Friday, October 28, 2005

Myths About Buffets - Odd Things You Overhear

So we are sitting and eating at a buffet restaurant tonight and we hear a conversation from the table behind us where three guys are sitting. One guy knows the secret as to how the restaurant makes you leave when the manager decides you have had enough- the restaurant puts the air conditioning so high that it is uncomfortable for you to sit and eat there any longer. Now it was about 45 degrees outside and the air conditioning was not even on, but this guy was convinced that somehow the manager directed the a/c directly at him so that he would need to leave. This directional air conditioning unit is amazing - that it can pinpoint an exact table - without effecting any other table in the room (those who have not overstayed their welcome - yet) and chill the diners into needing to get up and leave. Hmm. It is a technological marvel. It must be a feature at the buffet and all you can eat restaurant conventions.

Well this was one of the oddest things that we have overheard sitting at in a buffet. Another guy at the table across from us decided that since he was not charged on the way in, he was going to be charged for each thing that he took. The woman sitting with him asked if he had ever been to a buffet before. He stated that he goes to OCB all of the time- but this must be different because he did not pay on the way in. Yup!

Well, next week we are on the road again and we will be visiting some different buffets - hopefully, and there will be more exciting things to write about.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

People Watching at the Buffet - Some of he Largest People in the World

This is the second in a series of articles about the people you see at buffets. Buffets and All You Can Eat restaurants attract some of the largest people in the world as their customers. You see people so large that it can make a fat man feel thin.

Now, perhaps the reason is that large people want to eat all that they can or perhaps it is that these restaurants are the only ones that can provide enough food for people this large to feel satisfied - at a reasonable cost. You might recall in the old movie, Diner, there was a large man in the diner every night who would order an entire side of the menu. Even at 1960's prices, when the movie took place, this was costly. At a buffet, it is all one price and providing the management does not have a stroke, a very large person may eat until full at the same price as anyone else.

I have seen many large people at buffets. I have seen entire large families at buffets - and I don't mean the number in the family. Some of these large people are fairly unobtrusive, despite their size, but some stand out - they seem to go out of their way to stand out. Let me tell you about this woman that we saw a month ago. She was so odd that she brought comments from a number of diners at tables throughout the buffet restaurant. First off she was wearing a pink, skin tight leotard-type top and bottom. This clung and squeezed so tight that everything showed. The topper was that this woman's lower abdomen hung to six inches above the floor. It was a sight that no one wanted to behold! This must be some form of medical condition. No one could believe what they saw, and then they could not help but stare and comment. What was commented upon the most was what she was wearing. I wondered if she had to wear such a garment to keep her stomach area from falling further and dragging on the floor. Everyone wondered if she realized what she looked like, but as she seemed oblivious to the stares and the comments - she probably did not realize that she was a sight. Now one could say that this is a poor woman just going about her life, but did she ever look in a mirror - not at her condition, but at her clothing. Wouldn't someone with this condition (if it is a condition) want to wear a loose fitting dress that would hide all of the details. If as I wondered she needed this tight fit to hold herself together, then why not wear it as an undergarment and put that loose fitting dress over it? It was all rather unpleasant and enough to set you off from eating.

Ahh! Perhaps that is it. Buffet restaurants may like very large people as they are a reminder to other diners not to eat too much or they will become excessively large people too.

I keep saying "large". I should be saying "fat" but it is more than fat - clinically it would be called "morbidly obese". I have nothing against fat people. I am no light weight (not excessively fat, but... Ok... fat).

There is nothing against these people. They are welcome to enjoy the buffets just as anyone else. I have heard of stories in which a large person was banned from a restaurant, but I am not sure these are not just myths. (If you have ever been or know someone who has ever been banned from a buffet, please leave a comment and tell us about it.) There is the observation - as above - that large (fat) people sometimes need to look carefully in a mirror - front and back - at what they are wearing and see if they really look ok. If ego gets in the way of perception, they need to get an honest friend who will tell them what even a best friend will not say, "Don't wear that, you look like an apple on a stick (or a round ball or the largest,roundest ass in the world)". There are ways to cover these things up and look good despite one's size. (Perhaps I digress to much from the topic of buffets here. BUT I have got to make one more remark - heavy women should not wear spandex or any material that stretches - no matter what you have heard, you do not look good.)

So, anyway, if you want to see really large people visit a buffet. You will certainly always find at least one there.

Thursday, October 20, 2005


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Friday, October 14, 2005

People Watching at the Buffet OR OCD at the OCB

This is the first in a series of articles about the people who you see at buffet and all you can eat restaurants. Amongst the usual diners that one would see at most restaurants, buffets tend to attract some of the oddest people that you will ever see.

I will start with the story of one of the oddest diners that we have encountered. Now, before I get inundated with complaints from people with mental illness or the mental health community, let me establish that I am a mental health professional. In no way am I mocking or making fun of someone with an emotional illness, but let's face it - the guy that I am going to tell you about is odd and in fact he developed quite a reputation at the two buffet restaurants that he frequented. It seemed that anyone who is a semi-regular to these restaurants knew about him and he was dubbed "Napkin Man".

