Lunch Post #6

​It was raining, but I ate my lunch outside anyway. Taking advantage of having the grounds of the Rehabilitation ​building to myself, I found a short tree with branches that reached low under which I sat cross-legged. My noon hour respite isn’t long. It isn’t even an hour. I horde every second of personal time I can. The public demands enough of my attention. It is allowed, I am being paid for my efforts and focus.  I refuse to work for free. These thirty minutes every day belong to me.

The mosquitoes tickled my arms and teased my fingers as I turned the pages of my book. A flick of a thumb or a jut of an elbow is enough to frighten them off. I don’t mind their presence. Insects mean summer. Summer means outdoors and soft grass brushing my ankles.

A break feels so much more like a break when it is enjoyed in daylight. Winter would be so much more bearable if there was a way I could be warm enough in the elements. If I have to hunch over my paperback in a crowded cafe or on a seat in the lobby next to a stranger on a cell phone, I may as well stay at my desk. There is no escape in winter. And in the middle of a week day, escape is all that satisfies my appetite.

Lunch Post #5: The Grocery Store

In an effort to practice writing for writing’s sake, I am trying something a little new. The Daily Post has issued an intriguing challenge that I must accept. We shall see where it takes me.

When I stop in at the grocery store across from my office it is a half-entertaining, half-frustrating experience. There are no aisles in the traditional sense. The shelves are all arranged at strange angles, running perpendicular to each other and the walls. There are no signs to orient me and nothing is where I expect. The cheese and yogurt are off in a foreign land, next to the tiny unit housing mismatched bottles of shampoo. It once took me twenty minutes to find dish soap. I found it in the snack food section, beside the granola bars.

 

It is also the only grocery store I have ever seen that features a full-service bar. That’s right. In between scavengers hunts for frozen vegetables and bagels, I can take a break with a glass of wine. It is all very odd.
 

The other customers are also diverting. Because the store sits on a university campus and across from a hospital, I have observed timid exchange students struggling to read English labels while a young jock assists an elderly patient with her hand cart. It is a place where I can lose my faith in humanity in one moment and then gain it back in another.

 

I once made the mistake of hauling more than eight items to the till. It was my first visit to the store and I didn’t know any better. You see, there is no conveyor belt to make scanning easier. There is just a short counter on which customers must heap all of their items and hand them to the cashier one by one. The lack of wheeled grocery carts should have tipped me off. No one goes to this store to do any heavy shopping. Every check-out is an express check-out, unless you are willing to put up with the glares from fellow customers. When I realized my mistake, after my bag of apples had tumbled to the floor, it was too late to return the items to the shelf. I was the awkward girl in junior high all over again, the loser who doesn’t know how things are done. I couldn’t return to the store for a week out of shame.

 

Now that I think about it, the bar makes perfect sense.

 

Lunch Post #4: A Moral Dilemma

In an effort to practice writing for writing’s sake, I am trying something a little new. The Daily Post has issued an intriguing challenge that I must accept. We shall see where it takes me.

 

The worst part about sitting at the bar is the constant feeling of being in the way. When seated, I am incapable of pushing in the stool and am all too conscious of my body jutting out. In order to pass behind me, a fellow diner must excuse themselves to side-step between my back and the back of another person in a proper chair. At least this other can draw themselves in. I am forced into a clumsy shuffle, inching my stool forward leg by leg and moving maybe half a centimetre.

 

I could stand, of course, and push the tall chair in. But that seems even more awkward. I picture myself this way, still chewing on my turkey and avocado sandwich, blouse disheveled, hair flying in a static mess, leaping into an upright position and dropping my book on the floor and the mental image is enough to make me cringe.

 

It is far nicer to sit at a table or a booth. There is room for all my things and if I sit with my back to the wall I never have to worry about acknowledging strangers. Yet, as I am almost always alone, this seems an even worse breach of etiquette. How rude of me to take up so much space during a busy lunch hour. The dirty looks and annoyed comments – which exist only in my mind – are enough to cause distress.

 

And so I remain at the uncomfortable bar on the awkward stool, hoping no one will need to get by before I leave.

Lunch Post #3: Wednesday

In an effort to practice writing for writing’s sake, I am trying something a little new. The Daily Post has issued an intriguing challenge that I must accept. We shall see where it takes me.

Nobody Cares What You Had For Lunch is a book by one of my blogging heroes, Margaret Mason. Candid, playful, and inventive, the book offers 100 different ideas to inspire the most unmotivated online writer. It has been a long time since I picked it up but the title remains in my mind, a permanent admonition.

I have taken this advice to heart and avoid sharing anything related to my mid-day menu, but I can’t help but think there are exceptions to this rule. What if I was a food blogger? Certainly my lunch would be an appropriate subject then. Or what if I was a world traveler? Others may enjoy reading the variety of cultural snacks I munch on throughout my journey. Or what if, and this may be more relevant, as an animal lover I decide to change my food lifestyle? A post about my new eating habits may interest others contemplating similar choices.

As someone who likes to follow the rules, I find it disconcerting that there are so many diversions from the line. Without tenets to which we all must adhere, what is to stop anyone from writing whatever they want? Why have regimented grammar, even, or spelling? Who is to say that one exception is more acceptable than another?

And that is the crux of it all.

In my first step toward anarchy, I have but this to add. Today for lunch I am having re-heated pizza. Re-heated frozen pizza while I read On Writing Well by William Zinsser. One of these things is better than the other. I will leave you to guess.

Lunch Post #2: An Ode to Public Transit

In an effort to practice writing for writing’s sake, I am trying something a little new. The Daily Post has issued an intriguing challenge that I must accept. We shall see where it takes me.

Many people I know disparage public transit. They say it is dirty and inconvenient. Unhealthy people clog up buses and trains, they believe. It is unsafe.

Riding the bus is my favourite part of a weekday morning. It is my chance to be quiet – to be alone. In a crowd it is easier to disappear. Bending over my book, I am one of numerous strangers. No one knows my name or where I am headed. Even better, no one cares.

While my brain soaks in the words on the page, smatterings of conversation skip about me and are impossible to ignore. A young student bemoans an essay; another woman makes sarcastic jokes about a former boss. Much of what I hear against my will is simple background. It is forgotten the moment my foot meets pavement. The bus, however, can also be a source of profundity. The distraction from my reading is not always unwelcome.

I will never forget the booming Russian, singing folk songs during – another – train breakdown on a bitter night. Or the unknown child who climbed into the seat next to me and read aloud from her picture book. Or the woman who stepped on the bus and declared how silly all the passengers looked with their eyes stuck to their phones. I remember looking up, feeling guilty, and then returning to the screen.

The bus may be cold and never on time. It may be smelly and dark and my skin may crawl as I attempt to avoid unwanted attention. Public transit is not the easiest way to get around the city, I am the first to agree. But it is an in-between time, a buffer between my life and my work. The shorter my commute, the more precious it becomes.

Lunch Post #1: Purple Scholars

In an effort to practice writing for writing’s sake, I am trying something a little new. The Daily Post has issued an intriguing challenge that I must accept. We shall see where it takes me.

My stomach rumbles but there are twenty-one minutes left.
Emails, EMS, papers, and proposals, neck pain, naughtiness,
Is it time to go yet?

A bag of potatoes in Nunavut costs more than ten.
The microwave siren is the grater blaring in the darkness.
These scholars, they should be fun.

There is too much illness for such a wee little worker group.
Post-its are accessories, in all decor I prefer purple.
I  can taste mushroom soup.