Tag Archives: lunch

You know what sucks? The lunch rush

I hate waiting tables during lunch. It brings out the worst in me, in the guests, in my coworkers. It brings out the worst in all of us, really, as a species. And I’m not just talking about my restaurant, I’m talking about the lunch hour, as a practice. If you’re lucky enough to be able to take a lunch break at all, it’s generally never more than an hour. Come spend eight hours a day working for us, and by the way, that doesn’t include a lunch break, that’s on you. And don’t take more than an hour.


As a waiter, dinner’s pretty easy. People start rolling in around five or six, and the dining room stays pretty full until closing. That’s plenty of time to make money, to let people eat, finish chewing their food, the whole restaurant experience. But lunchtime, nobody’s cutting anybody any slack. We’ve got to do the whole restaurant thing, but it’s got to be over in an hour. Everybody got it? Hostesses, you ready to seat all of these people? Cooks? You guys all set?

Because it’s noon and there’s already a line out the door. And parties of business people get sat and they want their Diet Cokes and unsweetened ice teas immediately. And you know what? We’ll just give you everything right now, we’re ready, burger, boom, salad, got it, let’s go, get it in, if we get our food quick enough, maybe we’ll have ten minutes or so to spend outside before filing back into the offices, another five or six or seven hours of sitting down, pouring whatever reserves of energy we have left out to our jobs, so even though, yeah, I guess we could technically go out for a walk at nine, or ten, we’ve got to eat, and we’re so tired, it’s been such a long day.

So yeah, that lunch hour, that’s a lot of pressure, sixty minutes to try and feel like a normal person sandwiched by two stretches of productivity. Why can’t we figure something else out? Wouldn’t two hours be cool? Or three? Sure, that might eat up into a company’s bottom line, and yeah, what would the shareholders say? But then again, might not a shorter workday lead to less stressed out employees? Shouldn’t that be a goal?

But that’s not the way we do business, and so we’re stuck with the lunch hour, way too little time for everybody, especially if you want to sit down at a restaurant and enjoy an actual meal. “Hi, we’re actually in a little bit of a hurry …” Of course you’re in a hurry. Everybody’s in a hurry. I’m actually in a hurry too. I only have about two hours or so to make money today, so I’d like to get you fed and out of here in as little time as possible. And look at that, everyone else is saying the same thing to their server, that they’re in a hurry. And the whole restaurant staff, we’re all racing to the computers, trying to get your lunch in before everyone else gets their lunch in, before the window gets immediately overrun by orders. The first few plates are out in eight to minutes, but after that, well, even if nobody on the line makes any mistakes, we’re talking sheer volume, OK, you can only cook a hamburger so fast, and you can only fit so many burgers on the grill.

Even worse though, every now and then I’ll approach a table just as the lunch rush really gets rocking, and the businessmen and women at my table dismiss me with a wave of the hand, “Actually, we haven’t even looked at the menu. Why don’t you come back in ten minutes?” And that’s when I have to get a little aggressive, which I don’t like, but I mean, I need to eat, OK, I need money in my pocket. I’m not going to waste my entire lunch shift waiting for you guys to get your act together.

It’s like seriously, OK, order, eat, pay, and leave. Do you see the line out the door? And I get it, OK, it’s not cool to feel rushed. But that’s because there’s nothing cool about the lunch hour. Everybody’s feeling rushed. Do you see that swarm of bodies jockeying for position around the hostess’s podium? Yeah, they’re all waiting for your table. And so when I come over and start bussing everything off, your empty coffee cups, your empty water glasses, yes, I can see you rolling your eyes at me as I wipe down the table for the third time, like I get it, that I know that you know that I’m trying to get you to leave, and it’s not just me, OK, my manager’s like, “Hey Rob, how’s table eleven? Did they leave yet?” and I’m like, “No, I just wiped down the table again and they still didn’t leave,” and she’s like, “OK well, go wipe it down again,” and I’m like, “For real? Again? I just did it.”

And so I have to go over, again, and I have to wipe the table down, again, and they’re all visibly annoyed by my presence, and maybe one of them starts to take out some business documents, like a bunch of printed out spreadsheets. And I just want to be like, come on everybody, I don’t barge into your office and start asking people if they want more Diet Coke, OK, wouldn’t that get in your way? Wouldn’t that disrupt the flow of you trying to do your job, to make money? Yeah, so don’t sit here and bring your business to my table. I need customers to sit here and buy food and tip me so I can go home and go out to eat and buy food and tip people.

