RE: How about waffle house ?
Fri, 07/9/04 1:53 PM
The Waffle House Chronicles
It's late one Friday night. You, accompanied by a select group of your closest friends, drive down the interstate, wanting desperately to be at home in the warmth of your bed. Suddenly, the lot of us sees the sign. Like a beacon it is, summoning us to it like proverbial moths to a flame. Forgetting about the need for sleep, we turn onto the off-ramp, a string of drool dripping down and off of your chin. "Waffle House," we say with a gleam in our eyes, "we have arrived." What follows will be one of the most important events of our adult lives, a tireless ritual continuing into infinity all across the nation's good expanse.
The Waffle House is without a doubt one of the last surviving institutions of small-town Americana. Started in the mid-50's, this restaurant franchise has endured in ways that defy modernization. While McDonald's had to appeal to the younger set by adopting a clown as a spokesperson, and while countless other fast food eateries have embarked on multi-million dollar ad campaigns to modernize their images, the Waffle House has remained solid by stating simply, "Good Food Fast, So Come On Down." The place is open nonstop: twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, dedicated to the service of the customer. This simple, hardworking approach appeals to countless numbers of hungry persons, and so it has remained relatively unchanged since its inception.
One noteworthy quality about the Waffle House is the atmosphere. My friends and I burst through the door to claim a booth and instantly attract stares from some of the most degenerate faces on the planet. This confrontation brings to mind the timeless class struggle between the Haves and the Have-nots, the bourgeoisie and the proletariat, the rebellious youth and structured establishment. The initial cold shoulder provokes us to stare back in retaliation so that we can prove to them that we aren't intimidated. Our struggle, however, is forgotten once the waitress finally arrives, casually sauntering over to us with looks of total indifference. She stuffs her loose and falling hair back up into her gaudy, burgundy cloth hat.
"So, whaddyallhave?" she asks, waiting for us to decipher her strange and jumbled dialect. More often than not, the only reason we come here is to order what Waffle House is most famous for, and that (as if you needed to be told) is coffee. Waffle House coffee is a mystical brew with high caffeine content and an identifiable taste. No other restaurant's coffee is as desirable, because only Waffle House's has that "real man" industrial-strength flavor. Grumpily, the waitress stomps away, aware that her tip will be far less than generous.
Anyone who knows anything about the politics behind the Waffle House experience also knows that there are definite rules and guidelines that dictate how the course of events is to be played out during the span of a single visit. This routine begins with the arrival of the much-anticipated cups of coffee, continues with pleasant conversation and playful intercourse amongst the customers, and culminates with the paying of the check and the inevitable departure. Our Waffle House chef makes the claim that the people who frequent the restaurant are, for the most part, regulars, and that they all seem to welcome the idea of taking part in the habitual ceremony.
With the arrival and preparation of our new cream-colored cups of caffeinated comfort, we are ready to begin the sacred rite. Pinkies extended, the group begins, rather amateurishly, to offer each other our various opinions on politics, philosophy, religion, weather, sex, television overkill, music, decay of civilization, and the symbolic significance of The Trolley in Mr. Roger's Neighborhood. Everyone takes pride in rattling off clever little quips and witticisms, some of which are so obscure that I'm not even sure if I fully understand their meanings. Nevertheless, we all laugh loudly, not caring that some old and bearded biker is glaring from the far and dark corner.
Next, after a lull in the conversation, you distance yourself from your friends and start to observe the other goings-on in the restaurant. Through a toxic cloud of cigarette smoke, I peek over the back of the booth as the chef grills his gastronomical masterpieces with impressive speed and grace. His metal spatula clacks and glides with a soothing scrape across the slick metal surface of the grill. Slightly above that, I notice the familiar sizzle of fat and grease, and every so often wisps of smoke escape into the vent above the grill surface. I notice the stacks of various condiments, sticky from use as well as misuse. Sugar, honey, ketchup, mustard, and various other bottles and containers are waiting patiently to have their contents dumped into empty bottles and containers by the oftentimes incompetent and apathetic waitresses.
