God's Word for Today

Friday, October 31, 2008

My Waffle House Memoirs.

Several days ago Linda over at 2nd Cup of Coffee wrote a wonderfuly witty post on the ill suited jobs many of us held in our past. She then challenged us to post about the experiance we commented about. At the time I was deep in the haze of a Nyquil induced fog. I am glad to share with you that my nasty cold is much improved and I am feeling much better.

Sadly I can no longer blame my short term memory loss on the cold medication or my hot flashes on a sudden spike in fever (drat, but I am thankful that I am no longer attempting to cough up a lung for medical research and my brain is back to some semblance of what can be considered normal).

As I thought about how I would describe my time behind the counter at the Waffle House all those years ago, I tried to think of all the experiences I had there and try to really determine why it was such a negative experience for me. The thought of dinning at a Waffle House does not send me running to the therapist but it does however hold some not so fond memories for me.

I suppose you have to factor the immaturity of the teen years in on the mix. The propensity that all teens have to consider themselves to be the axis that the world spins on could possible have played a major role in my distaste for the fact that as a waitress my job description was all about serving someone else, when the world at the time was so obvious all about me.

I do however still have small shudders of revulsion when I think on the huge containers that the dried hash browns came in. They would arrive in these giant paper containers that were gallon sized. The looked like an oversized version of the tiny milk containers we used to drink out of in the school cafeteria. We would have to open up these paper containers and fill up the hash browns with water and let them rehydrate. I am not sure exactly why I found this so revolting but in my teenager-ness there was a major yuck factor going on. Then came this even nastier yellow colored cooking oil that was kept in a container on the grill. When it was time to cook the hash browns a ladle full of the yellow oil would be poured on the grill and the hash brown were settled down on top of this oil and they would then be cooked. I am not sure what was in this oil but I can tell you for a fact that it was not butter. The yellow color did have some impact in producing the brown crispy crust on the hash browns but in my eyes, well it was simply nasty!

I have to be honest, I do not think I have ever eaten Waffle House hash browns.

Now I can absolutely place all your fears aside as to the safety of the food produced there, there were no sneeze muffins or unhealthy practices as we prepared the food. It was clean, at least the one I worked in was. Yet another bone of contention for me was that it was clean. Each day we had to drag the black rubber mats that covered the floor out the back door and give the floors a good mop down. The leftovers and various spills from the day would fall thought the course non skid texture of the mat and we would have to daily lift these mats up and again in my teenage tenderness I was aghast at the substances that were found smashed, ground, puddle, smeared, sticky, smelly etc….. beneath these mats. Are we getting the full visual impact of this substance that was swept out the door and down the drain at the end of the day. Unpleasant was an understatement for my “delicate” adolescence.

I tried to think if there was anything positive that I came away from my experience behind the counter. In fact I do remember a few, again as a teenager I totally loved having some money in my pocket. The joy I felt at being able to purchase things with my own money was heady stuff. Especially since our household was teetering on the brink of poverty with my mothers limited income. I was able to buy the occasional tube of mascara and the life or death accessories that all teenage girls have to have.

The other thing I learned was that a life in the food service was something that I did not want. It was long hours, tired feet and very little thanks, and really not a lot of money.

I do remember one of my fellow waitresses, there was an older woman (she was maybe in her early 20's, but to me that was ancient, and working at the Waffle House was her full time job) I look back now and I think how tired she must have been at the end of the day and how hard she had to work. She probably did not have enough at the end of the week to make ends meet. All I worried about was how to get the cute boy in third period to notice me and she was day in day out balancing plates on her forearm, bussing tables, counting tips, wiping down counters, refilling coffee cups and smiling all the while.

I remember there was one woman that would come in on a regular basis. She always had an unusual request that at the time I never understood. She would order her meal and her coffee and from the very start she would only let me fill her cup up half way. When I would make my regular swing back down the counter to see if anyone needed more coffee or water she would always place her hand over her cup and ask “Just half a cup please!” I did not get it, I thought she was just being difficult or silly.

