Thursday, November 16, 2006

Curmudgeon Lunch

Surf City

While waiting out the bad weather here I enjoyed a pseudo Curmudgeon's lunch. I'll explain. During my working career I enjoyed many kinds of lunch breaks.

Many times I had lunch with the boys. That would mean walking to some nearby lunch spot with a few friends. When I worked for GE, we walked up to Maurice's. At PTI we would go to Maurice's, or Morette's, or to the Beef and Brew, or to Lyle's Sandwich Shop. These were very social lunches filled with lots of male-to-male bonding. I can't recall a single time in more than 40 years that we ever invited a female to join us. You could call it sexist. I prefer faithful husband. After all I wasn't supposed to bond with females at work.

In Sudsvik, Sweden, we had a 15 minute walk to the cafeteria and 20 friends would all walk together up to lunch. Along the way we played with a Frisbee that I brought. It was very athletic. I claimed personal responsibility for introducing Frisbees to Sweden.

In Windsor, Combustion Engineering had a great cafeteria and a big pond with a nature trail that went around it. That made for very enjoyable lunches.

Other times we had business lunches. We would take clients out for a little wining and dining. The heavy guns came out when we took customers out to dinner, but so-called power lunches were also common. Our favorite place for this in Schenectady was the Mohawk Club. The Mohawk Club was one of those infamous old men's club. No women were allowed. (Whoops, sexist again.) There was also snob appeal because club memberships were very expensive. GE and PTI paid for memberships for top managers. Those were two martini lunches. The table settings included fat ash trays with a holder for match boxes to light one's cigar after eating. It was fun. Business lunches took at least two hours.

A few times I arranged a private lunch with someone at work to discuss serious business; usually something unpleasant. Those lunches were tense and never worked out very well. I don't know why I thought that it should be easier to say unpleasant things at lunch rather than back at the office.

When working in Sweden, I used to enjoy walking to downtown V�ster�s from Tegn�r, for lunch. It took about 20 minutes to walk downtown, and 20 minutes back, leaving 20 minutes for a little window shopping and a quick bite to eat. It was especially nice in the spring when the weather first turned warm. The Swedes and I all enjoyed basking in the warm sunshine.

If I didn't feel like walking downtown in Sweden, I would just skip lunch and stay at my desk working. I sucked down huge quantities of coffee and cigarettes, and that allowed me to regulate my metabolism. I didn't eat breakfast, nor eat lunch. I would return home from work at 2100, and eat a huge supper. I broke all the nutrition rules but I was healthy and fit and bursting with energy. I dearly wish that I could return to my coffee-cigarette diet.

I also used to enjoy walking lunches with my friend Beverly from PTI. We would walk up the bike path that ran behind Jay Street. The walk took the whole hour and we didn't eat.

Once in a while, we had a going-away luncheon for someone or the annual outing to Jumping Jacks restaurant in Scotia. There I would meet with one to several dozen friends of both genders and enjoy a different kind of social lunch. Those were always fun.

On a very few occasions I would have a one-on-one lunch with a female friend. I met Beverly at the Turf Inn. Beverly again at Central Park in Schenectady. I met Linda for lunch at the Italian-American Club in Guilderland. Tsk tsk, shame on me. I was always conflicted by these meetings. In this modern world, there is nothing noteworthy about having some female friends. But I was raised in a different era and it always felt naughty.

In later years I came to enjoy the lunch hour as a time to relax and depressurize. It may have been as much a product of the stress caused by the relentless go-go pressure of modern American business than my age. Anyhow, I would go out alone, buy a copy of the Wall Street Journal, eat something I like and lounge for a half hour after eating and read the paper. I call that the curmudgeon lunch. It wasn't social, it was private.

If things were going really bad at work, I would take my car at lunch time and find a private place to park and sleep for an hour. That was antisocial and depressing.

Now, in my cruising life, I don't have stress any more. There is nothing to escape from. After a fun morning sailing on the boat, I eat lunch in the cockpit, then have a fun afternoon sailing. I socialize the whole day with Libby and any guests we have onboard. That makes lunch anticlimactic. Nevertheless, I sometimes remember my curmudgeon lunches fondly.

Today, we are stuck at Surf City, waiting for bad weather to pass. (By the way, it was wise to stop. Last night there were five people killed by a tornado near here, and widespread wind and flood damage. We were snug and comfortable tied up here at the marina. The worst weather bypassed Surf City.) I decided to have a pseudo curmudgeon lunch. I say pseudo because the only choices I have for restaurants are a Hardees or a Dairy Queen, both fast food restaurants. Never mind, I bought a Wall Street Journal, and headed for the Hardees restaurant.

The reality of my lunch turned out to be less than ideal. The hamburger and fries were awful. (I had to take Alka Seltzer.) Worse, before settling to read my paper, a thunderstorm came by. The winds whipped up to 55 mph, a flood of water came in to the restaurant blown under the threshold of the door, I had my back to the big picture window and I could hear a report on the radio about tornadoes in the area. Then the power went out. How's that for a leisurely lunch?

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