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On a recent episode of The Office, the secretary, Pam, is charged by management to keep an eye on her boss, Michael (Steve Carell), recording his every move. This grows difficult because the day she’s supposed to do this is Pretzel Daya man comes once a year to the office with a pretzel cart, and everyone in the building lines up for fresh, hot pretzels. Michael spends his entire day waiting in line.
The paradox herethat Michael spends his entire day at work doing something that he could do much more quickly if he weren’t at workbrings to light the way food operates for most white collar workers in America. It’s a necessary respite, an almost all-consuming need for pleasure that makes the hours of repetitive typing, e-mailing, and phone-answering tolerable. Food is the carrot that dangles in front of the donkey: It’s what gets us through the first few hours of the day (where will we go to lunch?) and what gets us through the second half of the day, too (what will we eat for dinner?).