• So we decided to have a barbeque this past weekend, just because, and invited a handful or our closest friends. No special occasion simply a get together to hang out and catch up. While at the grocery store on Friday picking up some supplies for the party, I ran into an old classmate (we’ll call him Jim) from high school. It was great seeing him and catching up for a bit but clearly he was no one with whom I made any significant effort to look up or stay in touch. Yet it had been over fifteen years and time had passed so I thought perhaps now we’d make a better connection. He was in his forties, still single and described a lifestyle quite different than mine, which left me slightly envious. He saw my basket filled with groceries and asked, “what are you having a party or something?” I hesitated for a second, responded “Yes,” then halfheartedly invited him to join us. Of course, he accepted!

    The party was pretty small, only about 20 or so good friends. Guess who showed up first? Of course, I was still putting the finishing touches on the barbeque and setting up the patio chairs. Jim sat down without much small talk and asked “where’s the beer?” No big deal, as everything was pretty much set up already. “Do you mind if I grab a plate?” he asked. I pointed him in the direction of the buffet table and went inside to greet other guests. When I came out to the backyard with a few of my friends, I saw Jim sitting in the corner surrounded with a few of the large serving trays from the main buffet table. Evidently, he moved them to his table though there were two other tables that were set up. I looked at him slightly bewildered as he mumbled with his mouth full, “no point in wasting time. This way I don’t have to get up.” His plate was already loaded to the hilt with two rib-eyes, 3 chicken skewers and a couple of ribs. Yet for some reason he had to move the trays over to his table possibly in fear that he wouldn’t have enough to eat. He didn’t bother to get up to meet my friends and simply waived from his seat as he got back down to business, focused on his plate and resumed inhaling.

    He wasn’t a heavy guy, was never orphaned and didn’t grow up poor as far as I know, so I had no way of justifying (to myself) why he was like this. Other than maybe he was just really hungry and had poor manners. It was pretty awkward but I still introduced him to my friends. As the rest of my guests arrived, some single and some with families, his behavior didn’t improve. I was hopeful that once he was full he would relax a bit. Instead he stayed to himself and focused on the variety of food, beverages and deserts. He was pretty thin, so I had no idea how he was putting all this food away. I was pretty mellow about it at first as I motioned to my friends to start eating. A few of them saw his behavior and came up to me to ask, “What’s the story with this guy?” Then I noticed that he had monopolized a few more trays, without shame, and added to his collection at his table. Though she didn’t say anything, I could tell that my wife was definitely not happy when she saw this, so I had to do something. Short of embarrassing him, I went over to his table and started taking the trays back over to the buffet table. He smirked and half-jokingly said, “Hey where are you going with those, I’m not done with that yet,” as he lifted his fork in the direction of the rib-eyes. I shielded the tray and responded, “no worries, man it’ll be over there (pointing to the buffet table) when you want more.” Then I specifically took the tray of rib eyes and walked over to each of my friends to give them their first option to try one before the human garbage disposal zeroed in for seconds and thirds.

    I tried to make the best of the rest of the party though Jim didn’t really mix well with any of my friends. As people started clearing out, of course Jim was one of the last to leave.  “Man, I can hardly breathe, he said as he rubbed his belly. “I can help you guys out and take some home if you need to get rid of some of this stuff,” as he looked at the tin trays of food my wife had wrapped to put in the refrigerator. Yes, that’s always a problem trying to get rid of steaks and ribs, I thought to myself. I was looking forward to having them as left-overs the next day as my wife came up behind me with a grocery bag and started putting some items in trays for Jim to take home. I was quiet and didn’t say anything though inside I was steaming. She handed them over to him and said, “of course, Jim I already thought of that.” And luckily, with that, he was out the door.

    As I was cleaning up, my wife was a lot more kind and forgiving about me inviting Jim than I was with myself. But I didn’t want to dwell on the negative and chalked it up as a learning experience. Though it was somewhat uncomfortable, there was no real harm done and it reminded me that there are many different types of people out in the world, many of whom I choose to stay far away from (unless they’re family and have no choice). Obviously, I didn’t really get along with him much in our youth, so my instincts back then were pretty accurate. Secondly, I realized that I shouldn’t say things I don’t mean. There’s no reason to invite people simply out of guilt or obligation, especially when I’m looking to spend quality time with my guests. There’s a time and a place for everything. So, from now on, if I don’t know my guests well I don’t invite outsiders unless I’m willing to accept a free for all! What would you do?