It is clandestinely known to the seasoned observer that all Waffle Houses are the same. Not to say that they have the same basic design, it is something much more than that. Waffle Houses are all exactly the same. They all have the same chef, the same waitresses, the same greasy food, the same greasy customers, even down to the same songs on the jukebox. Perhaps it can even be wondered if there is in actuality only one Waffle House, following unsuspecting motorists on their routes and suddenly appearing on the interstate exit whenever it senses the driver's hunger. Or perhaps not.
The time-honored routine next suggests that we get up and walk over to the jukebox which is the only time we really feel like moving. Stifling giggles, we notice titles such as "I've Got the Waffle House Blues" and "We're All a Big Waffle House Family" and "You Can Shoot My Dog and Wreck My Car, But Don't Take Away My Waffle House." The titles, I assume, speak for themselves, and despite a seizing fit of desire, I resist the urge to plunk in a quarter to hear one of the little ditties. We wander back to our seats and quietly spy on.
The employees may help to create the mystique of the Waffle House ritual, but it is the customers who truly make the place the Mecca that it is. The majority of them are middle to old age, and most of them are married. Lots of beards, lots of camouflage clothing, lots of cigarettes, lots of annoyingly loud rednecks, and lots of newspapers fill the room. One elderly gentleman in particular has an uncontrollable cough and yellowing eyes, most likely resulting of a lifelong love affair with tobacco. Elderly ladies with blue hair gossip about the city's more prominent individuals as their husbands sit busily gorging themselves, content with remaining silent. An excited group of hunters are chewing away on some very oily hash browns and bragging about the machismo it takes to hide in a tree and dismember a deer with heavy artillery. Several college-aged kids and young adults come in from some sporting event, all animated and lively and (probably) drunk.
My now-hyperactive friends are banging their spoons on the sides of their cups for refills, producing an irritating "ding" that summons the waitress in a matter of seconds. She silently fills the cups and walks away, still bitter about her tip, still cramming her hair into her hat. Our conversation turns to more mundane topics. Everyone offers ideas as to what sort of non-monetary items should be left as a tip: severed hand, Dead-Rat-On-A Stick, an out-of-date telephone book still in the trunk of my car. Gratuities, everyone agrees, should be a more creative design. After all, money is just so impersonal.
Listening in on conversations will disclose to the eavesdropper what the weather will be like tomorrow, how so-and-so's kidney stone is passing, why the country is going to Hell in a hand basket, and all sorts of interesting bits of trivia. Eventually, a revelation concerning the customers becomes obvious: they aren't just here to eat. The Waffle House customers are people who have definite opinions on an issue and go there to make themselves heard. Never mind how unimportant and trivial some of their points may be; this place is a social forum to air your personal views for everyone to hear. You may or may not know the people, but the atmosphere gives off the illusion that you're dining with a bunch of war buddies, spinning yarns and trading words. By the way, did you hear the latest? Remember that George Bush character who used to be President? While campaigning in North Carolina, he stopped at the Waffle House and ordered, get this, a waffle, which was intended to be shot at Bill Clinton for, as Bush says, "waffling" on the major issues. With all of these political bigwigs providing a free-ad campaign for Waffle House, it is no wonder that business has been so good recently?
You feel a sense of security in a Waffle House because it is indeed a magical place; no harm can conceivably befall a person locked within its safe confines. The waitresses may not be as warm as that cup of coffee you sip on, but you wouldn't trade them for any other waitresses in the world. At the very least they wear those really ugly hats that bring smiles to your heart. You are there with friends. You are happy. The Waffle House is a veritable Utopia. Yes, I tell myself, I love the Waffle House. And I mean it. I don't feel this good at home, and certainly not at school. If the Waffle House were a woman, would you ask her to marry you? Of course I would; it would be foolish not to.
-by Ben McCorkle
^ i found that while searchin for stuff for my paper ^_^ i love it!