The results of Friday's poll about how often people eat lunch at their desk are very surprising to me. Who knew that so many people ate lunch at their desk every day or, if not every day, very often (1-2 times/week)? I certainly did not know there were so many.
I showed the results of the poll to a European colleague, and he said "That must be an American thing."
I suppose that the decision about where and how to dine is in part related to priorities about how work vs. personal time is spent. I would rather spend some time working in the evening or on a weekend than eat lunch at my desk, but I can see how others might prefer to be efficient with lunch time on weekdays and use this time to get caught up, talk to students, and so on.
During the week, I spend so much time talking to scheduled and unscheduled visitors to my office, I like having a bit of time away from that. When not attending a lunchtime seminar or meeting or teaching a class over that time period, I use lunch time to eat and chat with my husband or a friend or colleague about various topics of the day/week. For me, lunchtime, however brief, is a needed break in a busy day.
This topic reminds me of an incident in days of yore when I taught at a small liberal arts college, when I used to eat lunch every day with a particular colleague. We sat in a somewhat secluded common area of the department building and chatted about work and life and so on. Once some of our students realized that it was our habit to eat lunch in that particular place each day, they started stopping by to chat. I didn't mind this at all when the students wanted to stop by and have a conversation about something.
One particular student, however, liked to come by and use the time as an extra office hour and/our counseling session, and no amount of saying "Could we talk about this during office hours" could convince her that we weren't thrilled to share our lunch time with her and her problems. One day, this student told us in great detail about her complex relationship with her boyfriend. My colleague had just taken a large bite of his sandwich (he was hurrying through lunch so he could retreat to the relative safety of his office), when the student said "It must be so special for you to have students talk to you about these things". When she said that, my colleague spit out his sandwich in shock, so great was his surprise at the difference between his view and the student's view of the specialness of these lunchtime interactions. He did not stay long in the small liberal arts college world. I wonder where he eats lunch at his current institution; probably in a locked room or a faculty center.
In any case, I learned something from the poll, and I am still contemplating getting a large sign that signals my unavailability for visitors when I am eating lunch at my desk.
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12 years ago