An Alabama buffet was thrown into chaos last month when customers began attacking each other in an attempt to secure the restaurant’s last remaining crab legs. According to multiple press reports, Meteor Buffet was briefly turned into a warzone of flying salad and shellfish when angry, hungry customers decided to resort to blows, rather than give up on a fresh batch of seafood. To call the clientele “crabby” would be something of an understatement.
According to local news outlet WHNT, the situation got out of hand when several dozen diners were left waiting for an unexpectedly long time for their share of steamed snow crab. As anyone who’s ever tasted this particular crustacean will attest, it’s easy to appreciate why tempers were running high. As onlookers would later confirm, as soon as the next batch of shellfish arrived, the orderly queue descended into a violent free for all, as social etiquette went out the window in a mad bid for crab meat.
Unfortunately for anyone caught up in the carnage, sitting a few tables away from the melee was off-duty Huntsville Police officer Gerald Johnson. Despite arriving at Meteor to enjoy what should have been uneventful helpings of sushi, General Tso’s chicken and fried rice, Officer Johnson instead witnessed a scene that wouldn’t have looked out of place in the first 15 minutes of “Saving Private Ryan” - if it had been filmed in a kitchen.
Speaking later to WHNT, Officer Johnson described how he looked up from his plate to see “...a woman who's beating a man. People are moving around, plates are shattering everywhere." He went on to add, rather nonchalantly, "It's not something you typically hear, if you can imagine a fencing match.”
Abandoning his own meal, Johnson relayed how he soon realised that two of the customers - later identified as John Chapman and Chequita Jenkins - were using buffet tongs as makeshift sabres, jabbing and parrying as they fought for control over the crab. The two were quickly disarmed, but not before Chapman had somehow sustained a shallow cut to the head - presumably inflicted by a well-timed Jenkins thrust. Both parties were subsequently arrested, with Chapman indicted for disorderly conduct, and Jenkins cited for third degree assault, according to a report in “Munchies”. Both parties rather astutely admitted that their “tempers got the best of them”.
Despite being prized away from his own dinner by the exuberance of the duelling crab fanatics, Officer Johnson was more understanding than you might expect. In his long interview with WHNT, he sympathised, “They’d been waiting there for the crab legs for a good 10, 20 minutes. When they finally came out, it’s very heated. Especially if someone is taking more than their fair share.” The lesson here, for anyone else who fancies asserting themselves at an all-you-can-eat Chinese restaurant, is obvious. If you’re going to challenge another customer to single combat, make sure you have an arbiter as charitable as Officer Johnson. Other officials may not be so lenient.