The Awful (…Waffle) House
Last week in Lexington, KY, a man was arrested at one of the local Waffle Houses. His crime was urinating in a booth. Reading the article about his arrest brought back memories of my own threatened arrest at the Waffle House not so long ago. My infraction, however, was of a more decent nature.
Leftover broccoli with cheese sauce didn’t quite cut it for breakfast one Sunday morning. I was to meet two friends at noon for a basketball game, but the hunger pangs that commenced around ten o’clock warned me that I’d never make it through a basketball game without a more substantial breakfast. I dressed quickly, hopped in my car, and drove to one of my breakfast haunts (I do love breakfast out), the Waffle House in Lexington, KY near the Lexington Tennis Club. I’m pointing out which Waffle House it was so that my friends at the Beaumont Waffle House don’t take the guff I’m about to dish out here.
A hostess greeted me. Yes, the Waffle House has a hostess on Sunday morning. At least that one does. Who would have thought! She had a long, gray pony tail, a sunken mouth where her teeth should have been, and the good cheer of a crocodile. I’d patronized this particular Waffle House numerous times because it was close to the tennis club. I think you might even say I’d become one of their regulars. Between tennis games I’d hop over to have a grilled cheese sandwich and chili. It’s difficult to find an old-fashioned, greasy grilled-cheese sandwich anymore, but the Waffle House still makes them.
“Anywhere you want to sit is fine,” the hostess said, waving in the direction of the booths.
I chose one, sat down, and pulled my book out of my purse. A waitress scurried over, took my order, and then left me to enjoy my book. Breakfast was served up in due time. I ate and read. When I finished the last bite of waffle, I pushed my plate aside and grabbed my coffee in anticipation of enjoying my post-meal caffeine.
“You need to leave.”
I looked up to see the hostess standing over me.
“You have to leave.”
“Why?” I asked, astounded.
“People are waiting.”
I looked toward the entry and, sure enough, three groups were waiting to be seated.
I turned back to the hostess. “This is the first time in my life anyone has ordered me out of a restaurant.”
“Well, you have to go.”
“I’m not finished.” I brought my coffee cup to my lips and and purposefully looked away from her.
She reiterated her demand that I leave. I reiterated my refusal to leave until I had finished my coffee. Defeated, she walked away. I noticed that she asked no one else to leave in spite of the fact that many had finished their breakfasts and were dawdling, pushing salt shakers around, stretching, thumping the tables in time to the music on the juke box.
Waffle House waitresses (sorry, but I’ve never been served by a waiter at a Waffle House, only waitresses), are like servers everywhere: they’ve learned to never look in the direction of their clients, so when I waved ostentatiously my waitress didn’t notice. I turned conspicuously in her direction, making a spectacle of myself by half-rising from my seat, and
flapping my menu. When I began to think I needed to tap dance on the table to get her attention, she finally walked over.
“I’d like to speak to the manager,” I said.
She delivered my message; then she delivered his message to me: “I’m too busy.
“Tell him . . .,” I spoke slowly and emphatically, “. . . that I want to speak to him.”
The waitress delivered the message three times; the request was denied three times. Meanwhile, I noticed that everyone had been seated, so that meant freeing up my table, or anyone else freeing up their table no longer mattered. I walked over to the counter. “Roger,” I called. I had learned his name at this point.
He put down his spatula, ran his forearm over his brow to wipe away grease (or sweat?), and strutted over to me. Scowling. He confronted me with crossed arms and a I-got-up-on-the-wrong-side-of-the-bed-so-don’t-mess-with-me look.
“You’re refusing to talk to me?” I asked.
“I’m here now.” Poison darts shot from of his eyes. If looks could kill, I would have died in the Waffle House right then and there. Imagine the obituary. Refined, educated, former-teacher, church-going, well-dressed senior citizen lady frightened to death by Waffle House manager.
“Are you in the habit of asking your customers to leave the instant the last bite slips down their throats?” I said.
“You’re occupying a booth reserved for two people.”
“I have the right to eat here, too. I’ll leave when I’m finished.”
“I’ll call the police.”
“Feel free. I’m staying.”
“The police will drag you out of here. I’ll have them arrest you. That booth is for two people.”
I didn’t bother to explain that the hostess allowed me to sit there in the first place, or that the waitress took my order and served me without protesting that there was only one of me, or that there was no longer a line. I went back to my table and sat down. I took great pains to drink my coffee in tiny sips, gazing about between each one. I waited for the police, imagining the appeal the manager would make to them:
Manager: “Hello, police.”
Police: “Can we help you?”
Manager: “I have a woman, a senior citizen woman, sitting in a booth at the Waffle House. I need for you come and arrest her.”
Police: “What’s she doing?”
Manager: “Drinking coffee.”
Police: “Why do we need to arrest her?”
Manager: “I told you; she’s sitting there drinking coffee.”
Police: Confused silence.
Manager: “Well? Are you coming?”
Police: “We don’t arrest people for drinking coffee.”
Manager: “She’s in a booth for two people.”
Police: “You want us to arrest an old lady because she’s sitting in a booth for two people?”
Manager: “Yeah. Don’t you guys get it? She’s sitting in a booth. Booths are for two people.”
Police: Whispered aside to companion: Should we send the loony wagon over to the Waffle House for the manager?
The time for meeting my friends approached, and I had to leave. After the game, I duly reported the events of the day to my daughter. She likes to keep track of me in the event I decide to take off for some far corner of the world and forget to inform her.
“Well, Mom,” she said when I finished relating my adventure. “Now you know why they call the Waffle House the Awful House.”