- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 24, 2005

I have attended several holiday parties over the past week, and one thing is really annoying: people who stake out a place at the buffet table and never move. This results in others having to reach around them to stab at a piece of cheese or a crab puff. It seems to me you should get in line, fill your plate and then either move to the side or take a seat.

Don’t these hogs realize what they’re doing? Maybe you could provide a brief refresher course on how to behave in a buffet line.

A: Ah, the problems one confronts during the holidays.

Buffet hogs no doubt fail to realize they are holding up equally famished fellow guests when they plunk down to help themselves to (probably more than their fair share of) the jumbo shrimp cocktail, Alaskan king crab claws and other bounty laid down for their delectation.

Nor would many care — even if they had sense enough to realize they are blocking others’ access to the same food they are gobbling down. It is one thing, of course, to pause momentarily while chatting with a fellow guest, perhaps to assist in the other person’s selection of unidentified cheeses, mystery casseroles and the like or to make way for servers to replenish empty bowls and platters. It is quite another to eat directly from the buffet as if it were one’s own dining table.

Generally speaking, one enters the room where the buffet is displayed, determining first where the plates, napkins and cutlery have been placed (sometimes on the main table, sometimes on a sideboard) and then where the line to serve oneself begins. In cases where exactly the same dishes have been placed on both sides of the table, there are two buffet lines, and you can cleverly choose which seems to be the shortest.

It is only a matter of common sense and courtesy that one proceeds as quickly and efficiently as possible, taking care to reposition the serving utensils (remember: fork on top of spoon) so that the next person has easy access to them.

A few additional notes: One obviously does not cut ahead of another person waiting in line or barge into it from the middle to select helpings, second or otherwise, of a particular dish unless there is a large gap — in which case you are not really cutting ahead of anyone. Also, don’t take a large portion of anything that is in short supply. After all, how would you like it if Mr. or Mrs. Greedy grabbed the last two luscious crab cakes, leaving none for you?

Address your questions on etiquette and protocol to Kevin Chaffee, The Washington Times, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, DC 20002 or send e-mail to civilities@washington times.com.

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