Next time won’t you dine with me?
In my experience, there are three types of buffets in the United States: a) all-you-can-eat pizza; b) all-you-can-eat Asian food featuring pizza; and c) all-you-can-eat American fare featuring pizza. And if you know me, you know that I have a lot of experience.
Buffets that are not all-you-can-eat are an affront to society and don’t count as a type. This is America! We overdo it. Go hard or go home! Especially when it involves something unhealthy! I’m also not including buffets outside of the U.S., since the only two foreign countries I’ve visited featured buffets entirely populated by obese Americans.
In contrast to the three buffet types, there are many kinds of buffet patron.
Let’s examine them together, shall we? Put on your loosest sweatpants, come with me to Golden Old Country Chowstable, and remember to keep your hands and feet away from their mouths. Oh, quick thing, I know you’re 32 years old, but tell the cashier you’re 12. Just do it, trust m—-WELL, HELLO, MARGIE! Two adults, three children. Yes, they sure do grow up and grow mustaches fast, don’t they?
They know it’s a buffet, right? Why do they insist on Dagwood-piling every available item onto one plate, so that a strong wind from a passerby could knock it over? Did they once work as a dishwasher and think using only one plate is a show of solidarity? I know what you may be thinking – too fat to get up more than once. But Stackers tend to be fairly mobile. Acrobatic pride, perhaps. Until they inevitably create a Slip ‘N Slide of food in the main thoroughfare when they drop it.
That plate drop is usually caused by evil children weaving through traffic at top speed like Memorial Day Parade Shriners. I can’t get very far in the article without mentioning the demon-spawn of the buffet, since you can’t get very far at the buffet without encountering them. Every cafeteria has a staff of children on payroll whose job it is to stick their fingers in an orifice and then touch every ladle in the place. They’re not shy about it. In fact, they’re usually screaming (volume level = banshee) for your attention. Every single person in the place can hear and see what they’re doing, except for their parents, who are back at the table telling a friend about their little angels. These kids could never pass a DWI straight-line test. You can clutch your plate with both hands and try to walk silently and quickly past them, but they will STILL troll you by taking an errant step underfoot at the exact moment. True story in my comical history of back injuries: I twisted my back once trying not to crush a kid who ran in front of me with a knife.
These are the parents of the aforementioned Chucky, who is currently swimming in the chocolate fountain like Augustus Gloop. The Plagues must think the strategically placed hand sanitizer stations are security alarm motion sensors, because they never go near them. And you know they couldn’t find the bathroom sink if you dunked their heads in it. Of all attendees, these are the people that may one day force me to swear off buffets.
Closely related to The Plagues, this family makes modern art at their table, creating debris quicker than the server can remove it. The adults manufacture gravy-soaked napkins and pyramids of partially eaten rib bones, while the children labor intensively on opening and liberally distributing the Equal and Sweet’N Low packets.
My parents would call this person The Picky Eater, but I prefer to give credit to those who can wander amongst that much food and stick to their assignment. Take my younger son. [Don’t really take him; he’s our most affordable kid.] You can count on him for two things: pizza and olives. If he could get a strainer from the kitchen and dump the whole olive bucket on his plate, he would. This is not something you can order at a standard restaurant. Ask for “extra olives” at Subway and you’ll get four pieces instead of three. I raised the only kid in the world who was angry when he entered Olive Garden for the first time and discovered that it was not an all-you-can-eat grove of olive trees.
The No-Casserole Unturned
The anti-Specialist. This is the guy who hits every tray in the row to make sure he doesn’t miss anything, also known as “me.” Thanks to careful childhood schooling – You will just sit at that kitchen table until you LEARN to like lima beans, young man – I’ve tried everything at the buffet at least once. Since I will eat whatever you put on the table, this makes me a great candidate for “accommodating houseguest.” Also, “diabetes.”
We came on a bus from out of state! We own the place! We all have the same jacket and the same two chaperones!
The Creature Cantina Exile
Best thing about a buffet? People-watching. Worst thing about a buffet? People-watching while you’re eating. The second worst thing might be encountering the strangest people of Earth (arguably) and training your young child to pretend they’re nothing to be curious about. We once saw a … let’s say a lady? … sitting on two separate chairs simultaneously, with a gnarled cane, a beard and the Guinness Book’s Oldest Pair of Socks jammed into knockoff purple Crocs. A herd of people was fetching her plates, and while I would like to think they were just polite family members, I couldn’t help noticing that she also had Princess Leia on a chain.
Luckily, my kids – the little angels – didn’t say anything, because in addition to being fully trained, Purell-bathing neurotics, they have been taught the most important rule of restaurant etiquette: “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” Haha! Kidding, of course. Our rule is, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, say it quietly at our table where the person cannot hear you. And if possible, wait until the whole family is seated so you don’t have to repeat the joke.” I remember the day I drove this lesson home to my then-four-year-old son, when a rather portly fellow was dining by himself two tables away in a green Justice League shirt. My son said, a little too loudly, “Look, Dad! Fat Lantern!” Never fear, there are heirs to the Zamblings throne.
Now that the trays are being collected and the coffee is on the way, you may be wondering why I spend my time amongst these models of dining society. It’s quite simple, really. I will eat anything; the rest of my family will eat almost nothing. Because of the price and the variety, it’s the cheapest option that can send everybody home happy. If you consider weaving through traffic at 90 mph complaining about the capacity of our digestive systems “happy.” Check, please!