What really gets me is that a lot of the most guilty offenders, the parties that just don’t care at all, it’s these businessmen working at banks and hedge funds, paying for their lunches on identical corporate credit cards, all of them with ridiculous names like, “Hyperion Capital,” or “Acceleron Associates.” You guys understand business, right? Don’t you get the whole supply and demand aspect of this restaurant? Your table is in demand. I’m trying to get you to leave so I can supply it to a new round of customers.

And now I’m in full rant mode, but this is the invisible hand of the market at work. OK, this is what you want in your job, right, you want the government to leave you alone so you can make your money and do whatever you want, right? And then you go out to lunch and you get annoyed that there’s a whole restaurant full of people trying to get by on gratuity. That’s how it works. More customers, more gratuity, more money. You need to leave. Just eat, pay, leave, and make room for somebody else. Because this is big city, OK, there are like seven billion people on this planet, all right? You’ve got to make room for everyone. There’s a whole lot of people trying to eat lunch.

Originally published at Thought Catalog

Eat fresh, baby

Sometimes I have no idea what I’m going to eat. I like to cook for myself, and ideally, I’d be preparing all of my meals in the house. But I go through these spells, they can last for days or even weeks at a time, where any motivation I have to plan ahead and go to the grocery store just evaporates. I wind up jumping from meal to meal, forever stuck in the moment, nothing in the house to satiate my unstoppable hunger, no choice but to go out and buy something fast, something quick.


I had Subway for lunch. It’s fine. I like Subway. But it’s just like, I don’t know, I go to Subway, I stand in line and wait for them to make my sandwich. There’s nothing about the process of getting a sandwich at Subway that really speaks to me anymore. That same feeling I get when I open up the refrigerator and see that there’s nothing inside is almost identical to what I experience as I wait on line for the Subway people to make my sandwich.

The Subway people at the Subway by my house are all foreigners, and whenever I go there, I can’t shake the feeling that they’re all kind of judging me, all of us, anybody who goes to Subway to eat Subway. I imagine them going home and saying stuff like, “These Americans, these idiots, lining up every day to eat this … this stuff … this whatever it is,” having a good laugh at the idea of selling us these five dollar foot longs.

I only say this because one time I was waiting on line for a sandwich and I saw one of the employees run outside. He came back later with a bunch of takeout from an ethnic restaurant. They work in a Subway, and they don’t eat Subway? I thought, man, that food looks good, much better than this sandwich that I was about to eat. But I was already invested in this line. It took me quite a while to make that conscious decision, to get out of the house, to make that walk down the block. Changing plans now that I was already this deep, well, it just wasn’t going to happen. I had to be content with the knowledge that these Subway employees might at least get some pleasure out of their food. I wonder if they ever eat Subway, or is just strictly business for them, a vehicle to make money and nothing else.

When I went to Subway today, there was a guy my age behind the counter. He was clearly new, because every time he tried to do something, he did it really cautiously. Like he carefully chose his words, asked people the same question multiple times. Every time he started an action, the manager would yell at him in a different language and take over, telling him to start doing something else. He’d start doing another task, and the process would repeat itself as he was continuously chased from job to job.

It was beyond uncomfortable, the way the boss didn’t really have any sort of awareness of how loud she was barking at this poor guy. She had originally started to make my sandwich when she caught him improperly placing the toppings on a sandwich further down the line. She relieved him of duty and sent him to finish setting up my order.

He kind of just looked at me, wide eyed, totally confused, “Uh … did you want this toasted?” And he made it halfway through spreading the tuna before the manager swooped back in to show him the correct way to put out individual slices of cheese.

As a different employee rung me up and swiped my credit card, I heard more screaming behind me, followed by an, “I’m sorry he’s so slow!” to a customer to my left. This guy was beyond patient, “No, it’s OK, everybody’s got to learn, right? I was the same way on my first day, very careful, making sure everything was perfect.”

And the manager just kind of glared, almost visibly insulted that the customer hadn’t sided with her, shared the contempt for this employee that couldn’t work fast enough. I could picture her thinking to herself, “Oh yeah? You think that makes it OK? It’s not OK. That guy’s not your boss. I’m your boss.”

I got home, the sandwich, whatever, it’s a Subway sandwich. I almost wished that I could just teleport it directly inside my stomach, to save me the ten minutes or so I’d actually have to spend chewing, swallowing. All of that yelling before, all for a sandwich, something way too basic to get so bent out of shape over.

