Jewish World Review Sept. 29, 2004 / 14 Tishrei 5765

Felice Cohen

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Consumer Reports

Out to lunch | 'I'm at lunch, please leave a message." Lunch? Who has time to take a break in the middle of the day? For many, when we hear a coworker has gone to lunch, we roll our eyes. For those of us who eat at our desks and occasionally leave sticky imprints on important documents, we snicker at "lunchers" as being unproductive. For lunch, of course, is something to do while doing something else.

The expression "Chew and Choke" is when you have no time to eat properly. Now it's become my daily ritual.

However I'm starting to wonder if we're the unproductive ones slurping instant soup between emails. Sitting at my desk last week on the first day of autumn and finding the third person in a row I called was at lunch, I decided to see what the fuss was about. I wound up in Central Park. The sound of the traffic was replaced with chirping birds, scattered cell phone chit chat and four musicians playing soft jazz on a park bench. While the tension in my shoulders slowly dissipated, I watched a toddler take her first steps, frightened parents in her wake.

I was surprised to see so many people. Didn't they have jobs? It suddenly occurred to me what I'd been missing: this piece of peace. A 1999 Lunch Study by the National Restaurant's Association found that four out of ten full time employees usually don't take a "real" lunch break. This was five years ago. With our increased telecommunications and understaffing, I'm sure we're no better today.

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Lunchtime is also a great opportunity to catch up on errands, for others it's a time to catch up on sleep. Located inside the Empire State Building is MetroNaps, where for $14 you can escape the city that never sleeps and take a 20-minute nap inside a "globular plastic cocoon filled with ambient sounds" like waves crashing. Of course the professional nappers are over in Spain and according to, a siesta is only "fully enjoyed after a good lunch with friends."

Some New York City companies now offer in house Yoga classes for their employees. Just like elementary school, when not only did we get a recess, but we needed one. After burning off steam on the monkey bars, we'd return to class ready to learn. Have we grown out of those needs? Taking a lunch, I've now learned, cuts down on those afternoon yawns and makes you more productive.

At people write in how they spent their lunch break. Skimming through responses from the U.S., I found an entry from New York City. "Reheated pizza from a few nights ago and coke while I finalize travel arrangements for my boss. Going to take a walk later, which will upgrade the lunch experience with a sunshine dessert." Hhmm, had I passed this person in the park?

Just as I was about to take off my shoes and join a Frisbee game, I checked my watch - time to return to work. I wasn't disappointed. It was only Wednesday which meant I had two more recesses that week, only next time, I decided to leave my watch on my desk.

Comment on JWR contributor Felice Cohen's column by clicking here.


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© 2004, Felice Cohen