A few nights ago I was in Tennessee with my bf and sister. It was one of our stops on our way back to California from our road trip.
We kept passing by big Waffle House signs on the road. They made extraordinary claims like, “BEST WAFFLES IN TOWN!” and showed images of nice fluffy waffles dripping with maple syrup. The smiling waitresses in the billboard promised a welcoming smile. I thought: Could such a place really exist?
We arrived in Nashville around midnight, hungry and tired. The Waffle House was the only establishment open other than McDonald’s. I’m not big on nuggets or burgers, Reader, did you know there’s ammonia in that food?
Anyways, so we go inside and the smell of fresh buttery batter infused our nostrils along with other amazing odors like sizzling bacon, fried sausages, crackling eggs, and the comfort scent of hash brown potatoes. All of these fragrances pranced about, and we delighted in the limitless possibilities and combinations.
The waitress looked over her shoulder because there were no tables available, just stool chairs, but we wanted to sit down and Eat—with a capital “E“, Reader. The road was long and hard (no pun intended). She takes one look at us and says, “A table should open up soon.” And a moment later, one table does open up and an elderly couple quietly exit out with their canes. The table is wiped down, but when she finishes she forgets to tell us to sit down.
We are tired from the road, so I ask the closest employee to me–the cook– “Is it okay if we sit?” He sneers at the waitress and responds with a heavy grunt, “Yeah it’s okay. Sit down.”
We sit down. My sister walks over to the juke box and inserts one dollar. An investment she would soon regret. Among the music collection, this rock enthusiast is able to find Johnny Cash and Oldies (songs from the 50’s & 60’s). She settles for Cash, in hopes that the six tracks she has picked will delay any type of Christian Country Music. Nothing against the Christians, but sometimes that’s all the radio would play on the road. So there we were, listening to “Folsom Prison” and waiting for our menus.
After a few seconds of awkward silence and a good staring from the locals and other like minded visitors, I decide to go to the bathroom. I hoped, like Uma in Pulp Fiction (90’s reference, if you don’t know it — WATCH IT!), that in my absence someone would order my meal, so that when I returned—a hot plate of waffles with eggs and bacon would be waiting to be devoured by ME. Alas, we did not even get to order.
The Waffle House, was a Waffle Hell House, Reader! All those amazing smells, and nothing for us lowly Californians to enjoy. We got stares from other tables, the waitress practically ignored us, the cook was so nervous an angry with the two ladies he was working with, that he wasn’t cooking eggs properly. Eggs, Reader! One of the easiest things to master in the kitchen (in my opinion anyways). An order from another table was returned, and we watched the waitress push the clear slime goo off the plate with a random fork in the sink. Where are we? Why are we being tortured?
My boyfriend’s eyes were slightly glazed, he blinked and looked around — Was nobody going to help us? Why couldn’t we order food? The cook was yelling at the two waitresses, but they could care less. Something must have happened before we entered the establishment, something REAL bad. The mood in the room suddenly became clear: anger, disappointment, disagreement, miscommunication—etc. etc. etc. All those little dramas we all have in our daily lives in a nice package of three, and for everyone to see! I mean, the kitchen was the diner — there’s no way you could not see the mess.
That siren! That killer siren of a billboard!, I thought to myself. Where was our smiling waitress? My Nashville waffle dreams were ripped apart. Right behind the waitress we saw waffles burning, the timer was ignored, the beeping noise resounded like a time bomb in the cook’s head–in all of our heads, the burnt eggs were scrapped off the flat burner with rough passive aggressive strokes, the flies collected around the trash (they received more pleasure than I did that night), the Tennessee Goth kids in the table next to us leered with disgust, a couple clutched onto their belongings on the other side of the room, a man who looked like a cowboy slept under his sunglasses (it was midnight!), the lights flickered from bad energy, Cash kept singing the blues, and the music weighed us down as if it was sucking our soul dry.
After the second song, we left. All my sister could say, “Well, there goes my dollar.”
That night, the food devil won, and we drove our tired selves to a McDonald’s and ordered chicken nuggets, or as I’d like to call it: food for zombies.