corral (n.): An enclosure for confining livestock.
My wife, my 16 month old son and I packed up and headed to the new Golden Corral for my birthday Saturday. Yeah, hardly an exciting way to celebrate, but when you’re married and you have a toddler, sometimes you just want to go somewhere with as little hassle as possible. Besides, all I really wanted for dinner was some chicken, potatoes and some corn, so the restaurant seemed like a good choice.
I failed to take into account the fact that the place just opened this week, and was packed with EVERYBODY in town, which defeated my hassle free plans.
The fun begins in the parking lot, which was packed with cars circling the parking lot, everyone jockeying for a spot. Fortunately, I found a spot about four rows from the restaurant. Just as I reach the spot, my wife points out a spot one row closer.
My wife is one of those people who is all about finding the BEST PARKING SPOT POSSIBLE, even if it means taking 15 minutes to find that spot. I don’t mind parking far away if it means getting into a place a bit sooner. Besides, I’m about to go consume 50,000 calories, I think I could use the exercise. Against my better judgment, I listen to my wife, and pursue the other spot. Just as I turn into the row, another car pulls in.
“Frack!” (expletive deleted)
Now, I have no spot and am sure someone else has already taken the spot I passed.
However, as luck would have it, another car is leaving, opening up a spot towards the end of the aisle. I put on my blinker, the internationally recognized sign of Claiming The Spot. However, some jerk NOT YET EVEN IN MY ROW, also sees the car backing out and he starts towards My Spot.
I don’t think so.
I stomp down on the gas, sending the car lurching forward and I pull into the spot with a deft maneuverability and speed heretofore not seen in any parking lot ever. Which, of course, sends my wife into a fit.
“Do not drive like this with our son in the car!”
I remind her that I am a Very Safe Driver and that I looked around before making a carefully calculated decision to hit the gas. At no time were we in any danger of hitting anyone, crashing into anything, or being hit by another car. She’s not pleased with my response. We don’t argue often, but I would guess that 9 out of 10 fights we have had, started in the car and were due to my driving or impatience. Which sets the mood perfectly for a nice birthday dinner.
We get to the restaurant entrance just before 5 pm and there was already a line of more than 100 people. Normally, I would leave. However, I’m trying to act against my impatient impulses.
You know, mature a bit.
Once inside the door, we get a glimpse of chaos. It’s huge - a freaking madhouse with the calming atmosphere of the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. Part of me just wants to get the hell out of there as fast as possible.
Once inside, we were presented the option of getting into one of two winding lines which lead you to cashiers to purchase your meal. From there, you have to wait for a table to open up. Since the house is packed, the wait could be a while, so choosing the correct line could be the single most important decision of the evening.
I want to stay in the line we are in, on the right side. My wife points out that the other line is shorter, let’s get in that one. Since I have a habit of ALWAYS CHOOSING THE WRONG LINE, I follow her advice. Besides, if she’s wrong, I can just blame her. See? I’m already looking for ways to take out my annoyance on my wife.
Meanwhile, I monitor the progress of the woman who was behind me before we split into two lines. Just to see where I would have been if I stayed in the right line as she did. She’s moving forward at great pace while my line is moving like the final slow-mo fight scenes in a Rocky movie. I begin to gripe under my breath before finally commenting to my wife, “Wow, the woman that was behind us is already at the cashier. Sure wish we stayed in THAT line.”
Obviously, I got a reaction from my wife. “Hey, YOU chose this place, if you want to go somewhere else, you need to tell me now, before we get to the cashier.”
I relent. While I would have liked to go, I made a commitment to stay. So I’d just have to shut my mouth and enjoy.
So, now there are two lines. My slow line, which is full of grumbling miserable people like myself shuffling forward like a herd of reluctant animals being led to slaughter. And then there’s the other line, where people are laughing, having fun, and moving so quickly, I’d swear they are on rollerblades! The woman from the other line is soon seated, a fact which I considered pointing out to my wife. Better sense prevailed.
After 40 minutes or so, we are seated at a tiny table for two, despite having a baby with us.
I ask the woman who seated us for a larger table.
“Well, they told me there were two of you, then I saw you had a baby.” (Yet, rather than get a table which could seat all of us, she still stuck us at a table for two. Way to think on your feet!)
So, she finds us a table for four. I run back to get my wife. Just as we get back, we see a 500 pound guy sitting at our table. He is eating with a ferocity which suggests a vendetta to settle with the buffet.
“Aww, cute baby” he says, in a voice reminiscent of an old cartoon with the line, “I wanna’ hug him and squeeze him and call him George”
While he might be a friendly guy, eagerly looking to strike up conversation with anyone (and I do mean ANYONE) who passed by, he set off that parental creepy meter just a bit too much for comfort.
The waitress apologizes, explaining that the guy just took the table, and she says she’ll find us another. Can you guess where she sat us? If you guessed at the table right next to the big guy, you win! And guess what? Chatty Charlie loves to talk to you, oblivious to the fact that you are attempting to have a private conversation. I would not at all have been surprised if he pulled up a seat and just started eating at our table!
Finally seated, we brave the long food lines, of which there are many, each offering a number of choices. My wife lets me venture out to fill my plate while she gets our son set up for his dinner, which we brought. Like I said, all I really want is some chicken, potatoes and corn. Then, if I have time and the patience to wait in more lines, I’ll sample some other fare. I couldn’t find the potatoes or corn on my first pass, so I got chicken and mac and cheese. The food was hot and good, the first thing that went right. My wife then got in line and returned with both potatoes and corn.
“Where did you get those?”
I finish my food quickly, eager to get potatoes and corn. The line where the corn (and other food) is located is rather long. Normally, I would settle for something else, but hey, its my birthday, I want corn! So, I wait. And wait. And wait. Finally, I am almost there, when the woman in front of me is allowing her two young daughters (who are about five years old and stand about eye level with the food) to choose what they want to put on their trays. They are standing in front of the corn, rice and some other dish, and taking FOREVER to make up their minds.
“Come on,” I’m screaming inside, “just PICK SOMETHING!”
The girls finally make up their minds and are about to move aside when one of them sneezes all over the three trays in front of them, one of which included the corn. My corn.
Happy Birthday to me.
photo oourtesy of Wandering Angel.