Out to Lunch

I am curious about the etymology of the term “out to lunch.”  I gather it derives from something that used to actually happen, like people would put an actual sign on their business door that read “out to lunch,” or something to that effect, and you knew you had to come back later.  This would seem like a good thing, at least for the temporarily absent business owner.  Perhaps a bit of an annoyance to the business patron, an inconvenience.  But doesn’t the phrase mean, generally, that the person being accused of being “out to lunch” is kind of an idiot?  I would beg to differ with that.  Being “out to lunch,” like putting up a simple sign and then having no responsibility whatsoever for that hour or two (or more), that seems like sheer genius.

There is an office adjacent to mine, and from a little before noon until a little after one p.m., they have an actual sign on their door.  I’m not sure what it actually says (but will check today and post below), but they are gone, all gone, like the lights are out, no one left behind, for that whole hour plus.  As far as I can tell, it’s an investment business, with about 10-15 employees.  What a great idea!  What a great break!  What a great concept!

At my last job, you worked through lunch.  Everyone did.  It was time sensitive and everyone did it.  It was the norm and it was expected.  Other jobs, lunch has been allowed (in theory) but you still have to get your work done, and that often means working straight through lunch.  And dinner.  And sometimes hours that any other sane person would be using for sleep or relaxation or having a life.

Other countries, other cultures, a “siesta”-type break is built into the day, every day, and that’s just the way it is nationally/culturally.  Maybe not the best thing in terms of quantity of hours worked, but it’s got to help quality.  If not even quality of work, at least quality of life.  And who can put a price on that?

We’ve talked about rhetoric here before, and I wonder if the negative spin on the “out to lunch” concept is something “the Man” has intentionally done to thwart our natural inclinations towards daydreaming and relaxation and joy.  Why is being out to lunch a bad thing?

Maybe I should get a sign for my door: “out to lunch.”  I’ll just put it up, turn out the lights, and leave.  How well do you think that would go over?

3 thoughts on “Out to Lunch

  1. Turns out it is some kind of Development/Investment/Realty/Commercial company (wonderfully vague yet still decidedly important sounding).

    “We have stepped out for lunch. We will return at 1 p.m. Thank you!”

    The sign goes up around 11:45 a.m. And the “at” in “at 1 p.m.” is used LOOSELY. Can you do that? I’m not hatin’. I’m proud of them!

  2. I am 100% in support of the siesta idea. If I had it my way (and some days I do) I would have a siesta every single day. I would love to be able to put up an “out to lunch” sign, but that will never happen, so here I am at 11pm blogging and reading blogs and doing anything but what I should be doing- sleeping. It’s my only really, truly quiet time. And so the cycle continues…

    • I understand your dilemma. I sometimes (often) get WAY behind on my sleep, but I can never bring myself to sleep in moments like the one you reference. If I get a couple of moments to myself, I don’t want to waste those sleeping, I want to do something fun (like read or blog or watch something or goof around). I think this is partially because we get to sleep, some, every night, but we don’t always get to do what, to me, is more exciting and fun and fulfilling, like read or write or whatever. I stay up reading every night, and I am tired every morning. But I never think “dang, I should have read less last night.” I think “man, I should have started reading earlier.” I will never learn. I don’t know the answer, but I understand and appreciate your predicament.

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