Why is he always late? Who does he think he is coming in here with his own special order? Why can’t he just eat what everyone else is eating?
These thoughts and more ran through my head every time my coworker walked back in the door to our quarterly all-hands meeting. I didn’t understand it. And I’m sure my face showed it. As he sat down on the outskirts of the group and parted the opening of his plastic bag, I wondered what was so special about his choice of lunch. I didn’t particularly care for Subway subs either, but isn’t that the case with any company-sponsored working lunch? You don’t complain, you just get in line, grab whatever you can and then stand or sit down, eat and listen to the next presentation.
Fast forward a year and I’m sitting on the sofa with my husband watching What The Health – a popular Netflix documentary that “uncovers the secret to preventing and even reversing chronic diseases”. Everything about the documentary screams veganism and health organization conspiracy theories. Setting aside the over-exaggerated drama of the documentary, my husband and I look at each other and say, “Let’s do this.”And just like that, we were vegan. The VERY NEXT DAY, I’m driving to Baltimore for another quarterly all-hands.
“We’re grilling out today!” exclaimed the human resources manager. “Burgers, hot dogs, chips, sodas…!” Oh crap. But before I had a chance to feel isolated, it clicked. I scanned the patio with laser beam precision for my always late, specialty lunch, coworker.
“Hey, what are you eating today?”, I asked.
"Dave said he bought veggie burgers so I’m just going to eat one of those.”
“Oh okay cool. I’ll take one of those too. Dave! Can you add a veggie burger to the grill for me too?”
As we stood in line waiting for our burgers, my co-worker meticulously studied the ingredients of the hamburger buns.
“Hey Dave”, my coworker says. “These have milk product in them so I’m just going to go get something from the corner restaurant.”
I can’t remember if he inquired as to whether I wanted to come, but like a child being schooled on veganism, I rushed to my seat to grab my bag and followed him. Because I never had a conversation with this co-worker, on the way there, while waiting for our food and on the way back, we filled the air with vegan-centric conversation. I must have asked 20 questions like any uneducated, unprepared and newly-minted vegan.
“Yeah, I get all of my lunches from this spot. They have a number of vegan options that are delicious.”
“Get a B-12 vitamin. It’s the only vitamin you can’t get without eating meat.”
“For breakfast, I do a shake or a large bowl of oatmeal with fruit.”
“I used to eat two large pizzas in one day. I was a terrible eater.”
“This place has the best vegan tacos. They also have a really good salad.”
As we neared the location where our co-workers were gathered, I replayed my old, judgmental thoughts towards my vegan ally of a co-worker. I couldn’t decide whether this situation was coincidental, ironic or just plain funny. But just as he probably didn’t care what I or anyone thought during all of our quarterly meetings together, I walked into the room with my specialty lunch and in oblivious bliss savored every last bit of my delicious, vegan tacos. I was proud of our tenacity and my newfound decision. And I was even more proud that we weren’t late for the next presentation.