Tuesday, May 25, 2021

Eating In The Presence of Enemies

The following post is one of my favorite stories. It's a nod to what used to be one of my favorite restaurants in Portsmouth, VA, The Circle. It's closed now, unfortunately, but I still have many memories of meals after church on Sundays and celebrations with friends and family. I hope you enjoy the story and that it adds some laughter to your day. 

There’s nothing I enjoy more than going out to dinner to one of my favorite restaurants. There’s one in the city where I used to live named “The Circle Restaurant.”. The food there is absolutely the best. They have a great variety of selections and everything tastes like plain home cooking. On Sundays they have the best buffet in town. You can get anything from roast beef to, of course my favorite, fried chicken. There’s usually a line but it’s well worth the wait. 

One particular Sunday afternoon I remember we decided to stop at the Circle for their buffet. Robbie Lee and I waited patiently in line along with the other hungry guests for about fifteen minutes and then we were finally shown to our table. The front of the restaurant is actually shaped in a somewhat circular fashion with the tables lined up beside one another along the walls in front of a huge window. This is the only thing I don’t really like about the restaurant. The tables are too close to each other. You actually feel like you have to join in on the other party’s conversation because you can hear every word. You’re practically sitting in their laps, but I endure this inconvenience because the food is so good. 

Once we told the waitress that we were having buffet, we were off and running to the goodies spread out before us. I skipped right past the salads and made my way to the main dishes, like fish, chicken livers, roast beef, fried chicken and the best stewed tomatoes you ever put in your mouth. I filled up my plate quickly because I was about to pass out from starvation. So I headed back to my table, leaving Robbie Lee still pouring over the salads. 

I smiled at the people seated at the table next to ours as I passed them. They were already eating and they gave me just a quick and polite half smile. You know the kind that people flash at you when they have no idea who you are and the smile fades almost before you have a chance to see it. Anyway, I turned quickly to sit down, and once seated, I couldn’t believe my eyes. The people, at whom I had just smiled and who were earlier casually eating their dinner, now had glasses, plates and food turned upside down on them and all across the once nice white table cloth. I thought to myself, “I wonder what could have happened to their table in such a short time. They looked fine when I smiled at them earlier, but now their whole table is in a disaster.”  Then I noticed that they were glaring at me. “Why are they staring at me with such indignation? I didn’t do anything.” Suddenly it dawned on me. My pocketbook had a long strap on it and, apparently, as I swung around to sit down, my pocketbook swung across their table, destroying everything in sight. 

“I’m so sorry. Please, let me help you clean up,” I cried. My face felt like it was about to explode from embarrassment. Everyone was staring now. “I’ll be glad to pay for any dry cleaning bills you might have.” 

“Please, just leave us alone. We’ll take care of everything,” one of the ladies replied. 

I took my seat again, but I didn’t know what to do with myself. After all, they were seated right next to me. Of course, Robbie Lee was still lingering up at the buffet table, chatting with someone, not knowing that her sister was causing enough chaos out here to get us thrown out on our heads. “I wish she’d hurry up and come back to the table so I won’t have to endure this embarrassment alone,” I whispered under my breath. But Robbie Lee continued to linger over the food, chatting away. 

“Are you sure there’s nothing more I can do for you?” I pleaded, wanting them to let me do something to make up for the mess I had made. 

“No, please. Just leave us alone,” the woman again requested, looking at me like she wanted to knock me down in the middle of the room and beat me to a bloody pulp. So I decided it would be best to leave her be. 

I tried to begin eating, but it was so difficult with the whole restaurant staring and pointing. Finally, Robbie Lee came and sat down in front of me. 

“Hey, what happened to them? Was there a tornado or something?” Robbie Lee said loudly. 

The people at the next table just glared in my direction. 

“Shhhh! I did that. I destroyed their entire table with my pocketbook. I’m so humiliated.” 

“You did it? Oh, no. Can we do anything to help you?” Robbie Lee blurted out to the woman who had already given me a threatening look if I ever suggested that again. 

“Robbie Lee, be quiet! They don’t want our help. Let’s just eat and get out of here, please,” I said, hiding my face with my hands. 

We both tried to eat, but it felt like the whole world was watching us. 

“Your face is really red,” Robbie Lee pointed out. 

“Thank you, but I realize my face is very red because it feels like it’s on fire. Can we talk about something else, please?” 

“OK, guess who I ran into waiting in the buffet line?” Robbie Lee asked, quickly changing the subject. 


“Sherry. You remember her. I went to high school with her. She was telling me she’s married now and they live in Longwood homes.” 

“Longwood homes?” I said louder than I meant to. “Who’d she marry, a millionaire?” I asked, laughing out loud. 

Now Robbie Lee’s face was beet red. “No,” she said in a hushed tone. “She married the man sitting right next to you.” 

As Robbie Lee pointed at the man right beside me who was now staring at me even harder, I tried my best to sink underneath the table. I wished the napkin had been bigger so I could cover myself up in it and just disappear from sight. But I couldn’t. I just tried not to catch his eyes as I shoveled my food into my mouth to keep me quiet. 

But then something terrible happened. Robbie Lee got the giggles and she passed them along to me. Every time we looked at each other, we would just lose it. The people next to us were getting madder and madder because they thought we were laughing at them. I kept trying to explain in between our bursts of laughter that we weren’t actually laughing at them, but they weren’t buying it. Robbie Lee and I finally just gave up, asked for our checks and left. We screamed in laughter all the way home. I was so humiliated, but at the same time the whole thing was so comical.

If nothing else, I sure learned a lesson from that experience. Now when I go out to dinner, I always carry just a small purse in my hand, I make no sudden moves and I never look the other person in the eye. 


JOHN 9:25 



Everything in life is not so easily seen. I mean to say, there are times when we don’t have all of the pieces to the big picture and we slam right into the unexpected. It’s usually right at the time we think we have life on a string and things seem to be going our way. Maybe we get cocky and careless. We forget to look both ways, or to pay closer attention, or to pray or read our bibles. We fail to heed the warning signs and the next thing we know, we’ve been hit head on by an unidentified flying object. 

Never let yourself get to the place in your life that you think you have all the answers, or that you’re too good to take the wise counsel of a Godly friend. If you become too comfortable in your life style, and become lazy or too relaxed to pay needed attention to the spiritual details, you may find yourself heading down the wrong track and before you realize it, you’ve come face to face with something too big for you to get around. You can be stopped dead in your tracks while running on the fast lane. Don’t let it happen to you. Take the time to read the Word and to find some quiet time with God. Nurture your spiritual life so when the time comes you’ll recognize the warning signs along the way. Then, instead of crashing directly into life, you’ll be guided by the Holy Spirit around those obstructions in the roadway. You’ll have a clearer vision of where you’re going and the best way to get there. 

(Excerpt from Life is a Buffet So Save Room for Dessert: All rights reserved.)

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