A person’s first visit to a Waffle House can be very frightening, what with the cold tile floors, the cheap, aspirin-colored lighting, and the dark film of grease that forms on your face within a minute of your arrival.
With over 1,700 locations clustered mainly in the American South, Waffle House is the poor suffering redheaded bastard stepchild of American restaurant chains. Their ugly yellow illuminated signs stick high into the air and scar many an otherwise beautiful Southern mountain landscape.
As much as I may strain to appreciate Waffle House ironically, I’ve always found them to be depressing little boxes of grease and cement. I ingested my first questionably nourishing Waffle House meal about 20 years ago near a Motel 6 in Tucson, and I think I may have been just high and munched-out enough to enjoy the place’s grim design style and punitively oleaginous cuisine without vomiting. I also remember having to eat at a Waffle House in the middle of the night in the middle of the winter in the middle of Missouri because there were no other restaurants around—an experience that was roughly as joyful as it sounds. But it was the time I got sick after eating at a Waffle House in northern Florida where the whole place smelled like a urinal cake that made me forever swear off their food.
Granted, your experiences may be different. My point is not to cast aspersions at what I’m sure are literally, at the very least, dozens of fully functional, delicious, and clean Waffle Houses throughout this great and noble land. Though Waffle House’s detractors are legion, so are its supporters, which is why #WaffleHouse always seems to be trending on Twitter, especially in the middle of the night when people are drunk and all the other restaurants are closed. But before you make the possibly life-altering decision to go and have a meal at Waffle House, I believe it is my duty as a reporter to inform you of what could happen.
1. You Could Be Shot
Luckily for the victims, there have been nonfatal shootings reported at Waffle Houses in Arkansas, Louisiana, Missouri, and Texas. Although, admittedly, the odds are that if you’re shot at a Waffle House anywhere in the country you won’t technically be shot to death, patrons at Waffle Houses in Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina have suffered precisely that grim fate. The point is that although you likely won’t get shot at Waffle House, you may be, so it may also be advisable to wear protective gear or at least learn how to duck quickly.
2. You Could Be Stabbed
Again, for the sake of fairness I must reiterate that chances are you won’t be shot at Waffle House. Neither is it a sure thing that you will be stabbed there, either, but it has happened far too many times to give a completely sane person any sense of total comfort while dining there. People have been stabbed at Waffle Houses in Alabama, Ohio, Florida, Georgia, Tennessee, and Virginia. I’m not suggesting it’s going to happen to you while you’re eating your sliced, diced, ‘n’ chunked home fries, only that it’s happened in the past—that’s all. I don’t wish to alarm you or anything.
3. You Could Be Assaulted By A Famous Douchebag Musician From Michigan
In 1998, members of Caucasian hip-hop duo Insane Clown Posse were arrested and charged with assault after a dust-up at an Indiana Waffle House. They pled guilty to a lesser charge of disorderly conduct, but whether it’s being assaulted by Insane Clown Posse or merely having to eat while they’re running around conducting themselves in a disorderly manner near you, is the cholesterol-drenched waffle and the baseball-sized dollop of pure butter melting atop it really worth the trouble? In 2007, fellow Michigan douchebag musician Kid Rock, who looks in his mug shot there as if he is entirely composed of ball sweat, was arrested in connection with a late-night brawl at a Waffle House near Atlanta:
This isn’t to suggest that every famous douchebag musician from Michigan will assault you if you happen to be eating at the same Waffle House as them—only that it seems statistically likelier that it may occur.
3. You Could Be Poisoned
There have been reports of chemical leaks at Waffle Houses and of county Health Departments closing down franchises due to unsanitary conditions. There are online snitch boards where anonymous commenters complain of atrocious conditions at their local WH franchise. A Dateline NBC study on America’s 10 “largest casual restaurant chains” allegedly found Waffle House ranking first in the number of “critical violations.” But then again, this may not be the typical Waffle House dining experience…but it sure makes you wonder.
