Warning: This post is going to sound snobbish. Fair warning.
I am not a fan of two things: buffets and cheap ass stores.
So, I attended both today. It happens.
Bing is a huge fan of "greens." She grew up in New Orleans and enjoys a variety of foods that aren't hugely available on the prairie. Mustard greens, collard greens and okra being her favorites.
Only one place serves them EVERY SINGLE DAY in our fair city. And it is a buffet. I have disliked buffets for decades. This happened when I was at one and saw a child of about five voraciously picking his nose and then fingering all the rolls on a platter. And each and every time I have been to a buffet since then, I see something else to add to my dismay:
Children under the age of 12 let loose to make mischief whilst their dumb ass parents sit and laugh with their friends and family. They play hide and seek, using the salad buffet as their free zone. They race around like monkeys let loose in a jungle. These kinds of children tend to have extremely lackadaisical parents who could care less if their offspring are acting like brats. And if you bring it to their attention, they look baffled, as if you just told them their child was running around naked in church doing devil chants. Not their Jimmy. One brave woman actually led a child to his parent after she found him with his mouth hanging under the ice cream dispenser. The child had a ring of chocolate ice cream around his mouth and his hands were sticky with the chocolate sauce that he had dunked his fingers into (proclaiming to his cousin that it wasn't hot, but felt as warm as "bath water!") The parent looked over at her son who was twitching with a sugar high and smiling like a dimwit and then asked him, "Did this lady hurt you?" Ugh.
One child who kept sneezing and coughing profusely all over everything in sight.
An extremely fat woman who cut in front of me and said, "Sorry, my blood sugar is low" and then proceeded to load her plate up with enough potatoes and gravy to send her blood sugar into the stratosphere.
The tables are always sticky and the plates and silverware are never completely clean.
But, Bing adores this buffet because they serve greens. They also serve grits. Each and every time we go to this buffet, she reminds me of the time when we went to North Carolina to visit some cousins of hers and went to a breakfast buffet and I commented, stupidly, to the entire table that I thought it was kind of odd that they had mashed potatoes next to the eggs.
I'd never eaten or seen grits.
Today, was a hard day for both of us. Bing has had terrible um...butt cheek pain lately and it keeps her up at night because she can't sleep for more than three hours without having to get up and walk the pain away. The joints in my hands decided to flare up, so I walked around with my hands looking like Mickey Mouse gloves. We were both kind of crabby. But, Bing, clearly, had the worst night. I woke up twice to find her wandering around walking with a blanket around her shoulders.
I wanted to mother her up a little. So, I suggested that we go to that buffet that she loves and get her some greens. She was surprised.
"You hate that place," she said. "Do I look like I'm dying?"
I said no and then I took it a step further. I had seen in the Sunday paper that Big Lots was having a 20% off sale. Bing loves Big Lots. I detest it.
Bing was even more excited. A buffet and Big Lots! In one day! And it wasn't even her birthday! PLUS...I offered to drive and she knows I don't like driving.
Well, I don't like driving with HER as a passenger. Bing is constantly telling me to change lanes because the one on the left or right is "moving faster." This annoys me when she does this changey lane thingy when I am a passenger. I feel like we are on our way to the emergency room or something. But, it irritates me LIKE CRAZY when she does it when I am driving. I usually ignore her, which drives her nuts. She also insists that "the driver gets to pick the radio station or cd." Unless I am driving. And then, she forgets that rule conveniently, punching at the radio every ten seconds and changing up the music just when I am starting to sing along to a song. She and I do NOT have the same taste in music at all. I will be humming along to Lady Antebellum's newest song and she will frown and call it "cheesy" and change the station. Over to some asinine country song asking "Are we gonna do this or what?"
Bing also thinks that I drive too slowly and "ride the brakes."
But beggars can't be choosers and with her butt cheek woes, she can barely drive herself to work and back without major pain. So me offering to drive is a good thing.
We made it to the buffet. She only complained once and that was to ask why I insisted on staying in the left lane behind a huge SUV that I couldn't see around.
Um..because in two more blocks, I need to turn LEFT!
We bought two dinners and went in. As always, it was packed. Mostly with families with 7 children or more, girl's basketball teams from small towns who love buffets, and ok...I apologize if this offends overweight readers...but really, really fat people who do NOT need to eat four desserts.
I spotted him right away. I am good at this. The tween boy dressed in a white tee shirt and jeans who galloped up and down the aisles as if he were at Chuckie Cheese. He pushed in front of elderly people who were unsteady on their feet to begin with and sloppily loaded his plate up with spaghetti and meatballs and then nonchalantly slid the spoon back into the meat sauce where it didn't hold and fell spinning to the floor, anointing everyone in a two foot radius with red sauce.
He was a noisy mouth breather and had a string of spittle on the side of it. Ugh.
