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Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Why Waffle House?

I know that many of you are wondering about my job at Wafflehouse and why i chose to work there. This brought me to something I wrote almost 3 years ago and mailed it out in group installments, if some of you remember. It talks about my desire to work there and describes why. I couldn't help but post the entire piece, no matter how big it is, because I believe it still permeates with the rhyme and reason of my desire to work there. I probably could've gotten a job then; but i had school and i didn't want to push too hard. Everything in the below resonates still with me. By the way, this Waffle House that I mention here is the same one that I have been working at for the past week.

I decided that if the symbol of America will not have me.....then
perhaps the symbol of my good ole heartland, the South, she will not
neglect me. This brought me around to the prospect of maybe getting
hired as a hashbrowner (person who cooks the hashbrowns).
WaffleHouse is the ideal location for anyone who likes smokey
atmospheres, greasy food, and people who are just that....people.
I couldn't have picked a better place to want to be employed. I
guess that it was a subconscious wish to always want to be the guy
behind the counter throwing sausage and bacon on the grill, while
the passing-thru trucker spills out his contemplations on the
weather and how it reminds him of his 2nd wife.
I must admit that upon writing this, i feel very
intimated by the behemoth of a task before me. That is presenting
all the pervasiveness of character that the Waffle House Company
entails. I am worried whether or not i have the appropriate quill
pushing skills to bring you Waffle House as i see it....and as
every good-natured Southerner sees it.

For every southerner holds somewhere in his or her
dixie-whistling fiber reverence for this quiant little dine-in
where he or she can have their steaks cooked alongside their waffles. In the southern man's predicament, he witnesses the Confederate flags being taken down one by one and stuffed in dusty attics along with the lucky coonskins that Uncle Esker killed when
only 7. Our southern pines do not work as the rebel flag did.
Our skies are left empty and barren and no longer tell us who we
are....that was until the Wafflehouse franchise began to spread.
Now our purple skies glow in an ethereal yellow light due to all
the golden Waffle Houses stretched along all the main highways as
soon as you cross the Mason-Dixon line. A southerner goes there
not only to eat, but to smell and breathe in that ancient, heavy
Confederate gunpowder that permeates the counters, the booths, and
the glass-walls of the sacred Waffle House.

A really good friend of mine moved up north to Illinois to get
his PhD in Philosophy and the first thing that he comments on after
not talking to him for awhile was very staggering for him . After
all the reading and contemplation his philosophic head had wrestled
with, the most shocking discovery that his mind come upon was the
fact that the north has no Wafflehouses. -And what a profound
mystery it all is. I can see him now, sitting like a Rodin, his
hand bracing his chin, saying "Eureka! O ye gods, no Wafflehouse!"
Northerners can't understand it. My ex-girlfriend, back
when we were a couple, came down from her home in Canada to visit
Alabama. I was sure to take her to the rich delicacies of my home
state which, of course, pointed us towards the Wafflehouse. She'd
never heard of anything like the place....and likewise she never
heard of grits. She tried them both the very day that she arrived.
And wasn't too impressed with the Wafflehouse or grits. Which is
interesting.......that relationship ended not too long after.

A quick glimpse inside this happening joint would yield a
worthwhile contribution for any keen student on the subtle art of
people observing. Another one of my friends, who brags that Waffle
House is he and his girlfriend's favorite place to dine out,
observed that there are basically 2 personalities that you will
find working at any Waffle House stretched throughout all of
Dixiedom. These include the thin grizzled old man who smokes 3
packs a day and has skin as thick as rawhide. He's always the cook
and grunts in irritation when someone has the audacity to play one
of those "gay boy bands" on the juke box. Then there is the large
black lady who is very nice, refering to everyone in the entire
diner as "Sugar" and "Babe". She's usually a waitress and is busy
humming one of her favorite choir tunes, so soulfully that it's a
wonder they even have a juke box in the joint.

However, there are several characters who have been very
fundamental in showing me the appreciation of this little diner.
These are characters that i have had the privelege of witnessing at
my old stomping ground,.....the WaffleHouse on the corner of Ross
Clark Circle and Hwy 231.....in my home town of Dothan, Alabama.
It became a regular habit, an unstoppable rite, a frequent
indulgement, for my friends and I, when nothing else was happening
in Dothan, which was often, to go where the very fetus of
festivity, that babe of excitement, was alive and kicking inside
that maternal womb called the WaffleHouse. My friends where a
lively, ecstatic bunch. There was the Stallion a.k.a. Guido who
was the philosopher friend i mentioned above. There was the
Cheshire Cat who everytime we met together now we still hit the
House of Waffles and fall into a fit of laughter like we used to.
There was Big Fro Clayton and Ozzy and a few others that would take
too long to name.
Our "motley-looking crew" came to pass stories and the time in
our respected seats far to the right of the entrance door. It
wouldn't be long until the presence of the Wafflehouse regulars,
drew our attention to the whole surrounding atmosphere and the
characters that we saw. For the yellow lights of the WaffleHouse
attracts and lures some intriguing creatures from the caverns and
manholes of Dothan where they lurk in the daytime, but when the
beastly night sets in, they come to pow-wow over a cup of coffee
and a waffle. Like the yellow moon that pulls the shrinking wolf
out of his lair to meet together as a pack and howl the night away,
this is the effect that the WaffleHouse has on its local community.
A glimpse around will deliver you to each of these creatures.
Puffing on his stogie at the bar sat, CigarMan in solemn
dignity. He was some sort of ex-marine vet officer who had ran
through many a rice field and I am sure could snap a man's neck in
less than 2 seconds. He hardly said a word to the waitress but sat
there with his coffee and his lit Macanudo, changing the common
cigarette smoke of the Wafflehouse into a richer aroma. Soon his
friends joined one by one as the night darkened and the moon rose.
Seeming to crawl straight out of the juke box was Willie Nelson
himself. He wore his braided hair long and his beard grey. And
he would order his coffee black with his scratchy voice and his
rustic laugh.
Over in the corner sat the officer on duty that night,
Sergeant Gonzalez., who spent his idle crime-preventing inside the
only place in Dothan where people are still awake. This hispanic
cop had his bald pate that gleamed in the dull yellow light of the
diner which was quickly unnoticed due to his large bulbous eyes
that bulged out and kept vigilant and unfaltering watch over the
place. He seemed as the insomniac owl who watches with large,
penetrating discs for eyes, the whole nocturnal romps of the
weariless wildlife of the night. His x-raying sight catching hold
of everyone's move in the restaraunt, he never utters a hoot but
stays perched in sullen judgement to the same seat smoking his
cigarette and sipping his coffee. Every customer there can't help
but feel his intruding gaze.

