Who knew eating lunch could be such an adventure? On Tuesdays and Thursdays, I have very long days and have to eat out. You would think this was a straightforward thing to do, but not so.
A week ago Thursday, I went to the Golden Corral and it was surreal. The entire restaurant was filled with elderly patrons. I felt like there had to be some sort of nursing home field trip. I felt like I needed my AARP card to get lunch. There were wheelchairs and walkers everywhere. There was even an IV pole at one table. One grumpy old man was yelling at the waitress to come and take his order. His wife, somewhat younger than his 80+ years, was scolding him, “Abner, this is a buffet, for Christ sakes!” she had to shout; Abner, clearly, could not hear well as his hearing aid was sitting on the table—feeding back.
I quietly ate my chicken, mashed potatoes, and broccoli.
There was a mesmerized crowd standing around the chocolate fountain, several brave geriatrics dipped marshmallows into it. Everyone else sort of stared, sure they were witnessing some sort of mortal sin. Gluttony? Is a chocolate fountain even sanitary? How does it work?
I read my class notes and thought; surely this is some sort of anomaly. It can’t be like this every day.
This Thursday, with my memory dimmed by the onslaught of writing students I teach each day, I wandered back to Golden Corral. And again, it was surreal. Again, I ate chicken, broccoli, and mashed potatoes while I quietly looked over my class notes for this evening. But, I eventually surrendered to people watching.
There was a line at the fried chicken, the cooks could not keep the station stocked. Obese Americans stacking five, six, seven pieces of chicken on their plates, to say they were gluttonous would be a gross understatement. Collards and okra were popular, because, you know, you can’t have enough of them in your diet. They go well with fried chicken, I guess. They’re a real popular seller at most any restaurant…
But the people, oh, the people. I could tell as they walked by where they would stop, what they would put on their plates. I felt somewhat guilty getting a second helping of rotisserie chicken, but then a massive man shuffled by and refilled his plate for a fourth time. He looked like Jabba-the-hut. Everyone gave him a lot of room. And by refilled I mean, he took heaping spoonfuls of everything, until his plate was spilling over on to the floor and at one point onto another patron. I think all of his cousins were there with him. Weight watchers would have loved this crowd.
There was a young Goth same-sex couple, high school kids, who looked like they were cutting school to do a binge and purge routine. They looked…wraith-like.
And the women! Lord have mercy, bless their little hearts, the women! The fashion police would have had a field day today. Women with boobs that hang to their knees should not, under any circumstances wear leopard skin spandex one pieces outfits. Please. And didn’t we decide, as a generation, in the 70s, that tie-dye should not ever be worn with polyester stretch pants? Isn’t that like a commandment? It is, right? Tie-dye and Levis-Strauss, right? Ok, maybe Lees or Wranglers. Tie-dyes should not be worn with polyester-blend-high-waters.
It was almost circus-like there was the man with the mullet, the amazing tattooed man (the goatee being his most interesting tat—why not just grow one?), the fat lady, who sang loudly, off-key, as she was filling her plate. There was an elderly woman with a Chihuahua in her handbag. It hungrily ate ever little morsel she offered. There was the man in the tweed jacket, with the stripped pants and plaid shirt (he hurt my eyes), the woman with nine children—I kid you not, nine and they all called her mama, the couple who had a knock down drag out fight in the salad line.
The salad line was very short. The chocolate fountain’s line made up for it, it wound its way around the deserts and half way around the salad bar. People fought over their place in line–everyone wanted to be first in line to cover marshmallows in chocolates. Fruit surrounds the fountain, but almost everyone in line chose the marshmallows. You can’t have too much sugar, I guess.
One elderly woman cut in line because she wanted strawberries without chocolate. The manager had to rescue her. I thought they might have to call the police!
I definitely need to find someplace else to eat on Thursdays! I am open to suggestions.