Childhood memories of Pizza Hut buffets, my once favorite Sizzler (after having returned as an adult, I'm not sure why I loved that place so much. And it may surprise you know know it still clings to life here on the West Coast), my Catholic confirmation dinner at Olive Garden complete with all you can eat salad and breadsticks, and on this lucky occasion, pasta as well; I even chose Golden Corral to celebrate high school graduation with the family.
And it didn't stop there. Branson, Missouri lobster buffet with more than a dozen delectable decapods I enjoyed; a multi-generational family visit to see me wrap up my Plebe Summer training in Annapolis treated me to Buddy's Seafood Buffet, and of course numerous casino buffets along the way. And I'd be remiss to forget the ultimate buffet, the Brazilian Rodizio. Whether it be Texas de Brazil, or the one epic night of 3 and 1/2 hours of continuous carnivorous activity in competition for who would be the last to turn that "feed me" token over to red at El Porcao in Miami, I've never left such an establishment hungry - or even comfortable walking.
A buffet (at least for me) always seems to be done in excess. Why someone would eat 14 lobsters or enough steak to satisfy a grizzly bear in one sitting? Aside from the fact that it is delicious, there seems to be the persistent idea that "I have to get my money's worth." That statement epitomizes the idea of Buffet Syndrome.
But the syndrome isn't limited to food, as I've found out. Anything with a "season pass" is subject to the same approach, with the potential to suffer a similar "I've gone overboard" regret. For example, we recently had the (possibly once in a lifetime) experience of living for nearly two months in Lake Tahoe, CA with season passes to two of the areas largest ski resorts. Courtesy of Vail's Epic pass and its incredibly generous price of $100 for military and family members, we intended to take full advantage of the opportunity. After $300 for our lift tickets for the season (the youngest two kiddos were still free!), and another $400 or so for used ski gear and rentals for Baby A, we were $700 in before we even set on skied foot on the slopes. We'd better get our money's worth by skiing as often as possible! Considering lift tickets with rentals at Heavenly would have cost us nearly $700 for a single day, it shouldn't be too hard to "break even." But with three young kiddos with no ski experience, and an unknown desire to even learn at this point, I wasn't sure how far we could push it.
In the end, we skied a total of approximately 25 days out of the 40 or so available to us. Not too shabby. We took Sundays off for church and sometimes a grocery run, had a week off for a quick jaunt out to Florida to celebrate with the wiser still but not yet elderly Pop, and every 2 weeks we had to move our RV to a new campground in accordance with our membership policy (2 week max stay, then 1 week out, but for a price of $0 per night it's worth it for Lake Tahoe accommodations).
More days than not there was at least one complaining child, either before, during or after the actual skiing. But despite that, I didn't quite get that same "we've overdone it" felling like I did leaving the sushi buffet on our last afternoon in Tahoe. So I'd say it was a success!
Our next challenge? Trying not to overdo it at Six Flags Magic Mountain this summer (meal plans included!) You can guess I've already crunched the numbers on how many visits we'll need to make for it to be "worth it." Let's just hope the kids don't tire of the rides, water park, french fries, churros and bottomless sodas (we usually fill it with sparkling water 😉) before we reach that point. I'll have to remember that dragging whining children through an amusement park in 100 degree heat searching for the nearest bathroom or shortest line is far from amusing and never worth it, even if we've already paid for it.