- The Washington Times - Monday, March 26, 2001

If its true President Bush often knocks off around the noon hour for a bit of down time, then he is way out of sync with Washingtonians who labor beyond the White House compound.A totally unscientific survey about lunch hour habits of area residents reveals that few use the time for leisure, unless you count jogging as a fun activity.
The attitude is summed up by Capitol Hill travel agency owner Stuart Carroll, who says only half-jokingly that he is inclined to skip lunch, because "every time I mean to do it, something happens. I think the world will stop spinning."
Its an attitude cultivated by local workaholic tendencies, lightened by a humorous sangfroid.
"Dont tell my mother," Mr. Carroll jibes. "Even my kids have been bugging me. If I have business lunch with a client, Ill go to Union Station nearby. Otherwise, the office eats on the sly, grabbing what we can."
Their favorite place is Yamato Teriyaki, a Japanese restaurant below the office at 201 Massachusetts Ave. NE.
Practical motives hold sway that old American urge to better oneself or ones bank account.
Members of Congress inevitably use so-called down time by attending luncheon fund-raisers, held conveniently near their Capitol Hill offices, to up the financial ante for their next campaigns.
Across the river in Alexandria, Oscar P. Ryder, vice president of Morgan Stanley Dean Witter, has been retreating of late to his nearby home in Old Town to watch the stock market on CNBC, sitting quietly with a sandwich and digesting the news.
Perhaps he is trying to stave off a permanent depression in the marketplace. He once told his friend Mary Jackson, director of Alexandrias Athenaeum art gallery on Prince Street, that "every time he went out to eat (at a restaurant) the market would fall.
"Nobody has hang-around time you dont have lunch so that you can be sure to get home for dinner," Mrs. Jackson says. "Almost nobody who runs a nonprofit goes out. Well bring in a banana. Or we go to a pizza parlor on King Street. We dont want to spend much money."
Mrs. Jackson says she understands there are lunchtime concerts in the park by the river in good weather where people take their food, but she never has taken time off to go. The closest she gets is when she goes to the Torpedo Factory to speak to an artist.
The Library of Congress has free outdoor musical concerts in summer, and the National Archives shows free documentary videos and sponsors author lectures throughout the year, both at its main building downtown and at its College Park facility.
Generally, these are attended by a core audience of government workers and retirees. Smithsonian Associates has yet to offer programs on the Mall that would fit into noontime schedules.
National Portrait Gallery Director Marc Pachter found that his recent job change, resulting in a change of venue from the Mall to the Old Patent Office downtown improved lunchtime considerably, by offering him a variety of eating places.
"Choice," he says, "is one of those American things."
Now, he says, he can "wander off for lunch at any level. On the Mall you are on monumental space without choices." He likes getting out for a breath of fresh air. Lunch, he says, "is a good time to talk to people without the pressures of the office."
The farthest that Mary Lou Beatty travels for food from her office in the Old Post Office Building on Pennsylvania Avenue NW is the National Press Club diagonally across the street.
On a rainy day, the editor of Humanities, the magazine of the National Endowment for the Arts, will go downstairs to the buildings food court for a hot dog and coffee.
In Southwest, Arena Stage staffers find that lunch comes to them.
"Its wacky and interesting," says Denise Schneider of the theaters communications department. "We do have the waterside here, but every day a food wagon comes by and everybody runs down. The word goes out on the P.A. system around 11:30 a.m. Its a good chance for administrative staff to mingle with the technical staff. In bad weather, well bring our food inside and sit in one of the offices.
"We call the guy Chuck. He comes by himself and makes a couple of stops in the neighborhood. He has everything from Salisbury steak to salad."
Union Station workers, who have an array of eating choices available on site, often bypass the largest restaurants popular with visitors and tourists.
Moham Arulbhas of Hyattsville, a clerk in the Gray Linested Grayline and Washington Flyer ticket booth near the first floor escalators, stays in and reads the papers, he says, "because you never know when you have to sell tickets." He sits with colleagues in privacy behind a plate glass window.
Amtrak ticket clerk Francine Winters of Greenbelt seldom leaves the stationsted uc either. "There is so much to do here. Walk around. Look at the exhibits. Pick up some food," she says about all she has time for in the 10 or 20 minutes she can spend on a 10-hour, four-day schedule.
Pressing business, of course, prevents chefs and restaurant owners, such as Fabio Beggiato of Sesto Senso at 1214 18th St. NW, to do anything but work at midday. He is busy in the kitchen ordering food staples and supervising staff what he calls "expediting" the service "making sure the plates come out."
Dental office employee Nicole Calimese of Fredericksburg, Va., wont ever be found indulging in her neighborhoods restaurant fare.
The only time she leaves the building where she works at 1925 K St. NW is to put deposits in a nearby bank. She brings her lunch from home. "You can spend close to $10, even at the food stands on the street," she says.
Bethesda-based free-lance photographer Kyle Samperton defies the norm, unless you consider "pursuing who I really am" following his own interests a part of the long-running self-improvement trend. By working primarily at night, he can take advantage of the city by day.
"Ill go to bookstores or shop for music, see old friends. Ill go in the opposite direction of home. Go to Takoma Park, for instance, where there are great little restaurants. I go exploring. As a free-lancer, I can take four hours for lunch if I want to."

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Manage Newsletters

Copyright © 2020 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide