January 10th, 2012

planet

lunch break book reader stereotyping

I've been having a hell of a time figuring out where to eat my lunch lately.

I'm trying to leave work less, partially because I have no time, partially to avoid burning gas driving out to a restaurant. We have company cafeterias, actually the one in my building now is pretty good, with an acceptable salad bar and different soups on a regular basis.

Most people who eat at the cafeteria get their food to go, in big throw-away styrofoam containers, and eat at their desk. I don't like eating at my desk because I spend enough time there already. Plus, with my computer there, it's harder to get any reading done because I'm distracted and figure I can check email *really quick* but then I'm sucked in and there goes my break.

If you eat at the tables in the cafeteria, you get glass plates and metal eating utensils and all those classy things. And most days, I can sit at a table by myself and read and have a lovely time.

Sometimes someone recognizes me and sits by me and we eat together. 1/3 of the time I really appreciate this. 1/3 of the time I'm okay with it. 1/3 of the time I REALLY want to read and am in no mood to talk, but I feel rude saying so, I'm just secretly angry for the rest of lunch. I've tried going later to the cafeteria to avoid this, but the salad bar gets a little bleak towards the end.

Then there's this issue, where the other day a girl I work with saw me and said, "Oh spacefem, you look so lonely! Like no one wanted to eat with you so you're just here with your book, that's so sad!"

I stammered a little and replied, "No it's okay, I just... don't get much time to read, I really enjoy this!"

Then she says, "Oh I love to read too, I can totally understand that. Well, I'm going to go eat [alone] at my desk! Bye!" and off she went with her styrofoam container. How is it that I look sad in the cafeteria, but it's socially acceptable to be alone if you leave? Double standard crap there I say.

There was an article that made slashdot a few months back: Joel on Software: Lunch. This guy requires that his employees all eat lunch together at a big table so they can relax and socialize. He says it's critical for team-building, and he specifically says that people who read books at lunch are just "trying not to look sad".

I shouldn't care what other people think, but obviously my book-reading is going to make people think I'm sad. And that's really crap. I agree with Joel that when coworkers never eat together, it's a sign that something is missing. But I disagree that it has to happen every day, and that books are a sign of pending depression.

I just want to get some reading done without killing the environment with to-go orders, or feeling like I have to hide away. It's apparently way too much to ask!