Tuesday, April 13, 2010

A Confederacy of Lunches

As I mentioned in the bifurcation belief post, in order to break up the monotony of unemployment, I like to pick a daily activity that forces me to leave the house, thereby splitting my day into two roughly equal parts (before that activity and after that activity). While the bifurcation belief certainly makes the day feel less overwhelming in its blankness, it does not eliminate the need to make decisions. In fact, because you have less of the day to work with, the bifurcation belief demands that you compartmentalize your time more so than you would if you were to adopt another unemployment strategy.

One of the principal decisions I face each day is what to eat for lunch.

When you're working, what or where you eat is a footnote to your day. You could eat the same thing every day and you wouldn't notice because you're too busy plugging away on Microsoft Excel...or one of those programs that makes it look like you're using Microsoft Excel when your boss walks by, but really you're watching some tv show or sporting event.

When you're unemployed, food rises to the top of the, um, food chain. If I have a sandwich one day, I want to make sure I eat something different the next day. If I pick up food to eat at home by myself one day, I have to make sure I find company the next day. It's like a game of musical chairs where I'm scurrying to make sure I sit somewhere else each day all the while making sure I don't land on someone else's lap. 

(Speaking of musical chairs, why didn't anyone ever think of a musical chairs-themed mixer in college? It has all the elements of a great frat party -- music, friendly competition and the incentive for guys to purposely get out so they could sit on girls' laps. It's at least better than some stupid card game mixer, right? College readers: make it happen.)

Anyway, what tends to happen is that at about 11 AM on a given day, I get hungrier than Michael Phelps looked at the Orioles game last night. Then, I start thinking about food options. I always narrow it down to the following: Sushi, Chinese, Chipotle (yes, it is a food category all to itself), sandwiches, burgers, pizza, salad...and if I'm feeling daring, I throw Indian in there as well. The problem is that my neighborhood doesn't offer many of these options -- at least none that are any good -- so if I want good Chinese, for instance, I have to hike a bit.

The general lunch rule that I live by is that a) I only walk more than five blocks for food if I'm going to sit down and eat there and b) I only sit down and eat at a restaurant if I'm with at least one other person. (Again, these rules did not apply when I was working, but they have become part of my unemployment constitution.) So, if I want to go to a deli -- less than five blocks away -- and pick up a turkey sandwich today to eat at home, that eliminates both sandwiches and eating by myself from tomorrow's agenda. Conversely, if I head down to Chipotle near Grand Central to meet two friends, I give myself carte blanche to fly solo for lunch the next day. You gotta be tough on yourself for this system to work.

Unemployment takes discipline. While working folk nosh on whatever comes their way, the 9.7% have to carefully consider their food options on a daily basis. Variety is paramount and we will go to great lengths to ensure that we don't receive sustenance from the same source two days in a row. Like the woman in the picture above, we, the unemployed, will blog for food...just as long as it's not what we ate yesterday.


  1. Is this a plea for help in deciding what to eat or is this just a general statement as to how much time you actually have?

  2. ever hear of musical flip cup? i guess not because you went to cornell.