The Lunch Table: Where Food,People & Opinion Meet Google

My physical place of work has few redeeming qualities. It is an institutional building much in need of repair. Cubicles line the walls in Soviet style rigidity, indistinguishable apart from the occasional family photo or obsession with stuffed beanie babies that carries over from home into the work place.

The faces of those who work in the building often reflect the atmosphere of the physical space. Many seem to be biding their time until they are eligible for a state pension, while some purchase lottery tickets with one hope in millions of seeing their fortunes change. The lay offs of recent weeks add to the overall morale and the air often feels heavy with uncertainty and frustration.

There is one exception and it is one of the reasons why I have enjoyed my job immensely. We call it the Lunch Table. Around 12:15 daily, at a small round table designed for meetings of four or five, anywhere from seven to nine of us gather. Everyone brings their lunch, sometimes purchased from the plethora of eating establishments in the area, but often brought from home, and we talk. It is food, people and opinion meeting together,  forgetting about time as we delve into subjects that are usually so filled with politically correct verbiage that you never get to the heart of what people think or feel. Not so at the lunch table. Our talk goes from politics to religion to front page news to personal events. Few subjects are off-limits.

Our ideologies along with our political alliances are vastly different. Our religious beliefs differ just as profoundly and our personalities could not be more divergent but all that is put aside at the lively and energetic connection I call “The Lunch Table.”

We talk politics “Will Mitt Romney have a chance in the 2012 election” We talk religion “Why go to church?” We talk business and we talk scandal “I’m telling you, all this unfaithfulness and scandal is a result of Viagra!” claims one person emphatically. We talk family, we talk faith, and we question.

Almost daily we go to Google to aid us in both big and little questions. “How do we use the word ad hominem correctly”. “Are green, yellow, and red peppers all from the same plant?” (they are) “Where is the country of Zanzibar?” and the conversations go on. Each of us brings passions and ideas based on our backgrounds and life experience.  Our passions and dislikes can rarely be hidden and there are some things we would defend with every ounce of our bodies, but we still abide by the important rule of listening as well as talking.

Each person has a unique spot at the lunch table. There’s Rick, a data guy whose mind I would like to travel through on a Magic School Bus with Ms. Frizzle. There’s Gail – pure class and Talbots, she is well-read and has a variety of interests. Gail is the one who makes sure everyone knows they are welcome to this informal gathering. There’s Heather who defended her thesis last year and now has the hard-earned initials of PhD after her name. Beautiful with a wacky sense of humor, she knows the best places in Boston for Old Man Drinks and High Tea. There’s Anita, who is our rock and stability, doing it all while giving us healthy doses of chocolate. There’s Liz – mom of toddler twins and a 5 year-old, who is always thinking and questioning and could subsist on ham, cheese, and chocolate. There’s Mary Lou, fearless leader and entrepreneur par excellence, who has had vision to make sure amazing programs are created and sustained. There are others who come and go, some consultants, some employees who hear the laughter and wander in from other parts of the building.

The mantra is an unspoken commitment to healthy dialogue and a lot of laughter. It is a perfect recipe for opinionated people to survive and thrive.

As I write this, I am acutely aware that our lunch table is about to face deep losses. Gail is retiring after significant state service. Mary Lou is leaving for an excellent opportunity elsewhere and Liz has been moved to a different department through restructuring. It’s like good friends leaving for a distant state or country and there is a sadness that I feel as I think about the discussions and laughter that have defined the lunch table. Discussions that would not have been as rich without the difference in people and opinion.

As we move forward my hope is that the spirit of this table will live on and that food, people and opinion can continue to meet Google.

3 thoughts on “The Lunch Table: Where Food,People & Opinion Meet Google

  1. How nice to see we are no longer blaming the world’s social ills on the birth control pill!

    I don’t comment every day, and I love your blog.


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