Fountain Square

Mid-Week Lunch Hour with the Worker Bees


I’ve spent a few work day lunch hours on Fountain Square downtown over the past couple of weeks. The weather is turning nice for spring, tables and chairs are set up for the lunch crowd, and the space is a great location to sit and people watch.

Fountain Square is the symbolic center of downtown Cincinnati even with a newly revitalized Riverfront to the south and Over-the-Rhine neighborhood a few blocks north. The main feature, the Genius of Water fountain, imported from Munich, Germany was donated to the city by businessman Henry Probasco in 1871. Traffic patterns and a change in the mission of the Square have moved the Fountain around just a bit. Most recently, in the early 2000’s it was pushed back from the street to make room for more community programming. In the winter a fairly large ice skating rink sits in the shadow of the (turned off for winter) Fountain. Throughout the summer, a variety of events are planned most days and evenings. The evening summer concerts are a blast, and Salsa on the Square on Thursdays is one of the city’s most inclusive and upbeat events.

These early days of spring (and the late days of fall) when not much is officially scheduled are the most interesting times for me, especially at lunch. The tables are almost all taken by a bit after noon as workers empty out from the office buildings to get some non-recirculated air and maybe some sun. If food tents aren’t set up for a special event (like Tuesday Market Day), there’s a cornucopia of wraps and salads and sandwiches from nearby by places. City ordinances allow two food trucks to set up on the Vine Street side to add to the food choices. There are always a couple of people who appear to just be eating a scoop or two of Graeter’s ice cream for lunch. And why not? I’m not here to judge!

The bank 5/3 has its corporate office on the square, and its workers clad in power suits and wearing their 5/3 pins fan out across the square. Suits are the exception to the rule, as business casual is the more typical uniform, with a few casual workers looking like IT guys mostly, fill in the mix. Toward the weekend or if the Reds are in town, tourists take in some of the scenery, too.

What I mostly notice is how miserable people look. Really. You want to see someone look cranky or like they want to be anywhere else, sit at a table and wait a minute. There aren’t a ton of laughs on Fountain Square at lunch. The snippets of conversations I catch from people walking by are often generic and/or corporately comic. [From today: “With your permission, I’m going to push you hard to grow. I wish I had my head on as straight at you when I was your age.” Damn man! Let the kid eat his sandwich and get back to him at his cubicle!]

The Jumbotron TV that projects on the Square on its repetitive loop couldn’t be a more apt metaphor for people grinding their way through the work day, and the work week, over and over again. Or maybe I’m projecting my feelings outward and everyone is just enjoying the hell out of themselves. Yeah, maybe

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