4. You Could Become The Victim of Discrimination
At this point, Waffle House, Inc. has already settled over 20 lawsuits alleging racial discrimination. It has also been sued for creating a “sexually hostile work environment.” In 2012, an Ohio Waffle House was the scene of an alleged anti-gay hate crime. I must reiterate that it’s not certain you will be lynched, sexually harassed, or gay-bashed if you decide to dine at Waffle House, only that there’s an outside theoretical chance it could happen.
5. You Could Put On Weight
Waffle House cuisine typically seems to be some iteration of carbs fried in lard and powdered in sugar, then rubbed in hog grease. According to this site, the ham and cheese omelet alone will pack 1,000 calories somewhere around your midsection. No matter how good it tastes when you’re wasted at three in the morning, is it really worth risking a heart attack 30 years down the line…in addition to all the remote chances that you may be shot, stabbed, or gay-bashed? Really?
6. You Could Have a Great Time
Anything’s possible in this big, wild, wacky world, so it could happen. You and a group of friends could go there after church and have a grand old time sharing Bible verses as you send forkfuls of scrambled eggs sliding down your gullet. You could go there late at night after the bars have closed, and if there’s no one there who wants to shoot or stab you, you might actually enjoy a salty plate of grease and sugar as you sober up enough to drive without crippling yourself. You may secretly rendezvous there with a lover as part of a tawdry love affair that would bring your tiny Southern town crashing down amid a tangled web of scandal and heartbreak. You may have the time of your life there again and again until you die of heart disease—it is not my place to judge. But I feel it incumbent upon myself to sternly warn you that as with all guilty pleasures such as unprotected sex and driving while uninsured, eating at Waffle House carries with it a fair degree of risk.
1. When you wake up with a start — absolutely, totally, completely certain you’re late — and then check your phone to realize you have another hour to sleep. It’s undoubtedly the best hour of sleep you’ve ever had in your life.
2. When you wake up from an amazing dream and you’re super bummed it got cut short, but then you drift off again and surprisingly continue your dream and it’s kind of the best start to your day.
3. When you’re cold at home, so you put on your softest, most worn-in long sleeve and your bare skin is like, “Thanks, I’m really happy we did this.”
4. When you’re watching an intense movie that everyone says has a twist ending, but then you guess the ending in the first 20 minutes and it gives you a sense of satisfaction nobody can ever take from you.
5. When someone says, “It looks like you could use a hug,” and you could use a hug so bad you almost cry a single tear in gratitude.
6. When someone you haven’t talked to or thought about in a while randomly pops in your head and you think, that’s odd. Then, the next day, they email you and say, “Hey, was thinking about you lately, how’s it going?” And you’re like, good call, Universe.
7. When you wake up in the middle of the night starving and you know exactly what would satisfy you — and that just so happens to already be in your kitchen.
8. When you experiment and try a new food you’re certain you’re going to hate and then, to your surprise, absolutely love it. Then, you vow to be more adventurous and your life instantly seems more exciting.
9. When the batteries go out in something and you actually have extra batteries to replace the old ones with, because a couple months ago, you thought, I should get batteries for when I need them and you thank your past self for being brilliant.
10. Actually, when anything runs out – shampoo, toothpaste, olive oil – and you happen to have purchased more in the past for a situation just like the one you’re currently in, you’re all, high-five, past self.
11. When you’re having a shit day and someone compliments your hair or outfit and lo and behold! Your shit day is a little less shitty.
12. When you run out of something stupid like printer ink and you’re all, ugh, I don’t want to have to go all the way to wherever I get printer ink and then you realize you can order it from Amazon Prime and you want to open-mouth kiss the founders of Amazon for being convenient and affordable.
13. Forgetting you preordered something off the Internet and having it come and feeling like it’s Christmas because you actually don’t know what’s in the box and, because you ordered it, it’s exactly what you want and not just socks from your Aunt Trudy.
14. When you order food from a new place and it’s amazing and it becomes your go-to place for whenever you’re in the mood for whatever kind of food the new place serves.
15. When you are nice and cozy on the couch catching up on your Hulu queue and you’re dreading having to put on pants, but you made plans a week ago with a friend, then that friend texts and says, “I’m too lazy, rain check on tonight?” And it’s like God intervened on your behalf to deliver you canceled plans when you needed them most.