He saw his cousin walk through the door and spilled his chocolate milk all over the table as he leaped up to go grab him in a headlock. His mother quickly grabbed a worker and pointed to their table. The poor woman did not speak English but spills are not language necessary and she hastily cleaned it up. Not one word of thanks from mom, who went back to talking loudly to a female relative about how she loved, loved, LOVED buffets because you didn't have to tip dumb servers. I looked over at her overly blonde dye job, tacky high heels, and garish rings on all but two of her fingers and wanted to go push her head in her son's sloppy ass uneaten plate of spaghetti. She kept using the word ain't over and over as well as double negatives. ("I ain't never seen such a beeyoitch in my life and she weren't even pretty." "Not no way am I ever votin for that dumb ass Muslim. Billy lost his job at Costco and it's all that "Bama's fault.") I wanted to tell her that Billy probably lost his job at Costco because he was late all the time and stole a case of beer but of course, I just sat there table watching as her beer bellied husband ate plate after plate of fried chicken, mashers and gravy and corn on the cob and then chased it all with plates of brownies smothered in ice cream, chocolate fudge cake and strawberry shortcake.
Bing was in hog heaven, eating her greens. I ate a (surprisingly good) bowl of chicken noodle soup, figuring that it was in a scalding hot pot and would probably be ignored by most children.
As we were leaving, we had to weave around the open mouthed brat and his cousin, who were throwing rolls at each other from behind the ice cream machine while their mothers sat talking with most of their lipstick eaten off but their lip lines still firmly penciled in.
Then, we moved on to Big Lots.
Now, sometimes I love Big Lots. If you can make your way around the junky stuff, you can sometimes find really good buys. Like the time I found Jones diet root beer or a tube of Pringles for 50 cents or Dawn dishwashing liquid for half the price at the grocery store or...my favorite: a Berber rug that was the perfect shade of green to match our upstairs bathroom. And only cost 3 bucks.
We went in. Big Lots is a lot like a cheap buffet. There are crowds and lots of people with children who are not supervised. It's part of their ambiance.
Today was no different. I immediately found a St. Patrick's day display with several Irish buttons. Liv had lost her button last year and so I found not only a button but some really, really cute hair barrettes that I am sure she will not like but let me put in her hair anyway....until I drop her off at school and they will be placed in her back pack before she gets ten feet into the door.
Bing found a speaker for our boom box whose speaker doesn't work anymore. For less than 20 dollars. I found some really beautifully sewn bath towels from India that were the kind of snowy white that I love until they get stained or until I wash them with my red shirt.
Diet pepsi. Little Debbie snack cakes (Liv loves those in her lunch..has since first grade and is unapologetic about it, which I love about her....) Sea salt. Those cookies from Hawaii that don't make my blood sugar go crazy. Paper towels.
After about a half hour, I needed to use the restroom and I hated to do that but it was unavoidable. Their restrooms always look and smell filthy. Today was no surprise. I coated the toilet seat with paper before I gingerly sat down and then had to flush twice before the water went down.
As I walked out of the end stall, a woman came rushing in with her toddler daughter, who was screaming, "NOW! I gotta go NOW. NOW, MOMMMMMMMMMEEEE!"
To my horror, instead of taking her into a stall, the mother unceremoniously whipped her daughter's Ariel panties off and let her hunch OVER THE SINK. She let out a strong smelling stream of urine and smiled charmingly at her mother. I stood mute with horror. After she finished peeing in the sink, her mother looked over at me and asked me if I could please get her some toilet paper.
"I don't want Maisy to fall off the sink," she said, smiling as if this was an every day thing to let your daughter urinate into a sink.
I rolled my eyes and grabbed her toilet paper but when I handed it to her, I commented that maybe it would have been more appropriate to use a toilet? The mom gave me a just us girls smile and said, "Oh, GOD no! It is so filthy in here and I'm sure the sinks get cleaned better than the potties do!"
With that, she yanked up Maisy's panties and they swooped out the door. Not washing their hands, of course. Or running hot water in the sink that they'd just soiled with urine.
I sighed and washed my hands in the sink as far away as possible, looking down carefully to check for urine first.
By the time I got back outside, Bing was ready to go. We had a full cart and the total cost was under 40 bucks. Sweet.
But...as I told Bing in the car on the way home, I don't want to go back anytime soon. I told her about the sink peeing child and she rolled her eyes with me but also said, "You know, we are all trying to save money in this economy. So, we'll meet all kinds, sweetie..."
I didn't say it, but I thought to myself that at least if we went to a regular restaurant I could keep my illusions of un-spit spattered food or booger smeared rolls. And when I shop at the more expensive, smaller stores, I may not save a lot of money, but it is unlikely that I will see anyone peeing in a sink.
Call me snotty. I don't care. I NEED my illusions.
How about you? What do you think? Where do you shop? Any good stories? Comments on how snooty I am?