Napkin Man has Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. If you have seen the movie, "As Good As It Gets", the character that Jack Nicholson so aptly portrayed had Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder - popularly called OCD. Napkin Man dined nightly at one of two buffet restaurants - an Old Country Buffet (OCB) and a Chinese buffet. Going back about two years ago when he was first noticed - and you could not help but notice him, he would cover his table and his chair - and all of the empty chairs at his table with paper napkins - LOTS of paper napkins. When he ate he would pick up the utensils or hold the fried chicken leg with a paper napkin. When he went up to the buffet bar he would bring a number of napkins to pick up and hold the serving utensils. If anyone was near the buffet bar that he was going to he would stand back and wait until he would be the only one there and then take his food. If anyone approached him he would step far back. One night we were there with our three year old niece and she walked toward him, I thought that he would have a stroke. He never said anything to anyone. He also never removed his baseball cap or his jacket. Basically, he did not bother anyone and he minded his own business. Children avoided him - he was kind of frightening to kids. People would stare and comment under their breath - but actually, that was their problem.

Had he continued this way he would have just remained an odd poor soul with a problem that he seemed to be adequately coping with. As my wife will say about the infirm or the elderly - he is out and he is having a good time. Unfortunately for him and everyone else at the restaurants who had to share the buffet with him, his disorder increased to a point that it did interfere with others' dining. He became even odder and now he was a problem. Now he would go to a full buffet serving tray and fill a plate with everything that was in the tray. All of the fried chicken was on his plate. All of the tomatoes were on a plate at his table. He would take two of three plates full of all that was available of that item and bring it to his table. He would not start to eat it right away but seemed to ritually wait. When he did start to eat he would eat one of the plates-full at a time and not always in the order that one would normally eat. All of the cake first, then the chicken, then the tomatoes. Then he was up for more, and more trays would be emptied. He would be in the restaurant for hours and ate more than any thin man should be able to hold - and he is a thin, small man.

Not only did this annoy the other customers who would have liked to also take some chicken, fish, whatever, but this put a strain on the restaurant that now had to rush more of that item out - if there was any more of that item to put out. When there was no more to put out this enraged the other customers even more with calls for the manager and direct and vocal complaints to management about him, often made in front of him at his table. The restaurants were good to him - they made it clear to their other customers that he had a right to dine there and to take what he cared to take as long as he ate it - and he did eat it. He now became notorious and the target of dirty looks and loud comments. Of course, none of that seemed to bother him and he went on eating.

We would see him at the OCB when we went and, oddly, when we went to a particular Chinese buffet (that has been reviewed elsewhere on this blogsite) he would be there. Just the same, and doing the same thing. What has interested me (being in the field) was that at the Chinese buffet he would eat crab legs. Someone who is obsesionally clean - and this was something that he seemed to be, what with the napkins and all - should be concerned about eating shell fish with shells that have been in the ocean and the mud and the gunk before they got out of the boat and onto the table. There are entire religions who do not eat shell fish for these reasons, but here was this OCD guy eating crab legs directly from the shells (held in napkins, of course).

About four months ago Napkin Man disappeared. He has not been seen at the OCB or the Chinese buffet. Perhaps he has found a buffet that I do not know about - though I doubt that can be. Perhaps he succumbed to the onslaught of comments and stares. Perhaps the restaurants - both restaurants - could not take it any longer and kicked him out - he was a problem losing them other customers and eating more than $10 should buy every night for 7 days a week. Perhaps he ate himself into the hospital. Or perhaps, just perhaps he is on vacation somewhere eating at buffets somewhere in America... or Europe. Never the less, he is gone.

If anyone spots Napkin Man out there, leave a comment. It would be nice to know that he is ok.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Lunch at the Old Country Buffet

It is very rare that we go for lunch at a buffet restaurant, but this past week we had an afternoon on a day that I had off from work that we were looking to have a large lunch so we decided to try the Old Country Buffet for lunch.

Price for lunch is a few dollars less than dinner ($7.19 per adult), and the primary thing missing from the buffet tables were the carvings. Everything else is the same with a few added items that made for a very nice lunch.

We went on a Tuesday and many of the Tuesday dinner items were there. At lunch there are three soups including beef vegetable which I have not see there at night. The full salad bar was offered, as was the full desert bar. Tuesday's feature theme is Italian. The entree bar included veal cutlet Parmesan, baked ziti with sausage that was better than any of the pasta dishes offered at night (this may be a new night feature as well, as it has been a while since we have been to the OCB for Tuesday night dinner), Italian pork sausage, spaghetti with meat and marinara sauces, and pizza. Of course, there was fried chicken, as well as mashed potatoes, french fries, and a variety of vegetables including a vegetable stir fry. There was broiled chicken and a taco bar. The carving station was converted to a burger bar and there were beef burgers and a variety of toppings including melted cheese. There were also barbecued chicken strips here. I enjoyed lunch much more than most dinners at the Old Country Buffet.

One of the best things about lunch at the OCB is that nothing runs out. As it is early in the day they are refilling every tray as they empty.

The crowd dining at lunch was primarily seniors ( everyone else is working). We did not see any business people - who you would expect to find in a restaurant at lunch time, but perhaps a buffet lunch is too time consuming and much too much for lunch during a workday. Even the OCB employees were different. The woman at the cash register was a senior and was hassled by the cash register- "I can't get used to these computers!" She had trouble ringing up the sale, getting the credit card processed, and then getting the register to give us a receipt. It took her calling the manager to finish the transaction (that the night crew can probably do in their sleep).

The table servers were slower than they are at night - even at night this varies. Our dirty dishes were piling up before someone came to clean them away. Eventually, through the meal, this improved.

Lunch at the Old Country Buffet was a last minute decision, but one that I did not regret. If you are looking for something more than a quick lunch, try it!