By Jack Edwards
Sadly, this buffet story is disturbingly true. Every lumpy refried bean of it.
The plethora of emergencies that can arise at a buffet are endless. “Buffet” is a French word which means: “A meal eaten until the diner’s intestines explode.”
The buffet emergency I recently encountered was etiquette related. It struck without notice, and unfortunately left insufficient time for me to contact the Emily Post Institute for advice. We’ve all heard of Emily Post, but there is an organization actually called the “Emily Post Institute.” They offer advice for practically every situation: weddings, job interviews, funerals, and more recently, cage fighting (remember: always turn your head to the side before spitting out blood or teeth).
My wife and I were sponsors of a tournament at our tennis club. I say “our” tennis club, but my participation is strictly limited to walking on a tread machine 30 minutes once of month and partaking in an occasional celebratory catered buffet dinner by the pool. These dinners have all been benign until this recent buffet incident.
It was a Mexican-themed buffet: tortillas, choice of chicken or pork, along with traditional accompaniments. Everything was going swimmingly. I had just finished loading up my plate as vertically as possible without causing a scene or creating a hazard. I then carried my Mexican fiesta pillar to a nearby table. That’s when it happened. The girl serving the tortillas at the front of line suddenly dropped like a teenage delinquent boxing Mike Tyson.
I raced around the end of the buffet to render aid, but someone had beaten me to her (thank goodness). She looked unconscious, so I started trying to remember my first aid training. Unfortunately, I received my training over thirty years ago when I was a lifeguard. I reached back deep into my gray matter and an acronym hovered just beyond my grasp. ABC? A was for Airway? B was for… something…. Fortunately, a minimum of one thousand doctors are playing tennis at the club at any time. Within moments, the girl was surrounded by board certified specialists. In fact, this is true, I saw one doctor who couldn’t squeeze in though all the other doctors to see the patient. He finally shrugged and walked off.
Taking my seat again, I confronted my first dilemma. Ten feet away a girl was being provided emergency medical attention with an ambulance on the way. At the same time, my food was getting cold. I don’t need to tell you that Mexican food can get a little sloppy if it sits too long. Could I start eating? What’s the protocol in this situation? No one else seemed to be eating, just sitting around looking concerned. Of course, I was concerned too, but I can eat AND be concerned – very concerned. Being a pragmatist, and not being able to contribute in any meaningful way to the emergency, I decided to inconspicuously start eating.
This quickly created dilemma number. The ambulance was taking forever (thankfully, the girl was now conscious), but I had finished my plate. The other servers were still standing at their station. Amazingly, the woman serving next to the girl never missed a beat. She just kept spooning out the pork to the people in line who kept marching along for a time, but people stopped getting in line. This left me uncertain. Should I step up for round two? I debated this to myself for a minute before coming to my decision. I would wait until they carried the poor girl off in the ambulance before I got back in line – and even then, I would make sure I was the SECOND person in line.
The next day, I wrote to the Emily Post Institute about this etiquette dilemma; however, it brings me sadness to tell you that the Institute wrote back (in a timely manner) that it must unfortunately decline my request for assistance, as it was currently addressing a backlog of pressing etiquette needs. The letter included an example: A seventeen-year-old boy was in a dispute with his mother over how far his pants could hang down at a formal wedding. He felt they could hang to just above his knees. The Emily Post Institute was assembling a team to work around the clock to address this cutting-edge issue with precedential consequences.
This left me to my own etiquette devices. So I’ve taken time to reflect on my buffet question. In retrospect, I’ve decided that I exercised poor taste, and I deeply regret my actions. I should have waited until TWO people had joined the buffet line.