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Wednesday, August 09, 2006

The Lesser Known Secrets of a Night-Shift Waffle House Employee

Behind the yellow glowing lights, behind the foggy windowed walls, behind the high bar where grits and hashbrowns are slammed down every hour of the day and night...there is a world that few of us have had the privilege and perhaps the careless audacity to penetrate into. I have indeed plunged right in and have bore my final responsibility by reporting what it is actually like being a night-shift worker at the Waffle House.

First Impressions: My first name being Charles, and knowing that that nor Brian would do, my first move to embrace the Waffle House community and have it embrace me in return was to go by the name, "Chuck". It wasn't too long until I attained to the full status and proud dignity of a Wafflehouse server, by having "Chuck" gleaming, greasily, from my name tag. It, of course, was bound to get me better tips. My co-workers were a hard-working, independent bunch. Independent...in that, an opinion shouted from one end of the kitchen to the other, was undisputed fact. Perhaps to some, the word, "shame" is something "in them dictionaries" but found no where else.

My first experience with this sort of "shameless" woman was at my Waffle House class. We all met together, anybody placing an application to any nearby stores, was required to go to class. It was during the prized smoke break which was the delight of most, but was the worst fish-out-of-water experience for me; I sat at a booth sipping my Coke, wondering if they wouldn't "graduate" me because I'm a nonsmoker. My thoughts were quickly scattered like their smoke clouds, when this cute girl plops right down across from me. I say cute...in a loose tense. She was wholly sensuous. There was something about her that reminded me of alligators and swamps. For she had alligator eyes and alligator teeth, though her figure and face was strictly female. She eyed me all during class...and I could tell that she wasn't or was the type of girl to be caught alone with in the storage room. I say "was or wasn't" depending on your moral point of view. Conversation commenced. I learned many key elements about her only within the few minutes that we talked. Probably her life story in a couple of sentences. Which, is a feat, as I learned, that the crowd inside a Waffle House can do exceptionally well. We of the academia, of the middle to high classes, we like to hide things in empty jargon and mediocre hobbies...small talk. Why, I could sit beside one of my Harding colleagues in a class, and borrow pen and paper from him but not know one iota of his life's story. Maybe because there is no story. If there is one; it's assuredly dull. Better to keep quiet and be cool, like everyone else..."What? Problems? I don't have those."

But within the Waffle House, the whole greeting ritual is instigated by the boasting of one's problems. "This here's Rick, he done wrecked hiz truck into that there light post 3 weeks ago, he wuz drunker than a skunk. Hiz wife left 'em becuz he gits drunk like 'at." Irony comes into play in all this. Things are surely backwards. Those of us who claim to have Knowledge...live in Denial. Those that have Ignorance...live in Openness. Openness to goodness knows what.

This girl with dyed blonde hair and a huge tatoo on the side of her neck, in our first greeting, revealed to me that she has worked for Waffle House before, until she climbed the midnight job ladder and became a dancer at Drifter's. Now, hold that thought there. Due to the way I was raised and my recent ex, the word "dancer" at first conjured up an image of a bunch of strangely dressed ballerinas doing very weird things across a concert hall floor. However, what she meant and what probably would have been apparent to most, was that she was the type of ballerina not dressed at all...that also did weird things across stages and next to poles. Her mentioning of Drifter's brought me to reality, for Drifter's is a notorious night club on the other side of Dothan. This reference corrected my mistaken image and replaced it with...well, nevermind.

But her life took a turn for the worst and she was charged with domestic violence against her ex and she was "pinned up". She's out now and looking for some work to support herself and her child, but something less exciting as her better-paying job, so she fell back on the more conversative role of a server at Waffle House. -That's how she spilled it to me. Simply and without any hesitation in her voice. It was as though she was telling me about a church function of bake sale.


Blogger arwen said...

"...she was the type of ballerina not dressed at all...that also did weird things across stages and next to poles."

Brilliant. I've always wanted Brian to be short for something. Now I know: It's short for Chuck.
hmmm.... Brian Norris.... Brian Wagon... Brian O-Rama... it just doesn't have the same ring to it. I also completely do not believe that your real name is Charles. I have heard too many stories of swimming through Waffle houses and such to believe some things I read..........

10:14 AM  

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