The Waffle House and America
Never a dull moment at the Waffle House.
I go in tonight for my expectable comfort dish. An omelet, toast, hashbrown potatoes, side order of sausage patties. Terrie, my favorite short order cook, is on duty. She who makes the fluffiest omelet. She who I could learn to obey. Maybe. She who has the finest ass, sharpest tongue, Titian himself would have wanted to capture. I am reading poetry, Arab women poetry, and marking poems to get back to with napkins from the dispenser. To my left at the counter are two young black women. I ask the nearest girl, “Do you read poetry?” Categorically, without pause, she says she doesn’t. I ask if she likes music. She says she does. I say Stevie Wonder is one fine poet, yes? She giggles.
To my right is a young white woman. She could be my grandchild. Long hair, big ears, Pixie pretty. Fairie pretty. But crying without stop. Holding on to a phone book. I ask the waitress about the girl. She says she has been there since 4 in the afternoon, a good five hours since. In from Missouri it seems and with no place to stay. Her friend who was supposed to meet her, it also seems, is caught up in an LSU football game, can’t break away. Go figure. Football more important than friends.
I take a chance and make an offer. I say I can put her up for the night at the local La Quinta motel. I expect her to say no, which is what I would advise my daughter to do in such a circumstance. She says yes and still crying. Out in the parking lot I see her car, a Camry I think, is packed full of belongings. Just enough room for a driver. I say, Oh, you are moving down here, right? She says she is, moving to live with her father in Lafayette. A town about 45 minutes to the west of here.
I note but I don’t ask questions.
I lead the way to La Quinta motel. The clerk behind the counter, a tall, handsome black woman is gracious. In spite of the football weekend she has a room available. Price a premium. I say not a problem. She says she can give a discount. Clerk gives me the key card. I push it across to Julie, whose name I know by then. Maybe the clerk thinks the room is for two. I don’t know. I put the room charge on a c.c., say goodbye to the girl in the parking lot.
All those tears. They were constant. The girl sitting in a Waffle House for something like 4 hours, waiting for a friend to show, her destination about 45 minutes away. The scene speaks to me of drug addiction. And of withdrawal pains. Her friend a connection.