Compare and explain how one or more situations in your life follow an interpretation similar to Dan Lewis’ view that life is like a smorgasbord

Compare and explain how one or more situations in your life follow an interpretation similar to Dan Lewis’ view that life is like a smorgasbord

Wright State University Writing Placement


This writing placement test requires you to do all the following:
Read the article below.
Summarize the article.
Write an essay based on the article.
Upload and submit one file containing your summary and essay.
First, read the article below. Instructions for writing and submitting your summary and essay follow the


“Did you know that your Aunt Elaine is turning fifty on Saturday?” my mother asked.
“You bet I did, and I’ve already cleared my calendar for the whole day,” I answered with more than a
touch of sarcasm.
“Your grandmother says that she’s never had a birthday party in her whole life. The whole family is
going out to dinner at Elaine’s favorite place, The Hometown Buffet.”
“Oh, great!” I groaned; “That smoggy place?”
“Yes, and everyone has to go, so don’t try to weasel out of it,” she directed. “Afterward, there’s going to
be a surprise party at our house, so you have to come to that too, and bring your guitar – everyone’s
going to play music.”
I could see it now. Bobbie and Jackie on dueling accordions, Grandpa Joe trying out harmonicas in
various wrong keys, and me, Mac, and Mom all strumming along, trying to keep up with those tough

chord changes in “Yellow Bird.” “Nothin’ like a good ol’ fashioned family hoe-down,” I drawled. “Yeah,
I’ll be there… but I’m not wearing the Elvis suit.”
There was a time when I would have been pretty excited at the prospect of a smorgasbord meal, but it
just happens that I’m at that age when you just don’t appreciate such bounty, such convenience. You
know the age I mean – from 12 to 64.
The big night arrived and there we were, twenty-one in all, standing in line to get in. “What in the hell’s
the holdup?” my dad asked from the back of the line, loud enough for the manager upstairs to hear.
“They’re a little busy right now – they just got in three busloads of women bowlers from back east,”
came Aunt Linda’s reply from the front of the line.
We finally got inside – it was like reaching the Land of Plenty, where mass-produced cuisine flowed from
a stainless steel cornucopia. “My God, I’ve never seen so many sneeze shields in one place,” my wife
said. “I’ve never seen so many large women in matching shirts,” I told her.
Needless to say, the “one big table” idea was right out the window, and we ended up in four separate
groups. At one point, my wife Lorna realized in horror that she and our one-year-old daughter were the
only ones at our table who didn’t have a chicken liver on their plates. “I can’t believe,” she said in
disgust, “that they’re serving perfectly good catfish over there, and you guys are eating the bait.”
I avoided my famous fear of menu decisions that night by attempting to eat one of everything in the
place. After three plate-filling trips, in which I combined Chinese with Mexican, Italian with Cajun,
American with God-knows-what, I topped it off with four kinds of desserts. I had never had a more
schizophrenic meal in my life. I was like Sibyl, trying to feed all thirteen personalities at once.
I couldn’t help glancing over at other people’s plates and wondering, how did they choose that
particular meal out of all this food? While most of my selections turned out to be edible enough, the
incongruous mix of flavors made it impossible to fully enjoy any one of them. They seemed to just blend
together in a mish-mash of indistinct tastes. In the end, it was all very filling, but not very fulfilling.
As we left the restaurant, I felt like an overfed guppy about to explode. “How was your meal?” the
cashier asked. “Confusing,” I replied.
I might never have given a thought to that meal again had it not been for a recent conversation with a
friend, in which I told him that my life is like a huge menu that offers no sampler plate. I’ve always been
afraid to order just one thing, for fear of getting filled up and not being able to taste all the others. So I
end up just opting for a lot of side-orders that don’t really go all that well together, never completing a
sensible meal.
Believe me, I recognize the folly in this – there isn’t enough time in one life for even a fraction of Earth’s
worthwhile experiences – but I don’t want to leave anything out. Every hour spent playing basketball is
an hour taken away from reading great literature, growing prize roses, trekking through Nepal,
mastering Thai cooking, or teaching oneself Mandarin. Every year spent teaching high school is a year
spent not sailing around the world, helping feed the homeless, conquering Wall Street, or listening for

radio signals from other galaxies. I can’t help glancing over at other people’s lives and wondering, how
did they choose that particular life out of all these possibilities and find the courage to let the others go?
The trick, I know, is to make only a certain number of choices, sufficiently varied yet sufficiently
compatible, so that each choice can be fully experienced and fully enjoyed. I just need to find a few
things on the menu that I can really enjoy and that will go well together, and then commit to those
things. If I don’t, I fear that someday my epitaph will read, “His life was full, yet unfulfilled.” Although I’m
getting better at recognizing what’s important on the menu of life, still I often find that my eyes are
bigger than my stomach.
But there may be hope for my kind. If my wife, who believes in reincarnation, is right, I’ll get to go back
again and again…and each time with a nice, clean plate.

Lewis, Dan. “Life is a Smorgasbord.” The Writer's Way. Jack Rawlins. New York: Houghton Mifflin
The company, 1999. 295-297.
Writing Instructions

First, write a one-paragraph summary of the article’s content. Save your summary using this format:
Your last name_first name.file extension
Example: Smith_Kim.docx
Note: File name extensions are important. See Technical Support Information if you have any questions!
Second, in the same document, after the summary, write a 500-700 word essay on the prompt below.
Writing Prompt for “Life is a Smorgasbord” by Dan Lewis

Write a 500-700 essay. In it, compare and explain how one or more situations in your life follow an
interpretation similar to Dan Lewis’ view that life is like a smorgasbord, and/or describe and explain
how one or more situations in your life have been dissimilar to Lewis’ interpretation – not like a
Write your essay underneath your summary, in the same document.

Save your file periodically as you work, and again when you have finished your essay.
Return to the previous screen, by closing or minimizing this window, and follow the instructions


Academic LevelHigh school
Subject AreaEnglish 101
Paper Type Essay
Number of Pages3 Page(s)/825 words
Paper FormatMLA
SpacingDouble spaced
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