Eating In Peace
Posted by Jamie C. Baker
My desk is one of the first you’ll see if you step into my office. I sit to the left of the door, just outside of my boss’s office. Directly in front of the office door is the call center’s cubicles and to the right is Tubberpottimus. Generally, about a third of the people who wander into this office unsure of where they are heading will stop off at my desk and ask for my help. Sometimes “asking” translates to mean they will come in and stare at the back of my head, trying to use their gaze to get me to turn around, but in general, they have enough common sense to speak up. It’s part of my job to ensure people aren’t lost, at least for the majority of my day. While I’m eating lunch however, I want nothing more than to be invisible.
Today was one of the worst lunch breaks I’ve had in a while. My mother in law came to visit me to show off Easter photos of her granddaughter. Not a big deal; this woman is a freaking saint, so I let my salad sit for a few moments while she beamed in the way only a proud grandmother can. I started to get a little antsy though when people began coming over to us and engaging her in conversation as I’m cutting through my lettuce and trying to cover everything with dressing. Finally the conversations end and I bid my mom in law farewell so I can dig into my lunch.
Alas, my salad will have to wait a little while longer. Two soldiers, accompanying a visiting (and high-ranking) soldier, have decided to begin a heated discussion at my desk. The senior enlisted soldier puts his things down on my desk (it’s U-shaped and people sometimes think the part to my back is a free for all area) and starts loudly talking to the other two. I have a mirror near my desk that allows me to see people coming into the office and I can clearly see that one soldier is eyeballing me as I try to eat. I’m weird about people watching me eat, so I put my fork down and sadly wait for the conversation to end while taking time to glare at the mirror every few seconds to make my discomfort obvious. Finally, they depart.
I sigh and dig into my salad. Two minutes pass, maybe three, with me blissfully left in peace to eat and read articles on Cracked.com. I’m halfway through an article when a female decides to park herself near my desk and stare at me. I ask if she needs something and she shakes her head. She stands there and stares at me and my food as if I have a plate of earthworms and I’m eating them with my toes. Feeling weirded out, I again abandon my fork and get to work on a spreadsheet that I have no interest in. Finally, she tires of gazing at my profile and takes off.
Wondering what the heck her issue was, I get back to eating. I open up my crackers and notice a lot of movement to my right. I turn to see a coworker juggling soda bottles and trying to be amusing. He departs and is replaced by a janitor asking if I need my area dusted. I decline, not wanting dust in my salad. I then get asked if I have a lighter. I’ve worked here for almost two years and it’s common knowledge that I don’t smoke, so I’m not sure what that was about, but this person was insistent I could locate a freaking lighter. My croutons are getting soggy at this point, but after about three more odd interruptions that have nothing to do with work, I’m able to finish my lunch.
Part of this is my fault for being uncomfortable when people watch me eat and for eating lunch at my desk. That being said, I believe there is an unspoken rule that states that if a person is eating lunch at their desk (not a snack, but a legitimate lunch) during the regular lunch hour, coworkers should assume that person is on break and give them space and leave them alone. I’ve unintentionally interrupted people during their lunch and as soon as I see that they’re eating, I say “Sorry, didn’t realize you were on break, I’ll come back later.” 9 times out of 10, I get a smile and a thank you, with the minority willingly setting aside their meal to assist me on the spot. This leads me to believe that most people are like me: when they are on lunch break, they want an actual break. Exceptions being critical tasks of course; I’m happy to stop for a moment and lend a hand if it’s a critical issue.
The lack of proper manners is what really gets to me though, as I understand that sometimes work can’t wait. Most of the lunchtime interruptions I experience have zero to do with work, like today. It’s rude to have a loud conversation right in front of someone’s desk. It’s rude to stare. It’s rude to throw your belongings on someone else’s desk without even asking permission or apologizing for the intrusion. It’s even ruder to do those things when someone is attempting to enjoy their lunch break. I get that my desk doesn’t become a 5 star restaurant when I pull out a Lunchable, but I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect people to act with a bit of tact and try to respect the personal boundaries of other people. If your issue isn’t critical to your job and needing to be addressed immediately, kindly piss off and let me eat.