Sunday, March 04, 2012

Slumming

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?

30 comments:

Vinita said...

I hate when parents let their kids run around and get into the food like that - Feeling ill at the thought of a kid's hands soaking in warm chocolate sauce :S. Love the wholesale stores though, we have a BJs here and I always like to go through their books section.

Today, we went to a Chinese food store and I've got some bean vermicelli and thai curry pastes, some hot chilli garlic sauce that I cannot wait to try and two incredible Chinese soup spoons - one that looks similar to the one my granny had and we used to eat our cornflakes with it. Cannot wait to tell my sister about it. I am drawn to this store more because of the smell of barbequed pork, which I didnt take today because we stopped at the Subway for lunch and I had a great meatball marinara sandwich. Next time I'll be sure to take that first and probably eat it in the car park :).

JohnD said...

Buffets - Oh I could not agree more with your sentiments. We stayed at a 4 star hotel that only offered a buffet breakfast but chose not to partake as we watched Asian children picking up sliced meat from the meat platter and, while some ate it and picked up more, others merely dropped it back on the platter. This process was repeated with many other dishes on offer.

Rhonda and I ventured out of the hotel and found a quiet little cafe where we had the breakfast order of our choice cooked in front of us and served in immaculately hygienic conditions for one third the cost of the hotel buffet.

ChiTown Girl said...

Oh.My.Hell.

I sat here with my mouth literally hanging open as I read about the sink pee-er. What the absolute fuck?!

JohnD said...

Kids peeing in sinks - Oh yeah! I've seen parents do that with littlies and they've used the exact same excuse - the toilets are too dirty!

Sheesh! - and what do they think that they are doing to the sinks?

Prairie Wanderer said...

I firmly believe there is a special place in hell reserved for parents that expect either restaurant/store staff or the general public to manage their children while they are out because they need a 'break' and they're spending money there, so it's 'part of the deal'.

I try to be as open-minded as I can, but I got to admit that I feel the same way - I frequented all you can eat buffets a lot back in university because I'd literally stuff my pockets with grub. I'm surprised no one caught on to me. But now? Meh. Yeah, the kids at those places drive me nuts so I generally don't go - that and the food is usually rubbish.

The bargain stores is what gets my dander up though. Oh my freaking God! The narrow aisles stuffed to the brim with product, the families with dozens of insane kids, all yelling at the top of their lungs, toddlers lunching on potato chips and Coca-Cola and the adults arguing and yelling at each other about things that I really shouldn't be overhearing. It's not the stigma of shopping at a bargain store that bothers me, it's the people these places attract who have never been taught to carry themselves with dignity while in public. I don't know.

Oh and as someone who worked as a janitor while in university, I can verify that peeing and pooping in sinks is actually quite a common occurance. Oh, the things I've seen (and have had to fish out) in a public sink. I'm not trying to gross anyone out, but I don't use public restrooms unless it's absolutely necessary, if you catch my drift.

Lilith said...

Thank you for this. Two places I know to avoid, should I ever visit your fair town:)

You're not snooty at all.

Anonymous said...

So ironic bec I was toying w idea of going to big lots this afternoon for the sale but was on the fence. Would it be crowded? Is it worth it? I was just there recently. I often find bob's mills food stuff there, get great scrubbie things for bath, neosporin, accessories for phone, art supplies, gardening stuff. I am lying on the couch, undecided.

Y r not a snob. Sensitive maybe but not a snob. My mother would have been gagging! She has fantastic manners and never does any of that stuff and never looks down her nose @ anyone... but can't take seeing the gross stuff. A favorite story of mine is one time at a gas station, on a road trip, she emerged from a stall and in her soft, gentle, monotone, said to the lady next in line, "I wouldn't use that one. There's fecal matter on the walls." "What?" Said the uncomprehendingly. My mom never broke her style just said, "don't go in there. There's shit all over the walls."

My girl and I love Fresh Choice. So does my mom. My bf and stepdad hate it. They seem to work pretty hard to keep things clean. At least @ the one we go to. And I don't watch people eat. Buffeets bring out scary feeding patterns! ;-) my bf, by the way, is anob who doesn't know it. He's one of those ultr leftist I'm for the people except gee... in real life I find mot people really annoying and stupid" people. Drives me nuts.

My family is oppositeofsnobbish. I am probably on the snobier side @ some things, tho' not all.

My mom is also Southern and loves buffets for the tapioca. She used to love cafeterias and we grew up going to them as dinner out treats for me and her. She grew up super poor and I think she relishes the variety and plenty.

My dtr and I love the choices... and the frozen yogourt.

Zc

Anonymous said...

