Sunday, March 18, 2012

Lunch on a Sunny Afternoon

It is all too common that, on any given weekday, my waking hours are spent rushing from home to office, appointment to conference in a flurry of corporate glad-handing and client-serving correspondence. The meantime is riddled with conference calls and emails, techno-jargon and corporate-America productivity babble. The days are a whirlwind of faux-synergy and rarely are the emergencies my clients present me anywhere near the panic level they assume.

So when, while I was on my way to a customer appointment last week, I realized that I had allowed enough time in my schedule to stop at a restaurant for lunch, I was stymied. Generally my noonday meal consists of a drive-through delivery of greasy, processed beef stuck between two dry halves of a hamburger bun. This mediocre excuse for a sandwich is sometimes accompanied by reconstituted freeze-dried onions, a dab of ketchup, and a couple of bland pickles. Rarely does this debacle of a meal come with any serving of satisfaction.

On the way to my appointment I had spied several local restaurants lining the street where I was meeting my client. Flipping a pugnacious glance toward the fast food chains as I passed, I opted for a seat at an outdoor table outside a dining establishment that called itself Shanahan's. The sun cast a surprisingly warm glow for a March day, and I couldn't imagine sitting inside the dark, cavernous bar for lunch on such a day.

Sipping my Arnold Palmer - A refreshing combination of iced tea and lemonade, I soaked up the vitamin D as I read an article about hate crimes in Chicago from the alternative weekly rag I pulled out of the machine down the street. I ordered a reuben sandwich and realized that it had been a ages since my work schedule had allowed me to pause long enough to enjoy a decent meal, an opportunity to read leisurely, and a respite from the baying of my clientele.

So much of American business culture is focused on productivity and the result is not the desired increase in success, but rather an ineffectual workforce who plays games with the reporting of their weekly activity in order to avoid scrutiny from their management. We worry so much about our quotas, our activity reports, and our Outlook Calendars that we lose sight of the reason why we strive to reach out to the organizations we are supposed to be serving. The result is a disenfranchised workforce who cares little for their clients and less for their bosses.

I've resolved to take at least one day each week and find a new restaurant to explore. The establishment cannot serve sandwiches in paper wrappings, and cannot be a national chain. If I can engage the owner or a manager in a robust conversation, all the better. My hope is that allowing myself the opportunity to pause and enjoy my dining experience will make me a more productive member of the organization that I represent.


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