Dungeon of Dining

Above me are various shades of fluorescent stick bulbs illuminating the sickly yellow painted cinder block walls and the vomitorium green floor. No natural light enters this chamber reeking of Ramen noodle meals from the 20th Century. Faces are stark, no one stays for long.

It reminds me of the Texas prison camp I visited in 1967 for a civics class requirement, the one with large galvanized garbage cans used as cooking pots. Or a morgue, one I wouldn't be caught alive in.

This is the abysmal ambiance of the break room at the Art Institute of Chicago. Nakedly nauseating, without even a framed poster of past exhibits in sight, this is the dungeon of dining for employees and volunteers who bring brown bagged lunches.  Inside the marvelous museum, where the shades carefully chosen for exhibition walls are vetted with care, to find oneself in a room that no curator worth their MFA could stomach is very sad.

Not all break rooms are so awful. The Field Museum's volunteer room has the comforting rich browns of a cozy library. At Save the Children employees overlooked the river in Westport CT.

But as they say on the airline, I have a choice. So I choose not to eat there again come rain or snow. I'll take a page from Poe, nevermore and take my trade to the every delightful Pret a Manger.



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    Candace Drimmer

    I was an accidental expatriate; love and marriage led me to it. One day I was a bandy-legged kid sitting atop my dogwood tree looking out of my small backyard world in 1950s New Jersey, wanting to move somewhere--anywhere, different. Next thing I knew my father had accepted a job in Houston TX. I was ecstatic, it was a foreign land in 1961 America. After high school graduation, my parents’ gave me a matched set of fawn-colored hardsided American Tourister luggage. Taking the hint, I went to college; well four colleges in five years--it was the 60s after all. Meeting a young hirsute anti-war, soon-to-be-Peace Corps volunteer, I fell in love. After finishing up college coursework for my degree, but before I even walking a graduation stage, I grabbed the paper airline ticket my boyfriend had sent me, my brand-new passport, and was off to the airport and Lima, Peru.

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