Staff editorial: Gotta love the long, long buffet line
The old saying goes that an army travels on it's stomach.
Well, the same is true of a vacation.
This past week my grandson's football team was invited to play in the Pig Skin Bowl in Las Vegas, a tournament for teams ranging in age from six to 15, with each in their own little playoff. We, being the dedicated grandparents that we are, decided the little guy needed to see us there so we decided to spend Thanksgiving in sin city.
And of course the only reason we went to Vegas was to watch his football gameÃ¯Â¿Â½
After the first game on Thanksgiving afternoon we decided that we would go to one of the larger buffets on the strip for our Thanksgiving meal. We had never done this in Las Vegas, but my experience with buffets in the southern Nevada city had always been very positive. They do know how to move people through the line, even when the crowds are big.
Last year we had tried to participate in a time honored tradition that we had started with my mother in her later years, going to Little America's buffet in Salt Lake on Thanksgiving Day. For days before we had reminisced about how within the five years before my mother passed away in 1991 we had taken her and my dad to the Salt Lake hotel and had their grand buffet on Thanksgiving. We had always arrived just as it was beginning and had stood in line for maybe 15 minutes at the most, then enjoyed a lovely meal with wonderful live piano music. It was a memorable time.
But last Thanksgiving we arrived an hour after the buffet started and the lines stretched out onto Main Street. Apparently, word had caught ensued, so we decided to go to a local restaurant buffet where we waited 50 minutes to get food that was not near the quality we had expected to have that day.
So after that debacle, I proclaimed we would never go to the buffet on Thanksgiving Day in Salt Lake again. As in the past something we had loved for years had turned into a ugly spectacle as the burgeoning population of the Salt Lake valley had once again ruined another family memory and tradition we had built up.
Boy, am I glad I live in Price. But back to Vegas.
Now I had proclaimed we would never go to another line up for the food event in Salt Lake, but my experience in Las Vegas had always been so positive that I thought, being the pros that they are, we would never wait more than a few minutes in a buffet line. I was very, very wrong. We waited over two and a half hours just to get to the pay station. We then were seated at temporary seating near the buffet line, with speakers blasting over our heads some of the most obnoxious music I have ever had to listen to at dinner. The food was very good, the help was wonderful, but the wait was horrendous.
Now you might ask me why once we saw the line why we just didn't turn around and go somewhere else? There was literally no where else in town to go that wouldn't have been the same. And I didn't really want to pick up turkey sandwiches at the nearest 7-11 and go back to our room at the Hard Rock Hotel and eat them for Thanksgiving, so we persevered.
The line wound into the casino, so many of the groups that were in line had one or two people hold their place while the rest gambled. Those with little kids played games. Others just carried on conversations with their neighbors. We did that, getting to know the people around us fairly well in the process. At one point, about an hour into the process, I sent my youngest son around the Rio to see if there were any other restaurants open that we would want to go to. The bowling alley cafe was closed for a private party and another place was completely closed. The only thing he could find was a steak house that wanted $50 a piece just for the entree. Oh yes. And on the top floor was a pretzel place that was open. After he returned with that information, I told him we would just stay in line.
Soon many of those around us had drinks in their hands, and the crowd got more and more relaxed as we approached the "jump" spot; a place where attendants jumped groups of people across a busy intersection to get into the last leg of the race to the buffet line.
Overall it was a party atmosphere. But as I stood I could see we were all getting very hungry. I looked across the aisle at those nearer the pay station and in the last two hours they somehow seemed much thinner than they had been when they began the trek. I left the line went to the pretzel place and brought back pretzels for those in our party. It is really something when you have to feed those standing in line, waiting to eat.
While the end result was mostly positive (the food was great), I have now sworn we will never again go to a buffet anywhere on Thanksgiving. I want next year to be quiet meal somewhere, with no noise, and no waiting except for the turkey to cook.
At least that is predictable.