today, my lunch is likely to be a Pasta Evangelists portion that I will cook from frozen. I hope to get the timings just right, because of course my first call is at 14:00 and it might be non-stop from there for five hours.

I miss lunches.

I miss sharing food and conversation with humans, in that unique omnidirectional way where body language counts, and it doesn’t feel weird to be eating while talking to another human. Because it feels extremely weird on zoom! I guess we don’t see much of it on tv, so we feel it is odd to do when we are on a screen.

I miss lunches.

When lockdown lifts, the first thing I am going to organise is an outdoor lunch, perhaps a picnic, or a dinner in a place with outdoor seating, with a few people. Maybe friends. Maybe colleagues. I don’t know. I don’t care. There will be humans. We will keep a distance. Maybe even bring our own food if we have to. But we will eat and drink and talk together, and it will be grand.

Who wants to come?