Monday, November 11, 2013

Farewell, Waffle House

Got some very sad news the other day, via my sharp-eyed brother

The Waffle House where I worked all through college in the 1980s is being torn down:

Such memories I have of that place!  Often, i was either on the graveyard shift (11pm-7am) or, on weekends the early shift, which started at 5am. That shift was especially tough the year I lived in a house with five girls, all of whom liked to party...noisily...on Friday and Saturday nights.

The uniforms were actually pretty cute, at least compared to the dreadful burnt-orange uniform I'd worn at Howard Johnson's all through high school. They were navy blue, jumper style, and if they were made of polyester at least they had a short A-line skirt that made your legs look longer - very good for tips.

I learned a lot from my co-workers and my customers. There were fishermen who came in around 3am, to eat a big meal before they headed out on the lake. There were senior citizens who belonged to a country line dancing club - what I remember most about them was that they were always laughing and teasing each other, playfully accusing each other of trying to steal each other's spouses. The ladies wore lacy crinolines under their skirts even though they were unbelievably old - at least as old as I am now. :) I think those guys had the secret to aging gracefully worked out and I wish I had taken notes.

There were regulars who gathered to discuss what was going on in the world. I'll never forget a night when half a dozen of them came in to discuss a rash of teen suicides taking place in the town. The sense of a community coming together in a very private and fiercely compassionate way has come back to me years later when tragedy struck other communities I've lived in.

There was a boy I flirted with, shamelessly, month after month. He was a line cook and he drove a yellow Datsun pickup truck. He never asked me out. I don't know, but I suspect, that it was because he was a townie and I wasn't. If you ever saw Breaking Away...yeah, some of that was true.

And oh, the food. I used to take a fork and go back into the fridge and eat the cobbler right out of the pan. I *know* that is terrible and I'm going to hell for it, but people, it was so delicious - especially the peach. Home made right there in the kitchen. I also learned to love fried corn meal mush. I've never seen grits/polenta cooked that way, anywhere else but Indiana. I believe I probably ate about 8,000 calories on every shift, but I had a hell of a metabolism back then and I was skinny as a stick.

The article was written for the campus rag, the Indiana Daily Student. It's quite a nice piece by a young woman named Jessica Contrera

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