16. When you’re hanging out with a friend and you are both exactly in sync on what you want to eat, what you want to do, and what you want to talk about.
17. When you’re in the car listening to the radio and you think, I really want to hear this song that’s been in my head for the past two days, but you’re too lazy to get it up on Spotify and, randomly, it’s the exact next song that plays on the radio. It’s eerie, but you don’t care because you’re too busy car singing at an embarrassingly loud volume.
18. When you rediscover a song from your past that you had completely played-out, but because enough time has passed it’s like listening to it again for the first time and you repeat it for the next two weeks until the same cycle begins again.
19. When you read a list on the internet that is so you, so on point, you think, did I somehow write this from my brain without actually writing it?
Recently Lena Dunham’s alma matter, Oberlin College, published a guide for its professors on how to correctly use trigger warnings while teaching so that none of their students would be offended. The goal was to make the classroom a “safe space” for learning.
The guide was created by the school’s administrator’s, people who are invested in student’s happiness and satisfaction with their experience, not the quality of their education or whether they are learning to think. Oberlin’s professors were surprised (and unhappy) about the school’s idea that critical thinking and dialogue could ever exist in such a sanitized environment.
As one professor explained:
In the faculty’s eyes, trigger warnings threaten not just academic freedom but the intrinsic nature of the liberal arts educational model. “We need to … challenge students, to conduct open inquiry in classrooms, to make students feel uncomfortable,” explained [Oberlin Political Science professor] Blecher. “Making students feel uncomfortable is at the core of liberal arts education.
If you want to feel “safe,” you do not value learning, it’s as simple as that. This is like asking an athlete to train for the Olympics without going through the pain and discomfort of exercising.
But it’s a movement that’s growing — calls to take down offensive posts and moderate comments (or delete comments sections entirely). Creating safe spaces, or taking actions with the only goal of making people less comfortable is doing them (and everyone else) a disservice. A safe space is, essentially, somewhere where you will run into zero stimuli. It is a synthetic environment where the only interaction you have is with people who agree with everything you say, it’s a request to be surrounded by yes men, essentially.
I don’t agree with the concept of creating “safe” space because in doing so you necessarily create a space where no growth can take place. If there is no stimulus to provoke change, there will not be any change. There will be no learning, no teaching, no conversation. I don’t think anyone’s goal should be encouraging people to stick their head in the sand and plant their feet firmly and wait it out until they die.
What about people who are bullied? Shouldn’t they have a safe space to not be bullied?
Well… I’m not sure. Safe spaces are a big, fat road to nowhere, I can’t, in good faith, recommend a dead end to anyone. If we’re creating safe spaces for the sake of the emotional health of a person being attacked, we might do well to remember that sheltering someone doesn’t create growth towards health — adversity does. If that’s the case, sheltering someone is harmful rather than helpful. What if our parents never let us walk because they wanted us to be safe — to protect us against a fall?
Oberlin made the mistake of prioritizing short-term user experience over the higher, long-term goal of mental and emotional growth. Let’s learn from their mistake and stop with the idea that creating “safe space” is in any way helpful.
I love the city at night. It shades the ugly and highlights the glamorous.
Mental illness scares me and I’ve been living with a mother who is diagnosed as bi-polar, schizophrenic, and depressed for my entire life. What scares me is that I carry her genes. What if I end up like her?
For the first seven years or so of my life, I remember my mother as a hard working woman who pitched in with the household bills by running a daycare or working outside of the house. She was always a mother who dealt out chores and kept the house tidy. Sure, things got cluttered from time to time, but it was never an embarrassing situation. There were issues of doubt and mistrust between my mother and my father during these times, but outside of that it was a typical low middle class household.
Things spun out of control when I must have been… 7 or 8? A memory that continues to stick with me is when my father, cousin, and aunt took my mother to the mental hospital for the first time. I didn’t understand what was going on and as was to be expected I was beyond upset. Little did I know that wasn’t the last time I would have to watch my mom carted away to the looney bin.
