“Last Christmas, I found myself alone, but I still wanted to go have a traditional Christmas dinner. One of the local resort hotels has a deal where you can pay in advance $15 a person for a huge buffet. Everything I heard about the food suggested it was worth the price. Another bonus was this wasn’t some over-the-top fancy restaurant – no ties or suits required, although several people did show up dressed in their best clothes.
I was in faded jeans, brown leather shoes, and a gray sweater over a white dress shirt. Everyone working at the resort wore black shoes, black pants, white shirts, and they all had on an apron that has the resort’s name and logo. Not a sweater to be seen on any employee.
The buffet was huge – it took up three walls of this large room. The customers were seated at different sized tables in this room and several other adjoining rooms. If you’ve ever been to a large conference hall where they can move around the walls to make rooms bigger, smaller, or remove them all completely, that is what this place was like. Hundreds of people. I grabbed a small two-top table in the back.
Now the buffet had one flaw – it was very deep. I think it was designed to be used in the middle of a room and not against a wall. If you were short, you were not going to reach the items in the back no matter what ladle, spoon, or tongs were provided. I’m over 6’2 so I could reach anything, but I saw some other people struggling.
I was in the line and I reached in the back for some blue cheese crumbles and spooned them on my plate. I heard a soft voice from my right say, ‘Excuse me young man, could you help me with that blue cheese?’
I turned and there was this sweet old lady smiling– she was around 4’9, so no way she was reaching anything back there without crawling on the buffet. I gladly obliged, and she smiled with a, ‘Thank you young man.’
I proceeded to ask her as we went down the line if she wanted any more help and grab things for her as needed. At the end of the buffet was the highlight of the meal for me: cut to order prime rib. There was usually a guy there carving out exactly what you want; thin slices, a thin steak, etc. But when we got there, he had stepped away. The carving knife and tongs were there, so I decided to help myself and this dear old lady. I cut myself a big hunk of meat, then used the knife to make thin slices for my new friend. When I finished, she said, ‘Thank you and Merry Christmas!’ and walked away to her table.
As I was putting the knife and tongs back, I felt eyes burning a hole in my head from my left. I thought for sure it was somebody with the resort who was mad I’d served myself, and I was prepared to apologize. Enter ‘Cranky Woman.’
Cranky Woman: ‘When you are done making plates for her party, you can bring over eight plates to our table.’
Me: ‘But I don’t…’
CW: ‘Don’t interrupt! I’m not finished telling you what I want! And you can grab some fresh prime rib from the back, we’re not eating this, it is undercooked.’ (For the record the meat was perfect).
She blathered on for five minutes giving me her ‘order’ and I only spoke again after she was done. Other people walked by as she continued talking and sort of rolled their eyes.
Me: ‘Yes ma’am, someone will be at your table right away.’
At that, she smiled that satisfied smile, turned, and walked away. I picked up my plate and headed to my table to eat my dinner in private. As I left, I passed though another one of the rooms and saw the Cranky Woman and her table still sitting there waiting to be ‘served.’ Her mouth fell open as I waved and walked out the front doors.”