The first time we visited a Waffle House, it was in Vicksburg, Mississippi. We woke up on the tour bus and surveyed our limited options from the car park on the outskirts of town, just off a major freeway. It was raining heavily, and we were hungry. Being a bit of a snob, my expectations were not high, but we duly ran across the road with our jackets raised over our heads, and into the shelter of said Waffle House.
Never before have I experienced such warmth! Not the usual disingenuous stock pleasantries, but genuine, unhurried interest – quite the opposite of how you’d expect a fast food joint to be. I’ve walked into plenty of expensive restaurants that apparently have a policy of actively ignoring you, but I’m greeted amiably every time I enter here.
Rather than avoiding them, I’ve begun actively seeking them out. In Jacksonville, Florida we enjoyed (to a point) a guy freestyle rapping whilst eating his breakfast. More recently in Indianapolis, Indiana I sat at the bar and pretended to read a book whilst enjoying the banter between staff:
A large, intimidating-looking man behind the counter was archly complaining to his boss, asking why he had been overlooked when it came to scheduling overtime, concluding with,
“I got a pretty smile, ain’t I?!” I imagined he possessed a smile that would make children cry.
A man next to me – clearly a regular – expressed mock indignation to the waitress when she referred to me as ‘sweetie’ whilst taking my order.
“Hey, you never call me ‘sweetie’!?”
“That’s cos you ain’t!” came the instant reply.
This morning, somewhere on the outskirts of Nashville, Tennessee I walk in and sit down. A lady comes over after a few minutes and says she didn’t see me come in. I said I just snuck in. After a moment, she repeats slowly – half to me, half to herself, “I just snuck in…” – apparently amused, as if what I’d said was far more profound than intended. I order poached eggs on brown toast, with a hash brown, and am overwhelmed with unforeseen choice.
“How would like your eggs? Soft, medium, hard?” – down to where I’d like them located on my plate:
“On the toast? On the side?”
The eggs arrive as they always arrive, and the order is usually a bit of an improvisation on a theme of what I thought I’d ordered, but I enjoy being asked all the same. Curiously, the waitress comments to the cook that she’s never seen eggs done like that before, so I guess poached is not a popular choice here.
Upon bringing me some more sachets of cream for the endless coffee she keeps topping up, she holds my gaze from underneath heavy, false eyelashes and briefly strokes the palm of my hand with her fingertip as she hands me them. I blush palpably. She then repeats the procedure with the butter she brings me. I repeat the blushing, and tip accordingly.
All this for $5.08! If it’s been a while since you’ve visited a Waffle House, I implore you to do so – I’m beginning to foster a real affection for them.
Adam : )