gone to lunch

I had lunch with Isabel today, for the second day in a row. As a rule it takes us weeks to get together, usually resorting to a 6 a.m. breakfast because we have to cancel lunch so often. Yesterday and today were both spur-of-the-moment, last-minute things. Very unexpected. The odd thing is that we got together and nothing got in the way and neither one of us got a “you need to get back to the office” call. Wow!

{{Both of us are sitting at a table at the Wall Street Deli, in the tunnels, underneath downtown. She’s having the turkey sandwich, no mayo, wheat bread. I’m having a club sandwich on white with all the fixings. She’s telling me about her most recent problem with her boss, who hates her mostly because Isabel was forced upon her by the board instead of hired through normal channels. They don’t get along. Boy do they not get along. Her boss is convinced, I think, that if she repeats that Isabel isn’t doing a good job long enough and loud enough, maybe the board members will believe her, never mind that all the volunteers and affiliate members think she’s doing great. Of course, it doesn’t help that Isabel doesn’t let her get away with any insult or slight, no matter how insignificant. Did I mention that Isabel isn’t afraid of confrontations?}}

Isabel and I are casual friends. The same age and in the same profession, we have bonded over numerous lunches and breakfasts where we discuss what’s going on in our personal and professional lives. Of course, both of us being the workaholic type, we almost always talk shop more than anything else.

{{“We need to do this more often,” she says to me as we both consume our lunches. “I hardly ever get away from the office anymore, and when I do my boss’ secretary keeps track of when I leave and when I get back. Even when I’m out at a meeting with one of the volunteers, I get back and she’s like ‘I wish I could just keep any hours I wanted too.’ As if I’m out picking up men or something.” Did I mention that this war between Isabel and her boss has extended to the boss’s secretary? Before long, I know, there’s going to be a big blowup.}}

We don’t really socialize with each other, never meet for dinner or a movie on a weekend, rarely meet after hours. Though we live in the same area of town, we don’t usually meet near home, always choosing to meet in downtown, near work. Oh yeah, we work within a dozen blocks of each other, sometimes meeting in the middle, or sometimes one of us will be brave and walk the distance to the other. Isabel works in a building across the street from the downtown mall. Needless to say, we often meet there.

Isabel’s work puts her in touch with a lot of the downtown companies, working with them and their executives for the benefit of our downtown sector. Mine puts me in the middle of municipal plans and participation for the entire city, especially downtown. So we often have gossip and other things to talk about, still job-related, but often light and topical.

Isabel is happily married, with a son who’s breezing through the terrible twos with flying colors. Her husband is very understanding about the long hours she puts in for work. Her sister provides daycare for her son during normal working hours. She has a very reliable babysitter for all other times. She’s doing well in her career. In short, she’s the woman all other women like to hate.

{{“You need to get yourself a man, girl,” she tells me when we’re discussing my nonexistent love life. “Nothing permanent, but someone to help you get rid of some of that stress.” Did I mention that she set me up on a blind date once? It wasn’t a complete failure, but still didn’t work out. Being a happily married woman, she believes every other person in the world needs to try to pair off or they won’t be happy. I tolerate her nagging and she doesn’t try to fix me up any more. It’s a good arrangement.}}

Isabel is dieting. She’s actually doing Weight Watchers and is trying to get me to go with her, so we can team up and provide each other with support. I’m not sold on the idea of making my weight loss a group project. Somehow that seems wrong. Never mind that I do need to lose weight, I just don’t know if I want to have someone else evaluating my progress. And, of course, I haven’t decided to go on a diet yet. I will, I just haven’t decided to start yet.

{{“I want to buy a new wardrobe,” I tell her. “I need new stuff to update what I have in my closet. Of course, that means I have to cut back on something else. Maybe I’ll start to bring lunch to work and cut back that way.” She looks at me with this kind of confused expression on her face. “Well, how often do you eat out?” she asks, probably thinking that I couldn’t possibly save all that much money that way. “Every day,” I answer. And she knows, from personal experience, that I don’t go to the fast food restaurants. Her horrified expression stops short of an actual gasp. “Damn! Lunch and dinner or just lunch?” she asks. “Mostly lunch, but sometimes both,” I answer. “Okay. Have you heard of sandwiches? Frozen dinners? Leftovers? It doesn’t make sense to spend so much money on lunch if you’re eating at your desk anyway,” she starts to tell me. I wave my hand to stop her tirade, amused. “I know, I know… I spend a lot of money on eating out,” I tell her. “That’s why I said I was cutting back.”}}

Isabel graduated from the same university as I did, a couple of years before I did. Anything I did, she had already done. Been there, done that. She was always one step ahead of me in her career. Her contacts were better. Her wardrobe was better. She was always more poised, more in control, more outspoken. She’s aggressive on the job, not afraid to give her opinion and stick to it, even if it’s not popular. Her self-confidence is daunting.

When I landed my current job I thought I had finally caught up to her, only to have her land one right after that’s paying her $10K more than I make. I don’t begrudge her the position, she’s more than earned it. I just wish I was making that much money. Of course, though we both work in the same profession, our specialties are different. That had her consulting me in media relations when she started this new job, which is something I have a lot of experience in and she doesn’t. In return, I often consult her on special events, at which she is an expert. It works for us and makes sure that we’re never in direct competition with each other. And that’s a very good thing.

Author: Paloma Cruz

Find out more about Paloma Cruz through the About page. Connect with her on Twitter (www.twitter.com/palomacruz) and (Facebook).

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