Dear Strangers Relaxing Outside: Why Are You Not at Work Right Now?

  • From left to right: Rej, Yolanda, Dolkar, Polo and Fluffy

    Yolanda: "We had a meeting nearby and we stopped for coffee and gelato. We're on a break. I'm the boss so how long the break is depends on me. We all work at the Flying Pig NYC -- it's a food truck company that I started with my partner, Dolkar. She's in the belly shirt. We make authentic Jianbing -- it's like a savory Chinese crepe. Check it out!"

  • "Oh, and this is my man. He's our meat supplier. He's the oldest butcher in the city. We met years ago. It was Valentine's Day and I was with my now-ex boyfriend. He had given me red roses, so I was holding these roses, walking down the street and looking at all of these boutiques. I passed this butcher in the middle of it. I was like, "What? In between these stores?" So I went in. I asked if he got any flowers for Valentine's day. He said no, so I gave him mine. We've been friends ever since.

    I told him, 'When I finally open up my restaurant, I'm going to get my meat from you.'

    Then I showed up one day and said, 'Guess what? I have a food truck now.' I keep my word."
  • Quest

    "I'm from Brooklyn. I skate, make music videos...I'm looking for a job right now, but if I wasn't here I'd be skating. My best friend from middle school works here so I come by a lot for a slice. I feel like if you don't have a job but you grew up here, you can still get around. You probably have a friend who's a bartender, a friend who works at a restaurant so you can eat during the day. But if I'm up and have money and I'm good, I spend it on my homies. It always comes back around."
  • Maria

    "I'm from Lebanon. I'm a pharmacist. If I wasn't on vacation, I'd be at work.

    I've been here for ten days -- this is my eighth day. I'm visiting my cousin. She said the first thing I had to do was go to Morgenstern's for ice cream, so here I am.

    I travel a lot and I like to keep the tickets so I can remember where I went. Tickets, or a map. Any reminder."
  • Calvin

    "I'm from Thailand. I've been here for a year and a half. I'm a student at the New York Language Center. I'm studying English but currently on summer vacation.

    I want to go to the beach this summer. I went to a nude beach last weekend in New Jersey. I've been there five times. It feels very free, and I don't like tan lines."

  • May

    "I'm from Thailand. I've been here for four and a half years, currently studying accessories design. I only have classes two days a week right now.

    This summer I want to just chill and find a boyfriend. Maybe on Tinder. Just kidding."
  • Noelle

    "I work in Boston doing window display for Anthropologie. I start grad school at Parsons in a few weeks, so I'm just here for the day to look for an apartment. Right now I'm waiting for my boyfriend.

    I have an erratic work schedule, so at 3:07 on a normal Thursday I might be at a late lunch with friends who also have erratic work schedules. Or I'd be visiting the Isabella Stuart Gardner Museum -- it's my favorite one in Boston."
  • Daniel

    "I'm from Colombia. I'm a professor there. If I wasn't here on vacation and I didn't have a class, I'd be biking. I do BMX. I'm always at the skate park."
  • Harold, Emily and Sue

    Sue: "We're from Minneapolis and here on vacation but only in New York City for about 30 hours. We got in yesterday at 10:15 a.m. and have to leave today at 4 p.m. Our nephew got married in upstate New York, so we came into Manhattan the next day.

    We're eating our way through the areas. We just had lunch in Chinatown at a restaurant that's 30-40 years old. We just walked by and it had a Zagat review in the window and an A rating, and we were so hungry. It was really good.

    If I wasn't on vacation right now, I would be at my job as an employment counselor."

    Emily: "I'd be volunteering at a shelter."

    Harold: "I'm an attorney; I'd be at the office."
  • Yvonne

    "I live on Roosevelt Island now, born and raised in Manhattan. I'm going to school for law enforcement but I can't do much right now because of the baby -- he's due in five months. This is my day off so I'm just enjoying the weather."
  • Chelsea

    "I'm from here. I go to school and don't have classes on Thursday or Fridays, so today I decided to take a nice walk outside.

    I want to go on a trip somewhere this summer and do some sightseeing. I haven't figured out where I want to go yet."
  • Nanna and Mark

    Mark: "We're from Copenhagen. We're both doctors, and we're on vacation. We'd be working if we were back in Copenhagen. Here for one week, then Miami. We came to relax and eat lots of food. We went to Red Hook for lobster rolls. They were really good."
  • Jessie and Marc

    Marc: "I'm at work right now. I'm on a break because the store isn't busy. I love working here. It's what I do for money, and I work as a hip hop music producer on the side. Check out Bryant Dope."

    Jessie: "When it's not busy, this is basically what we do."
  • Fluffy

Amelia Diamond | July 27, 2016

Aren’t you supposed to be at your job or something?

