Lunch By Telstar.

I’ve taken the day off from work for two reasons: I need to burn my vacation time before the end of the year and I really need to finish up the Christmas shopping. I might even have the gifts wrapped before Earl gets home. To celebrate the day off, I am currently installed in a corner of our local Panera. I am armed with my PowerBook and eating as healthy as one can in one of these “appears classy – really fast food” restaurants.

My observations of others during this holiday season continues. I know I go on and on about cell phone use in public, but I find it so utterly fascinating. I just watched a woman walk across this very busy restaurant, armed with her cell phone but balancing two trays of food better than any waitress named Betty that I’ve encountered. She arrived safely at her table, where I noticed that she is joining her lunch companion. My immediate thought was that he should have got up and fetched the food, but of course he is on his cell phone as well. I suspect he called her and said, “Don’t forget the salt and pepper.”

A woman just arrived in a beat up Ford pickup from the late 1980s. The truck is in final stages of rigor mortis, the driver appears to have not washed her hair in several days (unless greasy is ‘in’). I try to not to be judgmental, but the woman undoubtedly reeks of b.o. and white trash. She’s yapping on what appears to be what all the rage in cellular technology – a Motorola Razr cell phone. Apparently the soap can wait, but the phone call can’t.

You may say that I am not one to talk, since I’m typing away on my PowerBook while eating my lunch. I see this a little differently. I am alone at my table. I am stationed in the corner at a remote table in the restaurant. I’m not carrying my PowerBook around, I’m not doing extracurricular activities on a webcam nor am I yelling through the microphone over some voice chat program. I’m simply observing the behavior of others during this holiday season.

The acoustics in this corner allow me to eavesdrop on quite a few conversations. I always giggle at the guys in this area that talk with a very heavy Bronx or Brooklyn accent. I don’t know if they’ve noticed but we live over four hours from the two aforementioned burroughs. Most of us speak with an accent you’re more likely to find in Michigan or Ohio. But it’s like there’s a small dollop of marinara sauce on the spot that marks our place on the map.

And lastly, an older couple is sitting at the table directly in front of me. They have obsessed and strategized over how they are going to fetch their food when the pager goes off. Which way will they walk through the maze of tables and dining bodies? Will they have to pole vault over the guy talking about cigars? Will they have to do laps around the woman with a feather hat? Oh no, the light is flashing! The pager is vibrating! Time to spring into action. Apparently, the best plan is a simple one, walk to the counter and look over everyone’s food.

I find human beings so fascinating.