Anatomy of a free hotel breakfast buffet

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The hotel lobby was quiet when we exited the elevator.

A few families sat quietly shoving spoonfuls of egg product into toddler mouths and picking at fruit bowls.

My kids surveyed the lineup of biscuits and gravy, toast, yogurt, cereal, egg and meat products and waffles.

It was a unanimous decision.

I quickly read the instructions and poured a cup of batter on the hot iron, which produced an alarm that made the lady at a nearby table jump and spill her hot coffee.

I flipped it over and silenced the buzzer.

The timer read 2:58, so the kids poured themselves some juice and went to find a table.

In that small timeframe, the once serene buffet was inundated with three different families like an invading army.

I’ve always wanted to know the definition of pillaging,  and now I have a clear picture in my mind.

The children raided the buffet like locusts.

Halfway through the first waffle, I heard a mom behind me.

“Who wants waffles?” she yelled like a commanding officer.

There were a chorus of  ” I do’s.”

I thought it wise to pour a second cup of batter to effectively claim my place at the cooking station.

The look she gave me could have withered a sunflower at full height.

By the time the alarm on my first waffle rang, she had three cups of batter in one hand and two in the other.

I quickly turned out the first waffle and poured the second cup on the hot iron. The lady at the nearby table with the coffee was ready this time.

I buttered the waffle and poured syrup over it and desperately tried to catch the kids’ attention so they could come fetch it. I felt like I was defending some of my turf at this point.

Meanwhile, just behind us at the waffle station, a mother wearing stylish pajamas stood where the carpet meets the linoleum and barked orders at her three children.

“Cammy, you take two pieces of toast,” she told a brown-haired girl of 6 or 7.

“Dave, it’s fine honey, you can take more,” she said, as a rather large teenager filled his plate with all but one of the pork sausages left in the chafing dishes.

Dave moved on from the pork sausage and scooped up such a large helping of egg product, I thought the hotel worker was going to faint.

Pajama mom continued down the line as her children effectively diminished at least an hour’s worth of buffet items.

The hotel called in reinforcements.

The dads remained behind at various tables hiding behind Sunday papers.

If eyes can burn holes in the back of heads, then there are surely two eye-sized holes in my head, because the second waffle’s 2:58 seemed to take an eternity, while the first mom stood behind me holding dripping cups of waffle batter.

I willed it to go faster, but it would not.

I watched items disappearing all around me, and older couples sat befuddled by all of the activity going on around them. It mirrored the hotel swimming pool from the night before.

Crazy, sustained frenetic activity.

Finally the buzzer sounded, and I nearly had to hand-wrestle the mom to get my waffle out fast enough for her liking. I managed to get it onto a plate at about the same speed at which she had the batter poured out and was flipping the iron over.

I made my way over to the kids, dropped off their waffles and surveyed the battleground before me.

The egg and meat products were decimated, and it looked as if it would be some time before they were refilled.

The hotel worker was busy cleaning up some O-shaped cereal spilled on the carpet by a rambunctious toddler.

I thought about toast and then thought better of it. It seemed obvious that one of the moms would show up behind me with a plateful of bagels the minute I depressed the toaster lever.

Fruit seemed easy enough, and there was plenty of it. The Danishes were easy game too, so I looked around the room trying to figure out what others were eyeing.

Pajama lady’s kids were finishing up their first round and looked ready to embark on round two.

“I’m going in guys,” I told my kids. “If I don’t come out in five minutes, come in after me.”


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