I’m an Executive Assistant to a C-something here in one of the so-called Fortune 100 companies whose headquarters is located in Midtown Manhattan. Even when I had a second assistant helping me out, “lunch” was usually taken in front of my computer screen, catching up on news from back home online. I couldn’t quite fathom why some of the older assistants on the floor would actually grab their purse, eat and sit alone in the cafeteria or with each other, maybe watch the common TVs spread around the eating area, and actually stay away from their desks a full hour.
Not me. I’d take out my lunch, clear the immediate area in front of my keyboard and choose the newspaper article I would read. There was the occasional lunch with a colleague or two, but very rare. When I ventured out, I would usually drift into any one of my favorite beads or notions store lining the streets around Avenue of the Americas for my crafting needs. Time for something new.
Up until two days ago, I never really exercised my right to a “Lunch hour”, opting instead to go and grab a bite when I grabbed something for the boss or occasionally doing a personal errand around Midtown where I work. I am finally with a boss who actually eats and minds short lunches, but that means I have to be at my desk as he munches away in case someone calls. My next door neighbor on the Executive Floor, though, has been egging me to go out and take a walk even for just a few minutes — and there was the voice of experience talking to me. She’s been at this job the last three decades or so, and I’m just about to round up my first. And she was persistent… so I said, not a bad idea.. let me try it. Forget that it was cold — I have my coat and my light scarf. I’ll live.
So two days ago, after days and days of telling myself I WILL SIT IN THE PARK AND TAKE A MOMENT TO BREATHE in the middle of the day, I finally found a late lunch hour to squeeze in maybe a modest thirty minutes of “me” time. I grabbed my iPad, breezed down the two elevators taking me to my piece of midday heaven, ordered a grilled cheese sandwich and surveyed my new lunch spot. It was chilly, but I was giddy with the thought this was just me and my book (currently reading EAT PRAY LOVE by Elizabeth Gilbert alternating with A STORM OF SWORDS by George R.R. Martin). I kept glancing at my watch to make sure I had enough time after allotting myself a half hour for this “experiment” of sorts.
I glanced around and looked at the other people sitting at their tables. Suits on the cell.. Backpacking tourists enjoying a “New York” lunch.. Stay-at-home moms pushing strollers… what struck me was there were a lot of individuals who were obviously dressed to go to work just enjoying the park as they had lunch or staring off to nowhere, or as they tapped away on their handhelds. Kindred spirits trying to take a break like me. (So this what be what most normal working people do.)
As rain was threatening in the skies, I picked a spot under one of the garden umbrellas (just in case) by the Josephine Shaw Lowell Memorial Fountain. There’s something about the sound of the water spraying onto the pond surrounding the fountain that I find most soothing. I wish that it weren’t so cold but I was bundled up. Spring seems to be constantly teasing us here in New York, disappearing behind the chill that has fallen upon the city the last couple of days
I’m finally taking a lunch break. I like it. No rushing from the office to some store or the bank. Just letting it all hang loose as I had my little piece of heaven there for half an hour. I ate my sandwich and read. I glanced at my watch and was surprised that I had all but taken half of my allotted time. I read on and took a few pictures. Bliss.
The next day, I returned — again with my iPad– ordering my grilled cheese and I inched closer to the lawn. (Getting braver.) I stayed close to the fountain. I spied some pigeons.. children playing in the grass (finally open to the public), and I just took it all in. I tried drafting a post right there and then, but I changed my mind after realizing writing was “taking me away” from enjoying the moment. So I just sat there, read some more, and looked around… I breathed it all in.
A half hour of me. Maybe later I’ll write some letters or a note or two. Or maybe I’ll just sit and watch. I might even stretch my half hour to a full hour of just me. Hey, I work hard– and for someone who doesn’t get overtime pay, I deserve an honest-to-goodness break. (It makes my 9 to 10-hour stretch from 8:30-6 or sometimes even 6:30 more palatable.) Before anyone goes crazy over the “no overtime”, the company seems to think I’m paid high enough to not be entitled to the additional pay. Of course I don’t agree, and the only way to get the better deal is to take that full hour break.
I’m all excited by the coming summer when the park will be abuzz with a lot of lunch hour activities. Maybe on super busy days, I’ll take a table on Broadway or something.. or I might stay indoors in one of the public areas — one of which is right across my building across from the park.