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Charlie Hatton
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Howdy, friendly reading person!
I'm on a bit of a hiatus right now, but only to work on other projects -- one incredibly exciting example being the newly-released kids' science book series Things That Make You Go Yuck!
If you're a science and/or silliness fan, give it a gander! See you soon!

A Caf’ a Minute

Fate has once again thrust me into an uncomfortable situation.

(You see that? It’s not me. It’s fate. I’m just an innocent pawn in the constant tomfoolery.

Well, okay. Maybe a bishop. Or one of those little horseys that can’t walk in a straight line. But fate’s running the show. That’s all I’m saying.)

This particular nightmare took a while to develop. Years, frankly. Fate must have an awful lot of free time on nights and weekends to be planning out a screw job this long. I think fate needs to find a hobby, frankly. Fate could knit sock monkeys or something. We’d both be happier.

I digress.

The issue at hand concerns food. Specifically, the shoveling of said food into me while at work. For years, I’ve had a pretty singular strategy for how to deal with eating at the office:

Find greasy joint of dubious nutritional benefit. Order same lunch every day. Eat lunch. Digest. Rinse. Repeat.

“What’s a cafeteria, anyway? All burnt meat and Jell-o and over-sogged tater tots.”

That’s just how it works for me, at least for the past decade or so. As my job has moved me to different locations, I’ve been a ‘lunch regular’ at a sandwich shop, then almost-but-not-quite a Subway, then a lunch truck and for the past couple of years a food court burrito casa. I find a place, zero in on an order, and in a few weeks, voila — it’s a Thing™, and getting lunch is a breeze. They make it while I’m still standing in line, it costs the same every day, and I’m in and out like a flash — which leaves more time in the lunch hour for sobbing quietly under my desk and ruing the day my resume was born.

So everybody wins. And all the gnashing of teeth is good for digestive health, I hear. Or I made it up. Whatever.

Anyway, that’s my M.O. and I’ve been sticking to it for ten years or more. Find the lunch. Eat the lunch. Be the lunch. It’s tasty, quick, predictable and one less decision that I have to futz with in the middle of a workday. I don’t eat breakfast, and I can have any exotic old delicacy I like for dinner. But food at work is like married-people sex: get it over with, be efficient, clean up your mess, check your teeth and get back to whatever it was you were doing.

(Oh, you think it’s an imperfect analogy. But I’ve done both during a staff meeting, and they’re actually pretty comparable. If one didn’t come wrapped in foil with a side of guacamole, I don’t know if I could tell them apart.

You could do worse for an analogy. Trust me.)

This is where fate stepped slowly in to throw a beer-battered onion wrench in my plans. First, I made my latest move at work — out of the building closest to the food court, and next door to another building in the complex. No big deal — those extra steps were just another chunk of carne asada calories worked off on the way to lunch and back.

But then, a few months ago, fate lowered the boom, and opened a brand spanking new cafeteria between the buildings, right on my way to work. And to the food court. And back from the food court. And to meetings in my old building, and on the way back. And, if I wander slightly, on the way to the bathroom.

I still have my ‘lunch buddies’ in the food court. The bond of being a ‘regular’ at a kiosk burrito shack is not broken so lightly.

(Or ever, possibly. I’ve considered that to eat a different weekday lunch in the foreseeable future, I’ll either have to move completely out of the Boston area, or suffer some injury that entails being fed through a tube. Those may be the only options left.

I’m leaning toward the tube. Moving is hard.)

But now the caf’ is there. All the time. Mid-morning. Tea time. When that ‘two-thirty feeling’ starts kicking in at eleven fifteen or so.

I fought it at first. I resisted the lure of the shiny new cafetorium for weeks. What’s a cafeteria, anyway? All burnt meat and Jell-o and over-sogged tater tots.

(See? Aren’t you glad now I already used up the ‘married sex’ analogy?

I told you it could be worse.)

But one day, I needed a Pepsi. All I wanted was a Pepsi. Just a Pepsi! And the place in the food court where I often get them was waaaaay over past the other building.

So gingerly, tentatively I peered around the corner into the cafeteria. I walked past the salad bar — ooh, fresh asparagus. I ignored the snack fridge — but whoa, they have hard-boiled eggs? I made a determined beeline — hey, look, wood-fired pizza — for the soda case — man, that’s a lot of granola bars — to pick up the one thing — that pasta salad looks pretty good — that I’d come for.

And whatever it was, I bet it would go great with this bag of peanuts and the side of mac ‘n’ cheese I just ordered.

The hook was in. And it was bacon-flavored. I never stood a chance.

So now I find myself in that infernal cafeteria, almost every day. Never for lunch — don’t dream of suggesting to the burrito guy that the caf’ could usurp our lunch routine. Because the man has very sharp knives. I’ve seen them.

But mid-morning, maybe one of those eggs or hippie bars would be nice. In the afternoon, again a soda. Got a long meeting? Gonna need something to make that tolerable. Fruit smoothies and Slim Jims count as ‘comfort food’, right? Especially if you dunk, or use the latter as a ‘jerky straw’. That’s totally acceptable behavior somewhere in the world, I bet.

So congratulations, fate. You’ve taken my single midday eating ritual, and spread it into a veritable smorgasbord of near-continuous office noshing. Why not just set up a buffet table outside my office? Huh? Or a slop trough by my keyboard tray, so I don’t even have to leave my desk to stuff my workaday face? Why don’t you do that, fate? Yeah.

(Hey, just in case you make that happen, could I get some of that mac ‘n’ cheese from the caf’ in the trough? Maybe in the three o’clock slopping or so, thanks. That stuff is outstanding.)

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One Response to “A Caf’ a Minute”

  1. ema says:

    remember the bright side my friend, you’re avoiding the bruce lee of the orange chicken, the one that could throw a chicken loaded toothpick at chuck norris’s fist and having him on his knees asking for mercy. now if this comes even with bacon, i think you’re in good shape….at least for a week or two, or until the dragon will by a spot on the bridge

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