About the same time that the moon had climbed its ethereal summit, and the nightly spirits of the deep come out to play, and the point when the sweet dreams of the sleeping world are
interrupted by the invasion of barbaric nightmares, the whole
Wafflehouse goes silent for a brief second, which is the voiceless
herald for the entrance of the most restless carnivore in all of
Dothan,.......the Beast. The Beast was what we called him for we
really didn't have any better name that could define him but that.
He had to be near 7 feet tall. His black mullet whipped down so
frizzled onto his shoulders that it appeared to be his mane. The
way his facial features, his cheeks and jawls, were arranged it
appeared as though they were concealing large sabertooths behind
them. But most disturbing and terrorizing were his eyes that were
very small and beady but had this meat-lusty glare in them. They
seemed almost a sharp yellow color that gave anyone he so much as
glimpsed at a skipped heartbeat.
My friends and i over in our corner would find the Beast the
most intriguing of all, and we used to find great amusement in
watching him. This became a true test of courage, who could watch
the Beast the longest, for the creature had an amazing animalistic
sense and could detect the slightest bit of gaze on him. He usally
sat with his friends, Willie and Cigarman as they sat talking about
politics and life, his back usually turned towards us. We used to
with extreme laughter imagine how the Beast would react if he
noticed our gazes. What would such a character do if we knew that
we were finding such supreme fun and humor in watching him? I
could see him jump up, throwing his chair across the room, his
clothes ripping off of him, and lifting up his head while letting
out this blood-freezing roar-howl, displaying those large swords
for teeth to heaven and then turning to maul and eat us all alive.
Instead of risking such a thing we devised a way we could truly
watch the Beast for a long, less dangerous way. We would watch his reflection.
For the walls of WaffleHouse are all glass and the light from
within mingled with the darkness from outside creating a perfect
dim mirror. Until only after a few minutes of our banter when in a
sudden second of potential fury the Beast glanced exactly at the
piece of glass that we were staring and witnessed our ridicule. I
swear that with those beamy yellow eyes, i saw him seeming to lick
his chaps and huff a loud carnivorous grunt, as though he was about
to let the real animal out. We no longer stare at the Beast after
that confrontation. I think that he smells our smirks.
Indulging in all these memories and the rich characters that
the WaffleHouse has, I thought to have gotten a job there. For
every Waffle House has its creatures of the night that it attracts
like vibrant moths to a bulb. And while the Dothan Wafflehouse
has Cigarman, Willie Nelson, Sergeant Gonzalez, and the Beast. I
am sure that every different store has its yocals. I sent an
application in to 2 different WaffleHouses in the region. One in
Auburn, and one in Opelika. I couldn't wait to begin my lessons on
life that our schools don't mention in their fake goals of "higher
education". While it may appear that i speak of the Beast in
complete jest, I do feel a certain serious intrigue into such
people. Our colleges and churches do their best to hide these
nocturnal beings of low-income and low-achievement, and says, "No,
you mustn't become as the Beast." I would venture to say that there
is something so humane in those that the world calls less than
human. It wasn't until Nebuchadnezzar became a beast that he understood what being
a human was about. It's not until we have welcomed the night and
all its visitants that we come to the light. I could not wait to
get hired and learn of such things. But, once again, i was turned
down. It appears that everytime i went to a Waffle House, they
sensed something about me. That i spent too many days in the
sunshine, that I had worn a tie too many times, that i wash behind
my ears in order to appear proper in society. All these things
added up and they saw that i didn't fit the bill for the
WaffleHouse. So I never recieved a call back. And my search still
But someday, far from this present age, I am sure that
up behind the curtains of Heaven, on one of those golden street
corners, there will be a diner there....which will reek with smoke.
And the characters in that place will not be the ones that we thought would be there....the jukebox will be playing Willie Nelson. The grizzled cook will be preparing some grits. The black waitress will be scrubbing the syrup off a table while humming a song of praise....and Peter will be at the corner of the bar puffing on a cigar talking about the greatness of God and life with his friends, the Psalmist David and John the Baptist. -And I sure hope to make
the cut then.


Blogger Jesi said...

So do you ever see the Beast, Willie Nelson, or Cigar Man while you're working?

4:26 PM  
Blogger Brian Harrison said...

I actually had suspicions, that the same man that challenged me to an arm-wrestling match, may very well be the Beast with a hair cut and a well-groomed beard. But...I think I recall the Beast having eyes that would rivet the pupils out of your eyeballs. So I do not think they are the same person. Maybe far-removed cousins though. I saw Willie Nelson at a gas station on Denton Rd once.

9:33 PM  

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