Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Of Smorgasbords & Scrapbooking...

I should just stop with the title and let everyone wonder what cog has slipped (further, some might say) in Julie's brain.

[dramatic pause for effect]

First, my apologies to my non-scrapping friends and family. Yes, I know, constant allusions to the new hobby are getting tiresome. It's just too bad. It's my obsession and I'll allude if I want to, allude if I want to... you would allude too if it happened to you... Just be glad I've opted out of sound on my blog and you were spared the singing voice in my head. See? I care about you. I've given you cause to be grateful that it's just scrapping you're putting up with (along with some questionable grammar, but hey, colloquial is where it's at, right? No one is going to have to diagram any of my sentences, anyway, unless they continue to protest the scrapbooking references.) Now that I have tucked parenthetical asides into my parenthetical asides, I'll move on, if I can remember my topic.

[dramatic pause for effect and for me to remember my topic]

There aren't that many places anymore that serve a geniune all-you-can-eat buffet style meal, and I think I know why. It's because it brings to the forefront some of the least desirable traits of humankind and puts them on display with uncomfortable clarity and in full view of the dining public.

I see your skeptical look, however I am speaking from my own experience as well as my observations. I like to think of myself as a fairly decent human being. I try to be respectful of others, appreciative, thoughtful, and supportive. I make a concentrated effort to be wise with my resources, take care of my belongings, and to use what I have been given to its full effect. And I know for a fact that all that self-discipline goes right out the window at just about the same moment that I approach the first serving stand and see the self-replenishing stack of plates beckoning me with the promise of unlimited gratification.

What IS this??? I'll be honest, I don't even LIKE most buffet food. It sits out in a display designed for ease of access rather than optimum quality maintenance, so it's too warm/cold/dried out/limp/soggy/hard to truly merit epicurean credit. And then there's the whole problem of portioning - if you take too little of an item, you will surely be sorry when it turns out to be the One Food on Earth that actually improves when it's too warm/cold/dried out/limp/soggy/hard, and you will be the One Person in the restaurant who Fails to Anticipate Greatness with a generous scoop reflecting proper recognition of its potential. On the other hand, if you take too much of an item, the converse threat is equally intimidating, usually ending in the scornful eyes of the busperson taking away the plate bearing your leftover shame (good try, hiding it under the artistically crumpled napkin). And dessert is the very worst, following on the heels of at least two plates' (ironically, the warm one for the salad, and the ice cold one for the entree) worth of wavering between portion size one and portion size two and usually resulting in stomach fillage size three and yet... one has paid the full price for the buffet and therefore MUST HAVE DESSERT (please see above-referenced self-congratulation re: "using resources to their full effect," this being the only vestige of self discipline apparently remaining available to me - who am I to question self discipline?).

Dessert. Spell it the other way in a buffet line, because your good sense (had you actually maintained some to this point) is surely about to desert you now. What under normal circumstances (i.e. if you were paying for each one individually) would attract your eye and send a frisson of delight rippling over your tastebuds is no longer valid. Suddenly each and every doughy pastry, hard (not crisp, HARD) cookie, gelatinous pudding, dry-as-cracker-crumbs cake square (complete with microscopic layer of over-sweet and under-effective frosting), faux cut-glass dish piled with impossible cubes of highly colored jell-0 with equally impossible rosettes of unyielding whipped "cream," vie with each other for a spot on your tray (forget the plate, use the tray). You're standing up, so it's easier to forget the cruelly unyielding button on your jeans, so you choose, oh, say, two Modest Choices from the mesmerizing display before you, feeling slightly smug about your restraint. At that point you notice, standing in its own glory at the end of the dessert station, the Ice Cream Sundae Bar. And a discreet sign indicates that even better, it's Frozen Yogurt. Practically Diet. You make a beeline for the line of children who want to get Gramma & Grampa some ice... er, I mean Frozen Yogurt mainly so they can pull the handle and watch the frozen goodness snake down out of the spout and into the dish (latter part optional for the youngest ones in line). Finally it's your turn, and you get your own little thrill out of said snaking, and a slightly larger thrill out of the toppings (hot fudge, mmmm - well, hey, it's frozen yogurt, so pour a little more on!). You feel vaguely uneasy about the first two desserts on your tray at about this time (c'mon people, it's HOT FUDGE, fer cryin' out loud! you can't turn it down just because you've already taken a couple of token desserts!) but you resolutely shove the thoughts down because you can't put the desserts back (they've been on your tray, they now bear your germs and it is your duty to protect the gluttonous public from your cooties), and besides, you can always artfully arrange some more napkins if you have to. Off you march to your booth joyously bearing the fruits of your labor (because marching is more exercise than sneaking, and the button is still hammering home its disapproval).

Fast Forward. You leave the restaurant, making sure you get your free toothpick at the door, even though you mostly had soggy and limp and hot fudge and none of it is likely to be lodged between molars but doggone it, you paid for the buffet and you're going to get your money's worth, and that includes a toothpick. The whole sorry tale (other than the one your jeans button is about to tell in a decidedly strident voice) is over. By the time you reach your car, you are wondering what exactly you have done to yourself, and why oh why oh why - what came over you???

It's the Smorgasbord Syndrome - the inability to control oneself and cling to virtue in the face of unlimited gratification. At some point in time, you not only come to feel entitled to as much as you can grab, but greed sets in until you are grabbing things you don't even want with every bit as much fervor.

My Digiscrap friends will know where I'm going with this by now, and possibly others who participate in a hobby that's peopled with many kind and generous folks will also relate. There are so many kind people who are willing to share the fruits of their labor with others by giving away knowledge just for the creativity and the joy of passing it on to others who share that love. Sadly, I sometimes feel the same sort of disconnect from my normal values that I fight at the Buffet Restaurant. It's tempting to take things I don't care for just because they're free. It's tempting not to count the cost, everything from bandwidth to hard drive space, to simple human dignity. And in the final tally, it isn't just my jeans button that will condemn me.


Janet said...

>>doggone it, you paid for the buffet and you're going to get your money's worth, and that includes a toothpick.<<

That's my philosophy in a nutshell. Buffets are my downfall. When the announcement is made that you are welcome to get in line to fill your plate at the buffet, I am invariably first, no matter how hard I try to restrain myself. I promise myself to just take a tiny little bit of just the food I like, but when I get to the end, I have a plate piled high with unrecognizable fare. I am ashamed to return to my table, expecting that comments will be made about my overflowing dish. I'm never disappointed. Oh well, next time I will do better. ;-)

Miss Chris said...

Oh Julie-
As soon as I mosied over here from Hummie's I knew that I would be back. I have added you to my RSS feeds (even though I really do not understand what an RSS feed is!) Anyway, I wait with baited breath for my yahoo sight to notify me that you have graced us with another tidbit! You did not disappoint. I am simultaneously laughing out loud and guiltily thinking of the huge backlog of freebies I have downloaded. They need to be tagged in ACDSee and then never again resurrected to see the shining light of a digiscrapped layout. I know gluttony is one of the seven deadly sins, I shamefully, am guilty as charged.

DanisDelusions said...

Ah, this post is near and dear to my heart. I recently checked my hardrive only to find that I had downloaded over 17 GIGS of freebies! That is over 15,000 files. And seeing as I am on Weight Watchers..it obviously pertains in the non-metaphoric way as well *L*.