Sunday, October 26, 2008

Waffle House American

Ever since I was a kid I’ve loved the smell of coffee first thing in the morning. I would always wake up before daylight because Dad made so much noise “tip-toeing” around the kitchen. He was “quietly” watching the morning news, scraping butter into his toast and filling the old white plastic ‘70’s era Mr. Coffee maker. The kitchen noise funneled down our trailer house hallway into my bedroom as he rinsed, filled and banged the coffee pot against the side of the stainless steel sink. That was several years before the divorce so the fighting was about ten percent less than it was near the end. So, in my mind, those were “the good ol’ days” of my childhood. I’ve always associated the smell of fresh-brewed coffee first thing in the morning with that time of my life. You know, just like that warm fuzzy Folger’s commercial of the young man returning home on a holiday to wake up his happy parents.

We were a rural, country family. I’ve joked about us being “white trash” because we lived in a trailer out in the woods but nothing could be further from the truth. Daddy actually valued hard work and had served in both the army and navy. He was very career oriented and eventually retired after working for the same company for over 30 years. But, that’s all just preamble to my little story. The greatest insult I would ever hear my dad say about anyone was to call them a “lazy worthless so-in-so”. So, I learned early that “good people” were hard working, early-to-bed-early-to-rise, folks. That’s what made you a real American. Anyone who stayed in bed until daylight was certainly demonstrating faulty character. If you weren’t having breakfast by the time the rooster crowed you had overslept. And yes, we did have a chicken house.

Now that I’m grown, I’ve retained a lot of that old country farm-boy upbringing. I hold two degrees and my job rarely requires me to step outside of a climate controlled environment. However, I still consider myself very blue-collar in nature. I get up at 5AM every morning. Just like Dad, I fix a pot of coffee (in my very gay French-press pot) every morning. I sit and watch the news (hosted by the most attractive anchormen that CNN can afford) and read my paper. I’m proud of having kept that tradition.

Even on weekends I find it hard to stay in bed past 7 AM. There’s very little besides great personal illness or company that will keep me under the covers after daylight. Of course, it also depends on the disposition of my company how long I stay in bed. Yet, I digress. On weekends Mom would cook big breakfasts with eggs and bacon, biscuits and gravy….you get the picture. I still love to have those kinds of big breakfasts but I’m not a fan of putting that much effort into a meal on my day off. It does feel right, though, to get up early and have a big meal like that. Its spiritually and emotionally comforting to see the sun rise and be filled up with a big hot meal. So, I’ve become a Waffle House American.

I’ve started my own morning ritual on weekends. I get up without a shower or shave, throw on sweats and a cap and jump in the truck for an early morning drive to the diner. I love the chill in the air. I watch the sunrise. Its also great to see the roads and the city empty of traffic. It’s a beautiful feeling because, as we know, only the most industrious and virtuous among us are actually out and about during that time. If a national disaster struck on a Sunday morning at 6 or 7AM, only those of us on our way to Waffle House for breakfast would be in charge. I can imagine us setting up an emergency command center in the dining room with short order cooks in charge and waitresses guarding the perimeter. And, as you know if you’ve ever been taken care of by a Waffle House waitress, they can handle anything or anyone. If you’ve not had the experience, I caution you not to come between a Waffle House waitress and her tip, and certainly do not try to correct her if she misspeaks on “scattered, smothered, covered, chopped, diced, chunked!”.

Yes, I’ve heard the rumors that Waffle House does not have the most “gay-friendly” business practices. I’m somewhat indifferent to all that hoopla. Who am I to interfere with how those folks run their business. I can’t imagine that too many of us “fancy-boys” have applied to work as short order cooks or dishwashers anyway. Its usually not our scene. I’ll just say this. If Waffle House keeps serving me a hot breakfast first thing in the morning and leave me to read my paper in peace and quiet, I promise not to make out with any guys in the dining room.

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