It was not until much later in life, and became a coffee drinker myself that I understood, or could possible offer up an explanation. I know when my coffee gets down to about half a cup it no longer is as hot or flavorful as when it is first poured. I can only speculate that she like to drink her coffee while it was hot so she could savor the experience. But in my self-absorbed world I simply thought she was a persnickety old woman.

The other thing I remember about the experience was the juke box. Yes we had one in the corner and it was filled with old country and western classics. The Waffle House was just off the inter-state in Conyers GA and was frequented my truckers. Can you picture that in your mind. The only teenage appropriate music on the juke box were two songs by Paul McCartney. When I could not stand the country twang any longer I would sacrifice some of my tip money to play a few minutes of some semblance of what could be considered Rock and Roll.

Some random images that come to mind are cutting the pies and placing them on the little white plates and covering them with plastic wrap, the line cook from time to time looked a bit greasy and quite often was in need of a shower, one of the night manger tried to hit on me one time and that totally freaked me out, I remember that every once in a while one of my gal pals would come in and there check would mysterious disappear ( this was long before the concept of WWJD would enter my life), I remember pouring the waffle batter in the waffle iron and closing the lid and watching the steam rise, if you accidently added to much batter it would spill over the side like a lava flow and drip down the outside of the waffle iron and out on to the counter. Yet another nasty spill that needed to be cleaned up.

I worked there for a summer and then moved on when the modern world came to the small town of Conyers. The next summer we were all excited about the new shopping center that had been built. There was a new movie theater as well as a Wendy’s. We waited with great anticipation for them to open their doors. My best friend and I went together to put in our application and as luck would have we were hired together on that very day.

I traded in my Waffle House apron for a blue stripped Wendy’s smock.

Regretfully my career in food service was short lived. I can’t remember how long I worked at Wendy’s but I was eventually fired from that job. YES fired! Oh the humiliation!!!!!
I think even then that the Good Lord was trying to impress upon me the importance of obedience, which I totally did not get.

I have to look back and chuckle. I remember being so upset over being fired, the indignity of it all. Now I can see the experience for what it truly is. A very small bump in the grand scheme of life.

So now you have it!

My Waffle House Memoirs.


Kim said...

Oh my the memories your post did resurrect! My first few jobs were in "food service" also. My mom MADE me do the secretarial training course during high school and I hated it but later I thanked her, when I was able to trade in my waitress apron for a steno pad instead. Waitressing is HARD WORK!

But now the daughter is paying her way through college working as a "server" (guess that's the politically correct term these days) in an upscale restaurant where she makes more in tips in one night than I used to make in a whole week back in the day. And she loves her job since she's a "foodie". They serve sushi and things like New Zealand grass-fed venison in balsamic reduction. Definitely not a "Waffle House" experience :-)

a portland granny said...

Your story brought back lots of memories for me. In my senior year of college, I worked at J.C.Newberry dime store--long before your time. I worked the lunch counter and it was a drag--nothing as exciting as a waffle place! I went from that job to my first post college position, that of a social worker. It was a quite a refreshing switch for me! Thanks for the trip down memory lane. Its good to remember our 'humble' beginnings.

Terri Tiffany said...

I had such fun reading your post! You write wonderful vivid details that I could see, smell and taste that Waffle House!
My worst experience was when I just graduated from college and the only job I could get was in a sewing factory as a seamstress. UGh. What an eye-opening how many women have to make a living. I last three days and finally found something else as I could not go back into that setting again!

Technonana said...

I have vivid memories of visiting said establishments!! One night while waiting for my husband's flight to come in, my daughter and I visited the one near the airport, she thought she had cash on her... she didn't... I had to leave her there and run to the ATM machine to get some cash, so we could pay our bill!!!
Conyers huh?? I had an aunt and uncle who lived in Lawerenceville.

Cyndy said...

I worked at an A&W Drive-In for a short time when I was in high school. I was so glad to be able to quit and go work at a church camp for the summer! I hated coming home smelling like deep fried everything and feeling sticky from making root beer floats! Did I mention I hate root beer?

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