“How’s things?” was a phrase uttered across the restaurant tables and sprawling out onto the outdoor areas where people variously stood in small groups or sat awkwardly on small benches and raised ledges. All in the midst of lunch and creating a buzzing, humming noise that carried itself through the narrow London streets out into the larger avenues, alerting tourists and passers by that it was indeed a work day, but it was lunchtime.
Four colleagues had just asked each other the question and there was a shrug of shoulders and small smiles emerged as all explained how busy they were at present. They all quickly qualified, “busy of sorts. A good busy with plenty to do and not much stress.”
Chat was idle. The word themselves meant little, but they opened to one another in the way you didn’t always with colleagues, even with the twelve hours spent side by side. Each daughter and son was discussed, as were boyfriend, girlfriend, wife and husband. All were good and all was right.
Fish was served as was salad, chicken and a steak. A bottle of wine was on the table for those who wanted it and water from a spring in a far away country for those that didn’t. It was an old school lunch updated for the tastes and rituals of the century.
“I think we deserved this one, even if it was six months after the deal was done,” said the old timer.
“Here, here,” said the rest.
“Should we pop back to the office?” Said the youngest member of the team. A statement that was greeted with guffaws all around.
“No, not today,” said the bright young manager, “it doesn’t happen often, but when we go out for lunch, we do it properly.”
“Not like the old days,” said the old timer.
“What was that like?” said the fourth.
“Most of the work was done by meeting people. You could t finish a desk with a broker without talking to him face to face.”
“‘Him’ is the key word their boss,” said the manager, “because I don’t believe there were many women around these parts 30 years ago.”
The boss wasn’t aghast. It was a fact and there wasn’t any use hiding it. Society then was mostly like that, but the insurance market was probably one of the worst of the bunch. Particularly for keeping the traditions going as long as they could.
He noted, “it’s the truth. We also drank our weight in beer on most workdays. We’ll pay for that no doubt at some point. It was how the market worked then.”
“No email, I guess,” said the junior.
“Hardly any computers. We wrote things down as we went along.”
“It’s nice to see there is some change,” said the fourth, whilst downing a drink of wine.
“It’s all for the best, I promise you that,” said the boss, “I know many of my contemporaries disagree, but that’s their problem. Not yours. They don’t have the clue really. They hark back to a tome gone by because they no longer fit into the world they once inhabited. It’s better this way, enjoying it in a sunny afternoon to celebrate a job well done.”
He raised his glass and nodded to his colleagues.
Lunch was never like this. It was a sandwich wrapped in plastic at a desk or something resembling a desk. It harked back to an age with little to pride itself on but the relationships that sprung out of it. Some good, some bad. It changed and will changes again.