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Believe it or not, I did exhaustive research to arrive at the secret of eternal happiness that I reveal in this week's review of the Walnut Cafe (see review). Like the theory of relativity, it seems deceptively simple when seen for the first time. I mean, duh: a nice long break in the day equals a happy worker bee. But then again, e=mc2, and bang.
3073 Walnut St.
Boulder, CO 80301
Although the theory of relativity initially appeared like something young Herr Einstein could have pulled out of his ass on the morning his work -- an untitled manuscript he'd promised for a colleague's book that would later become the basis of his paper "The Field Equations of Gravitation" -- was due at the printers, Einstein actually spent ten years working on this puppy. Still, can you imagine what the uppity-ups at the Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich thought when the Smartest Man in the World handed over the cocktail napkin with that equation scrawled on it?
Sure, the bulk of what I know about Einstein and his work comes from repeated viewings of Young Einstein, starring Yahoo Serious (Australia's greatest contribution to American culture since Foster's lager), and I'm not saying in any way that I'm as smart a fella as Albert was (or, for that matter, that I'm even as bright as Yahoo Serious). But I am saying that my Theory of the Very Long Lunch is equally vital to the betterment of all mankind and just as deceptively simple as Einstein's theory of general relativity.
Okay, I'm not really saying that, either. Let's just put my theory in the top five. There's relativity (both special and general) leading the list. Then evolution. Then the JFK conspiracy theory. And then that cool Kevin Bacon six-degrees-of-separation thing. After those comes my premise that a person's aggregate happiness can be measured in direct relation to the average length of his or her lunch.
Albert, a big fan of lunch, would have been with me on this. I have it on good authority that while he was still clerking in the patent office, he'd regularly knock off around noon and be gone for three hours minimum, boring the waitresses and old farts hanging around the local brat house with explanations of how, if his table were traveling away from Earth at speeds approaching 299,792,458 meters per second (the speed of light), he would be able to take a good, solid, six-hour lunch, turn the table around and go home -- and by the time he arrived, anyone who would've been pissed at him for taking such a long break would have already been dead for something like 300 years.
I was originally introduced to the Theory of the Very Long Lunch by a former executive chef we'll call Jeff. He was a happy guy -- a real back-slappin', big-grinnin', honestly placid and content sonofabitch. He'd come breezing into the kitchen at around ten in the morning in his spotless whites and sunglasses, hang around the office for an hour fiddling with the computer and flirting with the waitresses, then walk out into the kitchen, sigh, stretch and announce to all of us (who'd been there, in some cases, since 5 a.m.) that he'd had enough and was popping out for a quick lunch. Often, we wouldn't see him again for several days.
And when we did see him, he always looked tanned, rested and happy as a clam. Why? Because a four-day-long lunch break does wonders for the soul.
At the time, I hated Jeff for this. But soon I came to realize that he was just doing what any great exec is supposed to do: educating his staff -- namely, me. And, specifically, in how happy a truly long lunch can make a man.
Since leaving that kitchen, I've been researching the art of the long lunch, and it's not as simple as it first appears. First, you have your job to consider. For a proper long lunch, there must be a job for you to leave and a job for you to come back to when lunch is over; if you don't have a job, you have nothing to take a break from. Also, if you don't have a job -- or lose your job because your boss thinks that taking three hours to nip off to the closest bar is hurting your job performance -- that means you're unemployed, and that makes the long lunch a difficult thing to finance. So you have to be careful. You need defendable reasons for being away from the cubicle/courtroom/Oval Office for extended periods. An imaginary medical condition worked well for Jeff on several occasions. Joining a make-believe cult that requires two hours of solitary prayer every day around noon is feasible if you're willing to shave your head for effect. But for me, it became easier to just find a job where long lunches are not only acceptable, but required. Trouble is, there aren't many of those jobs around, and this one is mine.
Next, you have to consider logistics. We're talking several hours of highly public loafing, doing pretty much nothing at all and doing it with only yourself for company. So ease yourself into it. Start off by giving yourself an hour, go someplace where no one is going to bother you for sitting so long, and bring along a book for company. Slowly increase your time. Then start forgetting the book.
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