Oh... and am one the obnoxious people who tells kids to sit down when they are going crazy. Mostly I do it in such a way that the kids like me and the parents are confused... they're irritated but I'm so kind and charming they can't get a purchase on things. Or authoritative if I am grumpy. I have a bossy and very cardinal side that I can call on when needed. Zc

Sarahf said...

I HATE people allowing their kids to run riot. I don't have kids, but I'm sympathetic, a crying child doesn't worry me, I guess it happens to the best parents, but letting your kid disturb others without attempting to fix it is not OK. Discount stores here have well behaved children but really loud announcements, which get pretty annoying after a while so I try to avoid them.

Sarahf said...

I HATE people allowing their kids to run riot. I don't have kids, but I'm sympathetic, a crying child doesn't worry me, I guess it happens to the best parents, but letting your kid disturb others without attempting to fix it is not OK. Discount stores here have well behaved children but really loud announcements, which get pretty annoying after a while so I try to avoid them.

sybil law said...

Geez. Why not just take a trek to WalMart to complete the circle of hell?

Buffets aren't that great, but every now and then I have to have it. I love the gazillion choices. Wish I had that daily, just with better food. Really, though - I don't care what restaurant I'm at - if I think about it, I get completely grossed out, thinking of how unclean people are, and God forbid there's some weird smudge or food stuck on my fork. That can happen anywhere - even the really nice restaurants. People are gross.

Isn't urine supposed to be sterile? I mean, not that the kid peeing in the sink isn't disgusting as fuck, but at least it's kinda sterile? Ugh/ I'd have yelled at that lady, though. It's so strange that some people just completely lack any modicum of pride/ manners/ self respect/ respect for others/ common sense.

When there's a kid or kids running around somewhere, annoying the shit out of me, I make sure to make a comment about crazy kids and asshole parents so that the parents can hear, but if I see the kid/s first, I'll lean down and say, "Where is your mom? Go find her and stay there!"

I ain't got NO patience for no dumbass biotches - kids included.

(Didja like that double negative?)

HARPER said...

oh.my.god. i'm not sure if this post was supposed to be funny but i laughed heartily...perhaps because i have had many similar experiences with both buffets and big lots. they make me anxious...
my mother used to take me to this horrendous little thrift shop in Little Rock, AR (to shop for school clothes, blerg!) wherein i watched a mother let her child pee in one of the fitting rooms...what theeeee HELL?!

jen@ living a full life said...

At last another person who won't go to a buffet!Makes ya wonder what goes on in their homes doesn't it?

And the only thing worse than that woman letting her child pee in that sink is if she would have asked you to hold the kid so that she could pee herself.Pig! Chi Town girl is so right WTF!

bookish butch said...

I think your comments about buffets are spot on, I enjoy your blog immensely:-)

heartinsanfrancisco said...

I stand firmly with you on buffets and Big Lots-type stores, especially Ikea. I NEVER set foot in them for all the reasons you mentioned, but someone peeing in a sink is a new low.

The first time I saw grits, I thought it (they?) was/were Cream of Wheat cereal, which I loathed as a child. I lived in NC and TN for a total of 15 years but never got to like them.

Fenstar de Luxe said...

Bwahahahahaha, I feel so dirty I want a shower after reading that. I hate buffets too!

Anonymous said...

I cant stand it when parents let their kids go insane and just.....ignore it. I was at a buffet on the weekend and i think i ate my body weight. The only kids near us were two absolutely adorable little girls and their baby sister and all five of us simultaneously decided to ditch the degree and steal a baby. We didnt. But omg it was tempting. Also....wtf are grits?? In the UK, grits means the salt and gravelwe sprinkle on icy roads...but i assume you dont mean that?

Anna said...

To read about your buffet/Big Lots adventures is funny, but I'm sure in the moment it was horrible! But hey, at least you brightened our day a bit with your recollections, that's gotta count for something, right?

What got me most was the child peeing in the sink. That's just disgusting beyond belief. I wouldn't have handed her the toilet paper. I really, really wouldn't have. I would have given her a piece of my mind about the whole thing and walked out of there. Behaviour like that shouldn't be rewarded even in the teensiest way. You are a far better person than I am for having complied with her request!

I don't think you're a snob, not really. We all have pet peeves, things that just bother us (and might not necessarily strike others as bothersome at all). For example, it drives me to the brink of rage when people slurp their Coke, loudly chew on their popcorn and laugh in all the wrong places during a movie. Others might see that as being part of a movie going experience, to me that's almost (almost!) as uncivilised as letting your child pee in a sink. I think I'm a real snob when it comes to movies in general. Like, I insist on seeing everything in the original version or I have to watch the end credits. I explain it away by me being a film journalist and all that, but really, it's just snobbery and me liking my film experience to be just so.

Anyway, that's my two cents! Also, thanks so much for the comment you recently left on my blog. I appreciate the insight and opinion!

pawsingtospeak said...

