Working Lunch Midday activities run gamut from roast beef to romantic rendezvous

September 17, 1993|By Rob Hiaasen | Rob Hiaasen,Staff Writer

The deep blue limousine unloads the consumer affairs expert onto Calvert Street. Deer Park bottled water and a plastic foam tray of grilled chicken are brown-bagged in the limo's trunk.

The consumer affairs expert, Ruth Katz, and her food arrived Tuesday in Baltimore. She came to do lunch.

She also came to talk about a nationwide poll on what people do on their lunch hours -- in addition to eating.

Lunch has become a lot of work.

More than 50 percent of the 1,000 polled in July said they run errands, get a haircut, work out. A lot of people go home for lunch, take a walk, watch a soap opera, brush their teeth and use mouthwash. (Listerine paid for the poll).

A few people said they have time to go to a movie.

"I want to know what they do for a living," Ms. Katz says.

We want to know what people are doing for lunch. So we took Ms. Katz on a tour of Calvert Street at high noon: 89 degrees, buses hugging the curbs; sprung workers hanging out around the Battle Monument. The question du jour: Besides eating, what do Baltimoreans do on their lunch hours?

"I buy Lotto tickets," says bank section manager Dan Furlan, sitting on the wall at the Maryland National Bank building. Mr. Furlan, who comes here often, can't remember recently sitting down for lunch in a restaurant. Lunch time is for eating and running -- running to the post office or store or dry cleaners. Lunch at a real dining table?

"That's a rarity," Mr. Furlan says.

The poll, conducted by Pennsylvania-based ICR Survey

Research Group, said 15 percent of those asked claimed to have had a "romantic rendezvous" at lunch. On Calvert Street, Ms. Katz mentions the "rendezvous" stat to courthouse clerk Bonnie Sadowski.

"You mean they had sex?

"I wouldn't put it past anyone. I never did it, but maybe if I was single . . ." says Ms. Sadowski.

She and her grilled cheese sandwich wait in line at the Amazing Fruit Juice stand across from the courthouse.

Ms. Sadowski is at the mercy of the court: Her lunch hour depends on what time the judge gets off the bench. She usually eats at her case-cluttered desk and, once upon a time, she played spades at lunch.

"Ever think of maybe cloth napkins at your desk?" Ms. Katz says.

"Well, not really," Ms. Sadowski says.

Pat Fulk, her first week as a juror, gets a fat lunch hour: 12:30 to 2 p.m. She's gracefully perched on the steps across from the courthouse, reading a book she's not crazy about yet. Her expression suggests that "What do you do on your lunch hour?" isn't the most captivating subject to ever barge in on her break time.

Ms. Katz mentions the 15 percent of those polled who said they have had a rendezvous during their lunch hour. Ms. Fulk considers the information, then lowers her book. We have her attention. She said she'd like to know where these people find the time.

Linda Farquhar, in the third day on the job in a new city, uses a city street map for a lap tablecloth. One deck of her roast beef sandwich is listing. Ms. Katz mentions a couple of things this newcomer could do on lunch break: visit the National Aquarium; pedal-boat in the Inner Harbor; see the Maryland Science Center. Ms. Farquhar mentions something about hitting the Hallmark shop. We mention people who rendezvous.

"Do they get longer than an hour for lunch?" she asks.

Our cue to leave. Ruth Katz, consumer affairs expert and good sport, heads back to the limo, back to the grilled chicken and back to New York.

But we're left with the question. What do Baltimoreans do on their lunch hour?

Some just eat, and that's enough.

It's lunch time at Our Daily Bread, a soup kitchen on Franklin Street that serves breakfast and lunch every day. Not everyone here is homeless or jobless, but many are. More than 1,100

people passed through their restaurant Wednesday for the chicken and rice, string beans, and peaches. Some came just for the peaches.

Jocelyn Jackson, a 24-year-old wife and mother, comes to Our Daily Bread seven days a week. She has two children and no job. She brings her 4-month-old daughter, Princess, who doesn't have to bother with solid food for a while.

"I don't eat breakfast," Ms. Jackson says. "I try to make my food stretch. If I don't come out here for lunch, then I won't have enough food for dinner at home."

It's good food here, and the people who come here are nice and rarely act up, Ms. Jackson says. Many of her friends spend their lunch hours here, waiting in line outside with their meal tickets, waiting for turnover in the dining room.

NB "I kind of look forward to coming here," says Jocelyn Jackson.

Food shares top billing at lunch time

The lunch hour has become prime time for taking care of business and if there is time left over, people even eat.

People work out at a gym, go on job interviews, and get a tan on their lunch hours.

A nationwide poll of about 1,000 people also found women are more likely than men to shop on their lunch hours. Men are more likely to nap.

Thirty-two percent of those asked said they have used mouthwash after eating lunch. Fifteen percent claimed to have had a "romantic rendezvous" on their lunch break. Those are probably the folks who use mouthwash.

Here are the Top 10 things people do (besides eating) on their lunch hours:

* Go home: 52 percent

* Brush teeth: 52 percent

* Shop: 50 percent

* Take a walk: 44 percent

* Nap: 39 percent

* Use mouthwash: 32 percent (Listerine, the mouthwash maker, paid for the July poll.)

* Go to the doctor: 30 percent

* Watch a soap opera: 21 percent

* Get a haircut: 18 percent

* Do the "rendezvous" thing: 15 percent

Like many polls, the best stuff often brings up the rear. One percent of those polled by ICR Survey Research Group, a Pennsylvania research firm, said they get a pedicure during the lunch hour. Two percent said go to a movie.

And those polled said the second-best movie describing their lunch hour is the Baltimore-inspired "Diner."

3' "Psycho" got 6 percent of the vote.

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