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Column: Fishy Fridays are not for everyone

I'm sorry to see the Lenten season come to an end. Easter Sunday is wonderful, but I enjoy all of the delicious fish dishes on the menu on Fridays during Lent. While I don't belong to a religious tradition that requires me to avoid meat on Fridays, I indulge in fish every Friday because I love seafood. Plus, fish is heart healthy.

I've been enjoying the fish on Friday routine for years now. The whole thing started back in 2002 when I worked at a big regional medical center. The hospital cafeteria served a seafood entree every Friday, not only during Lent, but year-round. The treat of the week for me was loading my green plastic tray with a steaming mound of fish and mashed potatoes on Friday afternoon. My hospital employee's paycheck didn't stretch to include too many gourmet meals.

I remember one Friday I was heading downstairs to the cafeteria, and I stop-ped by our administrative assistant's desk to move my marker on the office attendance board from "In" to "Out." I carefully wrote "Cafeteria" with the erasable marker in the location column on the board. Then I asked our administrative assistant if he wanted to join me for lunch. I loved eating with him, because he was a jolly guy, with a crew cut and a kind demeanor. He was the kind of guy who got up at 4 a.m. on Black Friday to get the latest doll for his 7-year-old niece. I said, "You have to come down with me, it's fishy Friday!"

He looked over at me, his face filled with abject disgust, screwed up his nose, and declared, "I hate fishy Friday."

His look of revulsion was so over the top, I burst out laughing, much to his chagrin. He explained the aroma of seafood grossed him out. The whole cafeteria was off-limits to him on Fridays, since the main entrée was always steam-tray tilapia. The sandwich choice was usually fried cod on a bun, and even the soup was clam chowder. Since fishy smells made him sick, he steered clear of the entire third floor where the cafeteria was located. He even avoided going to the ATM on Friday because it was bolted down next to the lunchroom door.

I've never forgotten that moment, and the realization of how one person's caviar is another's rotten herring. Lunch paradise for me is a steaming cafeteria line with a tray of tilapia at one end, and a mound of rice pudding at the other. For someone else, lunch paradise is a build-your-own-burger bar or even the Taco Bell drive-through. Buried somewhere in this analogy is the realization that everyone has their own tastes, and tolerance for one another's peculiarities is what makes work day go by smoothly.

Over the years, and all the many bosses and co-workers in between, I've tried to keep this idea in mind. One manager asks for reports by email, while another manager wants his reports printed and dropped in his inbox. When one of my co-workers showed up in flip-flops, and another showed me photos of his laparoscopic stomach surgery, I took it all in stride. Some of us love a fishy Friday, while others enjoy a hamburger Monday. Each of us has our own style at work, and our own way of interacting, from the ultra-professional style to the casual Friday style. The challenge lies in acceptance of one another, giving professional respect, and trusting that another way of eating lunch is just as good as yours.

Nathan Hansen

Nathan Hansen has been a reporter and editor with the Farmington Independent and the Rosemount Town Pages since 1997. He is very tall.

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