I know this is boring

I think I’m out of ideas. Yup. The best is behind me, everything that needs to be said, well, I’ve already said it, and that’s on top of all of the other stuff that totally didn’t need to be said, of which I’ve already said a lot. But that was that, said, done. All that’s left is to keep on going, saying anything, keep on keeping on as if I’ve got something, when really, nothing.


Like, what can I talk about, lunch? I had McDonald’s. I think I’ve already talked way too much about McDonald’s. So, yeah, I’m also drinking a cup of coffee. Nothing like a cup of hot coffee. Look, I know this is boring, and I could apologize, but what good would that do? I’ve said sorry before, it hasn’t changed anything, or added anything relevant to the discussion.

Nothing left to do but talk about how I have to go to work in a little while. Does anybody else have to work? Or is it just me? Me and all of the people that I work with. Is that it? That’s not much of a workforce. Maybe we’d make a good pro football team. Not in terms of skill or anything like that, but just getting a whole team fielded, and then backups ready. Or soccer I guess, yeah, there are a lot of people on a soccer team. But nobody ever wants to be goalie, and for some reason I find it so much more rewarding imagining all of the people I work with every day lining up to protect me from the onslaught of opposing linemen.

Because I’m definitely the quarterback in that fantasy. Whether or not my coworkers would agree with me, well, I guess they’re entitled to their own fantasies also. And since this is my fantasy, I don’t know why I’m settling for football, I can barely even throw a football. I mean, I can get it from point A to point B, or somewhere in the general vicinity of point B, but it’s never a nice throw, I’d say maybe one out of thirty times it’ll come close to that perfect spiral, the kind of smooth torpedo that everybody else in the world somehow seems to accomplish almost effortlessly. But mine are all topsy-turvy.

And that’s not even a real regulation sized football. I always thought the footballs in my parents’ garage were like pro footballs, but one time I came across an NFL sized football at the Sports Authority, and I could barely hold it with one hand. And I have giant hands. No, no more football fantasies. From here on out, I mean, I’ve got nothing to say anyway, so it’s right back to sci-fi fantasies, it’s me, I’m the captain of a gigantic spaceship, and all of those same coworkers that were defending me on the field before, this time they’re manning Ops, rushing toward battle stations or preparing the torpedoes for launch. “Ay-ay captain!” they’ll respond, sometimes just at random, like they won’t even have to necessarily wait for an order to say, “Ay-ay captain!” that’ll be something that’s encouraged on my ship, just say it whenever you feel like it.

Even my boss. Especially my boss. Maybe he’s cut out to be the boss at work, but on my ship, I’m the boss. And I’d call him boss still, but as a really ironic nickname, like, “Hey boss, remember when we were all back on Earth? How you used to be in charge? Haha. Go make sure there isn’t any space mold in between the engineering conduits.”

Or, I don’t know, that’s a lot of responsibility, managing that big of a crew. And in space. Maybe I’d prefer one of those really small boats, not tiny, but just big enough for one cabin inside, something quaint. I’d have cable still, but no Internet. Just me, the eternal ocean, and the incessant chatter of all of the twenty-four hour news channels. All of them, right-wing, left-wing, British, whatever, I’d watch a different channel every day and I’d try my best to completely alter my opinions accordingly, like not just an act, I’d see if I could really get myself to believe in whatever they were saying. I’d have plenty of time, and nobody to talk me out of it.

But then what if one of the channels started running specials, “This just in. Never, ever, ever watch another cable news channel, ever again, only us,” and even though I do my best to believe, sometimes it happens, sometimes it doesn’t, but for whatever reason on this day I really nail it, I so thoroughly absorb that message, I’m like, yes, just this channel forever.

But wasn’t I on a ship? I don’t know. Maybe the cable is too much. And maybe it’s a submarine. Although, I’m kind of tall, so I’d need one where I’m not constantly ducking underneath all sorts of low hanging pipes. And yeah I guess you need a pretty big crew for a submarine. Maybe I could just be like a consultant, or a VIP guest, nobody could boss me around, but I wouldn’t have to worry about management. And again, lots of headroom. I’ve banged my head on pipes before, and it sucks, it really, really hurts.

Business lunch

Hey Johnson, where are you headed, out to lunch? Not so fast partner. March on over to Conference Room B. Lunch is on me. It’s on the company. It’s a business lunch. It’s Thai food.

