No three-word combination since “I love you” has packed so many meanings into so few syllables. It’s not that I love “doing” lunch with people. I just love the ambiguity of the phrase and how its apparent simplicity belies the complexity of its usage.
It’s that time of the year: the return from break. And a longer winter break than we’ve ever had, at that. People had a whole month to go to exotic places and work on their tan or go back to school and work on their thesis. In the flurry of the first days back you see them all, mostly in passing.
Close friends I actually thought about during vacation (comprising approximately five percent of encounters), I will sincerely catch up with. Seventy-five percent of encounters are the total randos I didn’t know before break and won’t know after graduation. And then there’s that 20 percent: acquaintances. The “let’s do lunch” contingent (alternatively called the “just the tip” cohort, but that’s for another day).
You’re walking down the sidewalk. You’re in line for hot food. You’re in a crowd leaving class. The conversation goes something like: “Hey!” “Hi!” “How was break?” “Great, how was yours?” “It was great.” Pause. You’re farther down the sidewalk. You’re spooning some tater tots. You’ve left the class. So then what? If you say “K, bye!” it’s abrupt and awkward. If you try to actually have a conversation, it inevitably gets cut off. So you preempt an uncertain and potentially uncomfortable response with “Let’s do lunch,” and the person automatically agrees. You walk away commitment-free.
It’s a classic evasion tactic with a 100 percent success rate among that 20 percent of people. And I’d guess that eight percent of mine read FM every week, so I may have to find a new phrase.