Okay, the sink thing was totally gross. I don't know what I would have done - but ewww.

As far as the buffet - I am not a big fan - I think I would have stuck to the soup as well. We met friends for brunch yesterday at a tavern - and found out you had to order the buffet - you couldn't order off the menu. We definitely didn't get our money's worth.

If there are good deals, I can handle the cheap stores - that doesn't phase me...

Redbone210 said...

I happen to be a parent who absolutely REFUSES to have ill-behaved children. I could care less if someone accuses me of stifling their spirit. There is some behavior that is just not acceptable. So my kids are just as grossed out about this kind of behavior as I am. I've even had my son request to leave as soon as we've walked in.

That said, I'm already a germaphobe, so now I will NEVER go into a public restroom again.

PS...Glory makes really good greens in a can! Nicely seasoned ones so that you do not have to go into a buffet again. Glory Greens.

Jean said...

I was a waitress for many years and had to put up with deranged/unregulated children routinely. The behavior I had to suffer (along with all the other diners) impacted my parenting style in a big way. Stupid parents have stupid children. Sometimes the kids treated the entire restaurant like a play pit, but equally as annoying were the kids that were allowed/being taught to treat servers like slaves. They were rude and obnoxious. I wanted to slap the parents first and work my way down.

Just another example of why I couldn't be a teacher...

Anonymous said...

I've only been to Walmart twice. I get depressed before I even enter the store...

the cuby poet said...

I was reading this with incredulity at what happened on the kindness day you gave Bing. I don't think you are snooty just an amazing friend to Bing but don't ever go to either of these places for a good long time.

Earth Muffin said...

I laughed out loud through most of your post because I have been there and done that!!! I loathe buffets, for all the same reasons you do. We have one in town that we haven't been to in a very long time, mostly because every time we've been I say, "I am NEVER going there again," as we're walking out. Mr. EM loves their weekend breakfast buffet though and sometimes he catches me in a weak moment and we end up there. You know another thing that's awful at buffets? Their shitty, weak, off-brand coffee. Yes, indeed.

And I feel the same way about Big Lots. I get a lot of things for my classroom there and, yes, some bargains for myself too. But, oh, how gawd-awful is that place sometimes?! Seeing the little girl peeing in the sink would totally be my Big Lots swan song for sure.

You have scored some MAJOR spouse points on this outing, haven't you? I see an independent film in Bing's future...

LilliGirl said...

So with you on all your sentiments. Dena loves Buffets too. And Dollar Tree. And Big Lots.

I noticed you omitted two Big Lots facts...#1 Every cart has jacked up wheels & #2 the Automatic Doors are turned off and mush be operated manually despite the misleading writing on the door. :D

C said...

ah, maria, yet another delightful post! i SO agree with everything you said, and feel disgusted when i see this shit happening around me when i eat out. the only reason i like buffets is for the variety. i dont eat plates and plates upon more plates, but i do choose just what i want.

being in the health care business i am also at how kids are allowed to act in public, while the parents pretend they arent with them. some people have absolutely no manners.

whats goin on with bings butt cheeks? did you bite one too hard, perchance???? hee hee
hope they mend soon. one would be lost with out her buttcheeks. ya'd have to sit on your spine lmao...

kristi said...

I did find Sara an awesome Twilight game at Big Lots but I agree, I rarely go in there b/c it's a lot of picked through stuff.

And why are people so frickin' nasty??

This is why I go to our local grocery store instead of hell mart. I just want to shoot someone when I go in there!

Mitch Block said...

I hate buffets (usually) because putting food on my plate myself is much too much like cooking for my tastes! As for cheap ass stores, I must admit I do sometimes enjoy them. But I have never been to Big Lots. Premium Outlet Malls are my favorite. Haven't found the equivalent in Sevilla.

the only daughter said...

I must be living a sheltered life for I have never, ever seen a parent (or whomever) hold a child over a sink in a public bathroom. IF I ever did . . well, I just don't know. Too ignorant and gross for words.

I don't hate buffets generally but parents (or whomever) who allow children to run roughshod . . . too ignorant, too uncouth. Reason enough to avoid said establishment(s).

I haven't been to Big Lots but of course, WalMart, and a thing we have here: Bargain in a Box--(no shopping carts you pull around a cardboard box by an attached rope) and as a rule--ick, no. But, every now and again, necessary evil.

Terroni said...

I won't even eat from the Whole Foods buffet. How's that for snobbish? Buffets are gross. People are always dropping the spoon handles into the food; and you have to ask yourself, how much would someone have to pay me to lick one of those handles?

Greens are pork flavored wilted weeds. Pull some from your garden, soak them in pork fat, and she won't know the difference. I'm sure you can freeze a supply for winter.