What’s that, a magazine? Just leave it at the desk. We’re not going to have any time for any leisure reading. But where are your spreadsheets? Better head back to the office and pick up those spreadsheets. Go ahead and print out a few more, a few extra spreadsheets for everybody. I told everybody else to do the same, lots of extra copies. You don’t have a pen? Don’t worry I brought a pen.

You’re hungry, right? Yeah, I actually ordered the food a little late, but that’s OK, it’ll be here soon. In the meantime, let’s get started with the business part of this business lunch. Now? You need to make a phone call right now? It’s a business call, right? A personal call? But this is a business lunch. Look, I’m not one to tell everybody what to do on their own time, but, well, how do you think this looks? To the company? To the clients? Would you hire a consulting firm if you knew that those consultants were working on your project while juggling personal telephone calls?

Well if it’s not important I don’t know why you brought it up. I don’t know why you brought your personal telephone to this obviously business oriented lunch. Why do you think the firm gave you a special business only cell phone? That’s right. Business phone. I’m no tyrant, I didn’t say no phones at lunch. I was just saying only business phones at business lunches. And look, the food isn’t even here yet. Lunch doesn’t get more business that that.

Food’s here? Well send it in. Thanks, just drop it off on Conference Table Annex C. No that’s Conference Table Annex F. That one, over there in the corner. I don’t understand the problem, they’re all clearly labeled. To the left. That’s it, thanks a lot Paco. Paco? Carlos, right I forgot, sorry. Thanks a lot Carlos. You see guys? Carlos is working. I’m sure he’d like to be eating lunch. He’s probably eating something in between deliveries. Maybe some flautas. I’ve never tried flautas, but I’ve heard they’re delicious. Stephens, you ever eat a flauta? Why’s Carlos still standing here? Thanks Carlos! You keep working! You’re doing great!

Classic Carlos. Not just yet, we’re right in the middle of business. It’ll stay warm. Do you know how hot that stuff is? They make it really, really, really hot, because they know it’s got to be delivered, and they know we’re a business, that we’re going to let it sit around for a little bit. You can’t just dive right in. Did you bring those spreadsheets?

What? I don’t know, regular Thai food. What do you call that stuff, pad Thai? Right? Those noodles? What else, I don’t know, some chicken? I didn’t order. Well, just take the meat out. What is it an ethical or a dietary issue? Well I didn’t … come on, a free lunch is a free lunch. Hey Morris, hit the lights and let’s get these Powerpoints rolling. Well where’s the clicker? Jesus Morris, who normally sets these things up? You can’t just pull the screen down? I don’t see why a screen needs its own motor.

Hold on let me get the IT guy up here, what’s that guy’s name, Manuel, right? Manny! Glad I got you. You’re not out to lunch are you? Well, how far away? Can you get back here? Yeah we’re right in the middle of a business lunch and, unfortunately … yeah the screen. No we can’t find the clicker. Can you just get up here? I am looking, I don’t see it. I can’t find it. Just … OK, thanks Manny! You’re the greatest.

Classic Manny. You ever notice how certain people always place a little too much emphasis on lunch breaks? You know it’s … never mind. It’s just that, well boys, you don’t make money eating lunch. You make money eating business. Not eating. Making. Making business. Doing business. Is Manny here yet? All right boys, might as well get back to work. No sense loafing around Conference Room B if nobody knows how to use it. We’ll just come back when Manny comes around. It’ll still be here. Thai food’s even better cold, or room temperature. It’s true, you know I think that’s how all the Thai people prefer to eat their food.

No you can’t go out. Because we’re at work. What about a lunch break? We’ve already wasted too much time today sitting around this table not getting any work done. Actually, we’ve still got a lot of ground to cover. Better call up the wives and tell them it’s going to be a late day. Right, right, sorry, wives and boyfriends. Right, right, I forgot, and husbands, OK, chill out, husbands and boyfriends and life partners. Well what do you want me to call them? Don’t worry I’ll call a car service. I don’t know how late. Don’t worry, I’ll order some dinner, on the company. It’s fine. Just grab an apple from the office kitchen. No apples? I thought I told Juanita to keep that office kitchen stocked. Classic Juanita. Marge? Her name is Marge. Huh. I just thought … you know, with the black hair and everything. She never really says much. Classic Marge. All right boys, back to work, let’s move.