In which I dine at Waffle House.
After exiting Walgreens with my change I headed east towards Mecca. I considered extending my tripod to take a picture but opted instead for an 'ironically' unsteady shot with my phone. Then I crossed the street and clambered up to the Waffle House, whose entrance has an antechamber reminding you of the surveillance camera. Dining and dashing at Waffle House would be neither thrilling nor subversive. More like a strong wind upsetting a pot of flowers. I wonder if a pitchfork-wielding robber caught the waitress's eye in time whether, by means of a weathered red button, she'd be able to contain them in this isolation chamber until police arrived. No doubt the two glass faces of the building are sheathed in bulletproof glass as well, just in case.
I entered, greeted the waitress, and made my way to the far end of the small building, which possessed no aura of mystery. Simply a dining area forming an L on the south face, the open kitchen nestled in the crook of the L, and some bathrooms on the north face. I guess part of the appeal of Waffle House is, unlike a romantic Italian restaurant, there is perfect visual communication with the outside from most of the interior's vantage points. Looking back at where I stood two minutes ago, I was relieved to have gone for the informal snapshot.
The glass, like all glass, was not perfectly transmissive so I kept an eye on the staff and the two other patrons of the diner, a pair of professional gentlemen, to make sure they were not observing me furiously type absurd notes into my phone such as 'obfuscated path through the suburban hellscape'. I had a lot of personal narratives to forge during that rest period, but also a large quantity of food to eat. When the waiter, one of three employees present, came around the first time I ordered a soda, and when he came around the second time I settled on my well-rehearsed choice of 'hash browns, all the way, but no peppers' and 'pecan waffles'. Already I had fallen short of ordering the allegedly-delicious coffee or any meat or cold items. Not because I was afraid of botulism, but I simply couldn't bear to be seen in public with four plates and two beverages at once. The Good Lord knows I have the faculty to eat all this and more.
Let me delve into my notes for a more accurate play-by-play of the scenario. The service was speedy but not as fast as how I could put down an entire plate of food and a glass of coke. The interior of the restaurant was extremely clean, almost excessively so. This was not one of those fabled diners where the character of the institution changed with the arrival of the third shift. I'm sure the corporate offices had succeeded in kneading the experience here into uniformity with respect to time. The waiter, he spread a small napkin and carefully placed the spoon, fork and knife upon it like three country cousins sharing a feather bed. It almost seemed like a courtesy. He could have very well placed them directly on the table, or on the floor, or in the crease of his buttocks and my reaction would have been equanimous, because I am a wimp in person. The assortment of glass and plastic condiment jars in and out of the cramped basket included sugar, salt, pepper, syrup, mustard, ketchup, Tabasco, Worcestershire, steak sauce (in a peculiar square bottle), and Casa de Waffle Salsa Picante. This last item may very well have been labeled in English as "Waffle House Hot Sauce" on another face but I did not have the motivation to go investigate further.
On a scale of 1-10, the level of irony was about a 3. I'm not sure if I managed to make eye contact with the waiter, or the server, let's call him a server. I'm already so shy and lately my eyes have adopted the habit of falling out of focus when I'm looking at something. But if I try hard it becomes clear again.
The hash browns arrived first, or at least I think they did because I see no reason why I'd have chosen to abstain from eating the first thing placed in front of me. As long as the supply of food is replenished I will continue to eat whatever is placed in front of me until my bowels are weighted down. Then it becomes time to wait for the next evacuation to carry on. In this manner whole armies of sandwich cookies and mixed nuts have been laid to waste.
I forgot to take a picture so I will describe to you in most accurate detail what the hashbrowns were like. If you've ever seen a black and white cookie, you know that it consists of a fluffy base coated on each side with vanilla and chocolate icing, respectively. A plate of hash browns at Waffle House, taken all the way save for the peppers, is a black and white cookie made out of a disintegrated base of grated potato mixed on one side with gravy and cheese and on the other with a chili that has begun distilling itself into its components by a lack of stirring. It is just like something you might cook for yourself, at home, where appearances don't matter; only flavor, warmth and freshness. Like a pair of well-worn sweatpants with a tear in the crotch, or the way you know exactly how responsive to change the hot water knob in the shower is. By presenting the food with this complete lack of decorum, Waffle House takes a wrecking ball to the formal barrier between server and customer. You can just sit back and chow down like God intended, pumping the soft mash of food and beverage down your gullet as fast as you're built for. The singular waffle was amaze. It boasted a finer, shallower meshwork of waffling than I was used to. Each soft bite was intermixed with the delicate crunch of chopped pecan, reminiscent of pine nuts. The syrup was delivered in a little ewe like the distended abdomen of a honeypot ant, but even with a meager pour I was still satisfied (in quality, not quantity) by the moist battercraft. Soda was fountain soda, that is to say, possessing a subtle magic not to be found in the can, just as a diaphanous gown draped over a beautiful nude is more appealing than the functional weave of burlap.
Now it was time to pay. If the gentlemen seated behind me had not gotten up to pay beforehand I'd have been completely ignorant of the procedure. In all likelihood I'd have left a bill behind at the table and just slunk out like a shadow. Years of watching nostalgic, diner-based artforms such as 'Seinfeld' and 'Friends' as well as a smorgasboard of vintage films highlighting the anthropology of diners had failed me for the challenge of real life. First, I handed the woman-cashier the order form which had been especially designed in graphical counterpoint to the menu, so that taking down the order required as few marks as possible. She transduced these markings into a heavy-duty cash register that struck the receipt like the Alex DeLarge of record-keeping. She said, That'll be 9.36. I stared at her, not registering that since the total had been tallied it was time for me to part with my money. I never have any problem parting with money because the physical gesture is absurdly trivial compared to the significance of the act. Like murder, like fraudulent ACH transactions, the crime can be so deceptively simple that it becomes conceptually immoral at the worst of times. These thoughts were not running through my head at the moment, I have simply inserted them here for filler to give you an approximation of the timespan between the waitress reading me the total and asking me more pointedly for my money. In which case I was more than happy to whip out my hamilton and give it to her. The total was $9.36 which was very reasonable considering that it was a fulfilling meal spanning 3 out of 5 food groups, as well as potato.
I asked her if I should leave her with the tip. She directed me to hand it directly to the server across the counter while he was preparing food, which I found highly idiosyncratic. I keep money in my pocket, where I also keep other things that have touched unclean surfaces. I think perhaps I should've left it under the plate like I did at "Steak 'n Shake". The tip was three dollars, which according to the calculator is 32%, but it was a slow hour and I probably should have given him more. I exited and went through the back by the garbage cans so as to not be seen doubling back in the correct direction by the employees.