Friday, March 30, 2007

All Over a Turkey

I had another article ready for publication tonight and then we went out to a buffet for dinner.

We were at one of the Chinese buffets that I like. It was mid-meal and there was a lot of loud and angry talking at a table about fifteen feet away. Everyone turned to look. There was a man, alone, sitting at a table speaking loudly to the restaurant manager. At first only a few words were coming through clearly. Then the story began to unfold.

The man at the table was talking about turkey! This Chinese buffet offers carved roast turkey on the buffet. I had noticed earlier that where the sign for the turkey is, was not turkey but stuffed crab shells. We now could hear the man saying louder and more angrily that if he knew that there was no turkey he would not have paid for the buffet. Since this is a buffet that you pay for at the end of the meal and not before, he had no argument there - but this was not a guy or the moment to interfere with and point this out.

But the story unfolds further - leading those who were following this encounter ( aka yours truly) to agree that this man had a right to his annoyance - if not his anger and his actions. It seems that when he first went up to the buffet table and saw no turkey he went to one of the women (girls, as he put it) and asked for the turkey. He was told - he claims - that it would be out shortly. A while later he went back to look for the turkey - and still, no turkey! He asked the "girl" again. And he was told again that it would be out shortly. This guy must really like turkey because he went up again a while later and still no turkey. He found the "girl" and asked AGAIN for the turkey. Now he was told that there would be NO MORE TURKEY TONIGHT and that it would be out tomorrow. The kicker was that she also told him - he claims - that he should come tomorrow for turkey. He told her - he claims - that he is eating there tonight - he would not be there tomorrow and he was told that there would be TURKEY and he wanted TURKEY NOW! He expressed all of this angrily to the manager. At one point in his boisterous expression he stood up - he was significantly larger than the Chinese manager. Now, I should add (if for nothing more than the drama) that this guy looked like he should play the role of one of the characters in "The Sopranos". He had the look and the mannerisms - and he was definately a tough looking guy. The manager held his own in the discussion, never raising his voice - apologizing and denying what some of what the guy was saying. Which, of course, fed this guys anger even more.

Then the excitement grew with a little mystery. He was up on his feet and started walking away from the table. He stopped, turned around, looked the manager in the eye and told him to come with him. He was not heading out the door but toward the buffet area. But that is not where he was going either. He went to where the empty private party room entrance is. He told the manager again to "Come here!" The manager smiled (to all of us in the room) and followed him. The room was abuzz. Was he going to punch him out?!? They both disappeared inside the dark room, through the door where no one from the regular dining room could see inside. We listened for screams - crying out -but nothing. One of the chefs saw what was taking place - perhaps gotten by one of the servers- and he went inside the room too. No sounds came out - at least from what we could hear. Perhaps this guy was going to threaten the manager. Or perhaps he realized that he was making a scene and wanted to take it out of the public eye and ear.

Eventually, they came out of the private party room each in one piece, the manager, the chef, and the angry man. The man went up to the buffet tables and filled a plate full of fresh cut fruit and returned to his table. When he got there he felt it necessary to tell the people at the table behind him that he is really a "nice guy". He also told them the story that everyone knew already, and, for whatever reason, he identified his cultural background - which fit exactly with the "Sopranos" persona that I had already attributed to him. He went on for some time explaining and re-explaining to these poor bystanders. At one point the manager approached again, but rather than be drawn in again, perhaps, this time further than he wished, he smiled and walked away.

Eventually, he ate his fruit and faded into the room of diners.

You never do know what is going to happen at a buffet. That is one of the reasons we love 'em!

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