The Long Version

Jack Whaley, the man who "wrecked the breakfast buffet" at the Holiday Inn Express

of wrecking a breakfast buffet

There are multiple ways to 'skin a cat' 

Prologue: Jack Whaley Long (13) had been complaining of having to eat the hotel’s breakfast buffet every morning at the Holiday Inn Express in Hazard, Kentucky. I tried to explain to Jack the hotel’s buffet came with the room. 

I thought I had explained we didn’t need to “look a gift horse in the mouth.” Jack didn’t like that answer.  

I am guessing here; but the following may have been Jack’s way of “handling” the situation…

I have no idea if any of you have noticed, but my son, Jack Whaley, is a bit of a button-pusher. Having been a button-pusher all of my life, it is easy to identify. We know our own. 

We have been living at the Holiday Inn Express in Hazard since being un-housed by the fire of September 17, 2021. The people at the Express have been super nice to us. They, too, notice Jack’s penchant for pushing buttons but have been gracious and accommodating and seem to give Jack some deference and latitude.  

There are a contingent of emergency medical personnel living with us at the Holiday Inn. These are the “rescue workers” who have been sent to our area to relieve overworked and understaffed medical personnel. They are needed because we live in an area where political statements trump vaccines.

We eat breakfast with these workers most mornings. They have been, for the most part, chatty and friendly. 

We know they are somewhere they would rather not be. Regardless of the fine hospitality we have been shown, so are we.

Jack really bothers these people. Their consistent and vitriolic reaction to Jack’s every move or comment stands testament to the fact. Jack does nothing to discourage their disdain. 

Like I before said, Jack is just like me. If I ever do anything which bothers you, the worst thing you could ever do is permit my discovery. I will pick at a scab forever. Apparently, so will Jack.

So Jack comes down one morning, barefoot to the general dining hall, and sets his shoes on the counter next to the breakfast buffet. It may well have peeved the entire lot (and neither his mother nor I had come down for breakfast so we weren't around to admonish Jack; which we would certainly would have done if given the chance), but there was one woman there who seemed to seethe over it. 

She called Jack down sternly and made him remove his shoes from the counter and put them on his feet, which he did. However, to Jack, he had won.  

Jack had bothered her. He had ruined her morning. He had just taken up occupancy in the forefront of her mind, absolutely rent free.

From that morning forward, Jack had become a target for her ire. She would load up for bear the next time. If he misstepped just one more time, she must have thought, she was going to let him have both barrels. 

Well, usually when Jack works himself into that position the next “mess up” happens almost instantaneously on the heels of the first. It would be so this time too.   

I have seen Jack do the same thing with many of his former elementary school teachers. If he hasn’t done it to a 7th-grade teacher yet, he certainly will. 

Jack has before done it to me and I am the master of the practice. One might say I am OG at this kind of thing.

The very next day, Jack comes down for breakfast. I am with him this time.  

This woman, along with another worker, engaged me in small talk about our losing our home in a fire and the like. Only one of the two women was looking at me.  

The other one, the one Jack had bated the day before, had her eyes fixed on Jack’s every movement. She was like a lioness in tall weeds waiting on the gazelle she intended to consume to stoop down for one more drink of water before she could pounce. 

BAM! There it was! Her moment had arrived and she excitedly sprung with every amount of zeal she could muster. 

Jack reached into the tray of biscuits put out for the guests, with his naked hand, seizing for himself a biscuit. Jack put it on his plate. 

“Young man,” she cried out. “You put that biscuit and everyone you have touched on your plate right now.”  

Then she looked at me and said, “I am using my inside voice." I suppose she said this to soft sell what was happening.

This uninvited stranger had taken over, from his mother and me, Jack's rearing. It appeared clear to her we weren't doing the job. 

I hurriedly scurried over to remonstrate my son. I was hoping to get to him before this self-same, self-entitled stranger loosened her belt and started administering lashes to Jack's backside.   

“Jack, use the tongs,” I said as I scooped up the tongs and reached for the now contaminated biscuit. The tongs fell apart in my hand like some cruel practical joke. 

“You get every biscuit his hand has soiled. I don’t find this the least bit funny,” Jack’s female antagonist iterated while now dressing down both Jack and me. 

She continued, “We’ve had to come here, away from our families, to render emergency care in the middle of a pandemic and this young man is putting his shoes next to the buffet one day and handling biscuits with his naked hand the next.” I knew she hadn’t recovered from the shoe-thing. 

“Jack, which biscuits have you touched, son?” I asked this question more for the benefit of our audience to the breakfast buffet theatre than to ferret out the information. 

“I don’t know, Dad. I think I may have touched every one of them,” Jack answered.  

Now, clearly, Jack hadn’t touched every biscuit in the tray. That was ridiculous. Have I mentioned Jack intentionally pushes buttons?

The woman charged into the back of the room where hotel personnel were administrating the breakfast buffet. She motioned a worker toward the tray of biscuits.  

“I want these biscuits removed, the whole tray, and right now. If there is an expense for throwing away the tray I will pay it; but I am declaring everyone of these biscuits a bio-hazard.”  

The employee smiled, looked at Jack and me apologetically, and removed the tray. I emptied my entire contents of food I had already plated into a neighboring trash can, looked at Jack and said, “C’mon son. We’re leaving.”  

I stormed out of the front of the hotel where we have been living for two weeks. Caroline, Jack’s older sister, was so embarrassed she drove her own car to school that morning. She didn’t want to be seen with either Jack or me.  

Bebe, my wife, came down and got in our vehicle, getting filled in on the morning’s events. Jack said, “Mom, Dad, can we just go to McDonald’s? I’m hungry.” 

“We sure can Jack,” his mother announced while glaring at me through the sides of her eyes furiously. “You can have anything you want.”  

As I peered through my rear-view, having now been placed in the legion of bullies by my wife together with the woman from the dining room who had castigated our baby, I knew we had all been taken for a ride. Even I, "the Master," had been duped.

I stared at Jack through that mirror. Jack sat under the heat of my glare; unapologetically meeting my gaze. He looked to me to have the hint of a mischievous grin curling his lips. 

All hail the King!...

This is Fletcher Long and you can take this for whatever you find it worth but THAT’S THE LONG VERSION! 

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