So you know how when you go outside during work hours the whole world is still happening on the streets? Especially in the summer? There they are, everyday people, dining al fresco at that restaurant that you’ve always wanted to try but have never found the time; waiting on long lines for ice cream; sitting in the park; reading a book; shopping; doing what appears to be absolutely nothing. And don’t you want to go up and ask them, “Excuse me, why are you not at work?? What is it that you do such that you are here relaxing in the middle of the day?”

Same. So we did! Ask them, that is. Three women we spoke to had left their company that day for bigger and better things. Two others were straight up playing office hookie. (All five regretfully — definitely regretfully — declined to be in this.) Others were students enjoying their break and some had jobs that didn’t abide by the 9 to 5, but let me tell you what the all had in common: they were letting l-o-o-s-e.

Photographed by Krista Anna Lewis.


  • Sonia

    Fluffy wins!

  • PCE

    I would like to know/speak to the people who go to 12:30 pm classes at the gym – HOW?? My gym is literally 1 block from my
    Office, and I still can’t duck out for a midday spin or barre class! Between the added time for changing, showering (I’m a sweater, no shame) and the class itself I would be MIA for way longer than an hour. Am I just not working a cool job?? Help – I need answers!

    • Yvonne Dunlevie

      Have same thoughts all the time!!!!! And if someone is able to go to a class, shower, etc, all within an hour, I am very jealous. I guess I will stick with mornings.

      • Aydan

        I think it takes them more than an hour….even with the people who use our office gym take longer than an hour, but I think people don’t bat an eye because “they’re working out”, which seems a little unfair since I wake up at the crack of dawn to work out, but hey life isn’t fair!!

    • I would literally just fall asleep at my desk in the afternoon

    • Haha, so slightly different situation BUT STILL – a couple girls from my cohort used to go to an hour-long swim class every week that was smack dab in a 50 minute break in our classes. They just showed up half an hour late to the afternoon class every single week, which was annoying as fuq because everyone else knew what they were doing.

    • Natty

      I am hard pressed to think of anything more luxurious than a midday workout class

      • PCE

        RIGHT?! Just some lunchtime yoga and a latte afterward?! Mind you I am a LAWYER, I’m not chained to my desk by my partners, but my work literally does not allow me a spare moment during the day to bask in the slightly dimmed lighting of the spin room at the Wall Street Equinox. I am relegated to the wee hours of the morning or the humid, leftover evening hours which results in me not returning to my apt until almost 10pm.

        I hate myself for complaining about my good job-slash-ability-to-afford-Equinox, but I seriously envy the midday workout people.

    • cuffers27

      I often go to the gym at lunchtime – it normally takes me 1.5 hours to workout then shower and get ready after so I will just stay a bit longer at work that day. As long as the work gets done it doesn’t matter right?

    • Pamela

      I used to do it at my first job. 45 mins classes 5 min shower 10 mins change and grab a smoothie. Very doable if you have a chill job!

  • Autumn

    Yes thank you!! I wonder this about people all the time! Props on the post.

  • Nicole Pinhas

    OMG I talk about this all the time with everyone in my life. My mom, my co-workers, my friends. Thank you for this, we’re all having a good laugh over here!

    • Leandra Medine

      Hi Nicole!!!!

      • Nicole Pinhas

        hey! 🙂

  • Aydan

    This is seriously so awesome! I work at an office that overlooks a massive lake and I always see people boating in the middle of the day. LIKE HOW HOW on a Tuesday midday are you just off boating around the glorious lake enjoying the 80 degree weather?! (slash can I hitch a ride?!)

  • I used to always wonder that too when I worked in an office…but now I freelance so I’m the one chilling outside! I’m usually just taking a short Pokemon break lol.

  • Ashley

    So they’re mostly on vacation? Love it. My favorite things to say to the sightseeing bus salesmen on the street when they get in my face is, “Do I look like I’m on vacation?!” Apparently…I do.

  • Jayne

    Ah I loved reading this!

  • Jolie

    Hahaha! When I was working in an office full-time, I was OBSESSED with wondering who the hell all those people were. I’d see them hanging out in the park or in a cafe and get indescribably jealous of how free they seemed — meanwhile, I was forced to grab my bagel to go and head back to my over-AC’d office for five more hours! I always wanted to approach them and ask why they were there, thanks for letting me live vicariously through you!

    Oh, and now that I’m looking for a job and am officially one of those out-during-the-day people, I wonder if others look at me and think, “Why is she out right now?” Especially at the places I go often, like my neighborhood deli and supermarket. If only they knew how broke and miserable I am! 😉

    • Andrea Raymer

      Same. I always thought those people were so happy and carefree and now that I am in that boat I want out. Give me a schedule and responsibility, anything! I can’t take this anymore I am bored and too broke to entertain myself. Luckily my dad likes to send me random gift cards in the mail for the movie theater so I can entertain myself and take advantage of free air conditioning in this hell weather.

