This article is the last in a series of 4 articles on my observations as a customer at a local store in small town America. A cultural view from a summer spent in New Jersey from a proud American nutritionist living in France for the last ten years. These articles are my personal thoughts on what I feel is wrong with the way we eat in America; the lack of the sanctity of a dinner meal eaten together around a table. The pleasure of sitting down to take a break to just eat. The overabundance of fast food and how ordering take out is used as a fuel for our lifestyle habits of eating on the run. Why are employees at this store impelled to have to eat their dinners standing on the same counter where the customers lay down their goods to buy? Maybe they are just bored. Either way I find it sad and wrong.
So…what should we order for take out tonight?
This seems to be the dinner question for the staff at this small and busy store located in small suburbia in New Jersey. Pizza, subs, Chinese, McDonalds? Well, we had pizza last night, so let’s go for (insert your favorite take out here).
Why do these employees feel compelled to order their dinners via takeout and on a nightly basis? On too many occasions I have ventured into this particular store around dinnertime and voila the employees are usually eating their take out, wide open on the counter while ringing up customers. Where we spend the summer there is at least 8 takeout or fast food establishments in a 3 mile radius. Easy, quick, cheap and it passes the time.
As one employee told me: I should grow a garden, but this is cheap and good.
Duel takeout open on the counter: two employees eating two subs from the next door sub place, while working at opened up on the counter. I asked the nice woman who I usually see working,
Good and the price is right: cheap! But I remember growing up with a garden. We would just pick vegetables and cook dinner with them. I really should start a garden. It is even cheaper than this sub!
Hmm, I thought. That is smart idea, but would she really do it?
Food boredom and the fun of ordering take out
I don’t think she will grow her garden. It is not that I don’t believe her. But she is busy. She told me that the only reason she has her job is to pay her twice weekly copay insurance payments at her doctors’ offices. Something she couldn’t afford to do without this job. Could I envision her or the other employees preplanning their dinners and bringing them in from home to eat at work? No. And their job is just not that exciting. And why not add a little fun by ordering take out? That is what they do. A bit of diversion albeit using about one hour of their wages for dinner.
Why do these employees feel compelled to order a variety of takeout every night?
Ordering take out on the job is like a sense of entertainment, amusement, diversion to their boring jobs. I know because I used to do it too.
When I was 17 I also worked in retail. Deciding what fun foods we could have on the job was like shopping in the candy store. But we didn’t eat at the counter. We didn’t eat standing up. We had breaks. We got away from work and walked down the mall to find our favorite take out for the day. And we were 17 years old. Lots of disposable income. No rent at home. Money to spend.
These employees are not 17 years old but are probably bored with the combination of something that is truly lacking in America: the sanctity of a family dinner at home and the impulse to actually sit down and take a minute break to eat, away from work, away from doing other things.
Ah, the French are not right about everything. But they do know the pleasures of satiety and food enjoyment. Whether you are bored at work in France or just trying to finish your job, there is one big goal: get off of work, go home, sit down and eat.
And that is why retail food boredom is hurting America. Boredom leads us to order take out. And eating on the run. And avoiding the sit down family home-cooked meal.
Do you agree? What do you do to avoid the work/ordering out/eating at your desk/eating standing up at the counter habits?
I do not know the answer. But it seems to be an epidemic here in summer suburbia America because as I left this store and went across the street to another retail establishment there it was: another young employee sitting on the counter eating her takeout dinner!
oh la la….