I’d like to think that when strangers see me approaching, the first thing that pops into their heads isn’t “Holy cow, that guy is fat…Anyone count his children lately?…Keep your hands and feet away from his mouth.” (I already know what people who know me think when they see me coming: “Yay! It’s Rich! He may be the most amazing person I know. What a treat.” Or words to that effect). Granted, I’m a big guy, but there’s no billowing fat descending slowly to the floor like cooling lava flows, and what is wont to accumulate I manage to keep mostly sucked in whilst out in public.
My wife, son, daughter and I went to a local buffet for lunch recently. I won’t say the name, but its exact opposite would be called “Sour NotTomatoes.” Two women, along with two little girls, went in just ahead of us; the women were clearly sisters, and quite possibly twins. Now I am not one to speak poorly of others (those who follow can back me up here…Oh, shut up.), but here I simply must comment: to call the women immense would only serve to belittle the meaning of the word; a red flag should, by law, poke from each of their back pockets and a steady beeping sound accompany every backward motion. Each Sumo-like step either took produced a rippling effect across their bodies, like a pebble tossed into a still pond (of, in this particular case, cottage cheese or tapioca pudding). I once read that Lake Tahoe, if drained, would cover the entire state of California in one foot of water; this claim could be tested very quickly if both were to jump in simultaneously. If they were indeed twins, it was strange to see them out and about; I thought both had been felled on 9/11. If either had…oh, whatever; you get the picture: I am not kind, and these women were big. The two little girls, contrastively, were quite thin; obviously, they were being starved, as almost all the available food in their home was instantly sucked into the collective vortices of these two truly gargantuan beasts. This explained the joyful exuberance the two little ones exhibited just inside the doors; here, at last, was a chance to finally eat.
The dining experience at this particular feeding trough begins with two very long rows of sneeze-guarded, identical and ostensibly healthy food choices: salads, vegetables and the like. Customers can choose which row to stand in, the choice inevitably based upon potential wait time. I very cleverly chose the line opposite the two tray-wielding pachyderms, because it would likely move quicker and there might actually be some food left. (I was right). Still, I could not pull my eyes away from them as they loaded their plates. By the time they had reached the cashier, their dishes were piled with the most precariously loaded Matterhorns of every salad offering imaginable. A man clad in climbing gear and snow goggles might easily have been seen standing atop any of them, ready to stab the flag of his country into the offending mass.
These two were the poster children for the American predilection for dietary excess, but they certainly weren’t the only ones. Obesity was at virtually every table and food station, though in contrast to the twin cities, the rest had managed so far to limit their use of available space to a single zip code. Fatties outnumbered normal, healthy individuals by perhaps a ratio of four to one; I found myself watching in entranced horror at the never silent, often violent consumption of mountains of food at tables all around me.
The sight really took me off my food; after only a plate of salad, one bowl of potato soup, a bowl of chili and crackers, two pieces of pizza, a plate of macaroni and cheese, one more bowl of soup, another piece of pizza and a bowl of vanilla soft-serve covered with chocolate syrup and peanuts, I was done. I was barely able to get my money’s worth, much less that of my wife and daughter, who ate like a pair of Auschwitz sparrows. I haven’t really decided if I’ll ever go back; I almost think that a light, sateless lunch is hardly worth the disgust I feel in watching the gluttony that has become America at lunch.