      • I_heart_steak

        when i first moved to nyc, i wanted to walk around and ask people how they were able to linger over their morning newspaper while sipping coffee, take mid day yoga classes, and have long lazy outdoor lunches. now i know…. they are probably not working. when i was laid off, i was finally one of those people, and aside from the occasional exception, i wasn’t very happy having a lazy lunch. having a lazy lunch is much more enjoyable after working hard. also, it’s really rare to have money AND time… it’s usually one or the other.

  • Robin

    Noelle is now my inspiration. fashion, looks, job and life wise. what a BEAUTY and how CHILL does she sound

  • giulia torelli

    This post is so good, my mum is always asking me “what is everybody doing in the middle of the streets during the afternoon? Don’t they work?!?” haha super good idea 🙂

  • Julia Patton

    of course they’re from copenhagen. much too good looking to be from anywhere besides copenhagen.

    • kellymcd

      I just became even more excited for my trip there in a few weeks based on this comment ;D

  • Rebecca S

    I love this!! Please make it a regular thing!

  • Amanda

    1. This is magical and 2. Hooooly crap I really need a new job. I’m a Front Desk Goblin (“receptionist” sounds so lame and also is only about 1/5 of what I actually do, DO YOU HEAR ME SUPERIORS) and the worst part about the job is that I’m basically stuck in one spot all damn day. My coworkers are like, “Oooh, it’s so nice outside, I’mma go take my laptop and bask in that sweet sunlight,” and I’m like, “I HATE ALL OF YOU.”

    …This is not my best day.

    • libs

      ok but Front Desk Goblin does make it sound, like, a zillion times more fun

    • Rosie

      Omg, I lol’d so many times reading this short comment. *claps* Also I FEEL YOU because I was once a Front Desk Goblin (although I prefer the word Prisoner??) and that shit’s the worst. I would get stressed even leaving my desk to go to the bathroom. WHAT KIND OF LIFE IS THAT? So yeah, I really really feel you. #StayStrong

  • Emily Lever

    Gonna need Calvin and Daniel’s numbers tho

  • Morayo

    Love this Amelia, this should be a monthly feature!

  • Alice

    2 things I love about this post:
    1.) The idea is inspired. Brilliant! Magical! The pictures completely capture the joy of summer afternoons.
    2.) Pieces like these feel like a love letter to New York and I really love reading them because they (and every person who is a part of them) remind me of home.

  • libs

    I am one of those chilling outside in the middle of the weekday people (weird class schedule this year) but when I am waitressing all weekend I just look at the customers in the cafe and get totally confused about how they can possibly have the kind of job that allows them weekends off. It felt so different to my own schedule that I just … couldn’t understand.

    I wish I was more like Fluffy though.

  • I would literally think about this ALL THE TIME! I used to have conversations about this with people all the time, just pondering about what people could be doing that isn’t work. I was so intrigued. I figured out that most of the world doesn’t actually operate on a 9-5, that’s just the formal business world. So then I decided to quit my desk job and become a travel blogger…now I’d be one of those non-9-to-5-ers you see…never been happier 🙂

  • Love this! I’m always wondering the same thing when I see people going running in the middle of the day or even those who seem to always be traveling on social media but never seem go to work. I’m like where do you get the funds for all these trips without working. LOL


  • BK

    I always thought the same thing when I lived in Berlin – people, everywhere, lounging around in the park in a general mood of summery nonchalance! Just like I was doing! How dare they!

  • So glad you guys did this post! I have ALWAYS wondered that while in NYC or any large city for that matter lol.

  • T.

    I absolutely loved reading this post!!

  • chouette

    you guys > humans of new york. keep it up.

  • Kristien

    This is seriously one of my favorite things you guys have done. Awesome job! All these people look like they’re having a great time (and I’m soooo jealous sitting in my dark window-less office right now). I think about these kinds of people ALL THE TIME because whenever I go to a meeting off-site or a doctor’s appointment or the rare days I call in “sick” and instead get coffee or walk around town, I’m like “WHY AREN’T YOU WORKING?!” And I’m very envious of their freedom but I also like having $$. Please make this a regular installment so I can live vicariously through individuals having fun!

  • This was a really read! I always wonder about this too. I definitely hope you guys keep this going.

  • kellymcd

    Harold, Emily and Sue could not be more adorably Midwestern if they tried 🙂

  • Pam

    Love this series!

    Ps the second slide is one of my college friend’s grandpa who owns the butcher shop in soho! Small world ?

  • Noelle is flawless and so is that jumpsuit. Like, I can’t deal, how that jumpsuit is both interesting and looks like it fits her really well. Like, it’s so rare to see a flattering jumpsuit.