I didn’t have a great relationship with my father as a child, due to the fear my mother instilled in me about him. I ended up staying with a second cousin while my mother spent her few weeks being treated.
I say treated, but what did that really do? Doesn’t treat mean to fix? Over my short life span, I can count my mother being in the mental hospital three times. And if those visits were supposed to fix her, they didn’t come close. In fact with each passing year she continues to deteriorate and dive deeper into her mental illness.
I’m not so sure I believe in her illness to the extent she does. I think she takes advantage of the assistance that is offered to her because she is diagnosed “mentally ill.” She lives off welfare in a tiny studio apartment that is paid for by the government. She “can’t” keep a job, and when she does land the lucky chance of employment, it never lasts as far as the first conflict. We all deal with conflict in our lives. Most of us get past it and continue to live our life. Mom doesn’t. Mom almost literally, runs the other direction as fast as she can.
I wish I could have known my mother better when I was young and before I was around. I wish I could know if she was always like this, or if it slowly came on. I can’t ask her because she doesn’t understand that she has an issue. She is willing to admit it for help, but not willing to admit it to fix it.
I really want to know what she used to be like to know if I’m going to end up like her. I see her in me sometimes. I see myself putting off tasks and procrastinating. I’m always very critical of myself when it comes to those things because I’m never sure if it’s a sign that I’m acting like her or just a normal act of being a human.
For most of my life I’ve checked myself back, always chastising myself for acting like her. At this point in my life, I don’t even think about it anymore except on occasion And on those occasions it wears on me.
Sometimes I’m not even sure what brought it up or that my mood is affected by her. And I know that isn’t healthy. And is scares me. I’m not sure if I sure get checked out by a psychologist, or if that will make me more worried about that one thing.
I don’t ever want to be like my mother.
This isn’t the best way to feel about the woman who brought you into this world.
(1) When one of those creepy old farts that act like they have never seen a female before walks in and immediately denies the obvious task of ordering a drink and rather begins to make it his only goal to attempt to win you over by constructing cheap shots and overused pick-up lines, take a drink.
(2) When a customer approaches you and immediately starts criticizing and complaining about the menu as if you the barista could possibly execute a change that very split second, take a drink.
(3) When a large family with rambunctious children come in, and the parents ignorantly proceed to purchase espresso drinks for their children, yet continue to wonder why they are not calm, take a drink.
(4) When someone sprints up to the counter and asks you to describe the acidity, the aroma, the body, the notes, the origin, the brewing temperature, the setting you used to grind the beans, the aftertaste, the freshness and the compliments of all current roasts of coffee all the while a line formulates only to leave and not actually order anything at all, take a drink.
(5) When a group of leathery, needy women comprised of nothing but Botox and gossip come in and laugh as loud as a typical thunderstorm and glare at you as if you are on the bottom of the food chain, take a drink… and maybe slap a ho.
(6) When someone orders a drink as long as your average novel, take a drink. Bonus: take an extra drink if they repeat it.
(7) When a pompous hipster mermaid comes in and flaunts his knowledge of coffee as if this is a life-or-death Russian roulette competition instead of a workplace, take a drink.
(8) When a large youth group on the way to a mission trip pit stops for over at least twenty bucks of coffee without tipping a single penny, take two drinks.
(9) When someone you know but never speak to comes in with obnoxious cheerfulness and interrogates why you are not in church or have not graduated by now and proceeds to ‘bless your heart,’ take three drinks.
(10) When a swarm of valley girls come in and inquire amongst themselves what to order (because trusting their own individual opinion and taste buds is social suicide and apparently not enough) only to all decide on the same drink that does not even exist, take a drink.
Bonus: Take an additional drink if it was a Pumpkin Spice Latte.
(11) When a customer demands sugar-free/ fat-free/ decaf anything and asks for extra of the aforementioned, do not trust them. Ever. Then proceed to take a drink.
(12) When you hear anyone say expresso, frappe, caramello or cool whip, take a drink.
(13) When someone orders then proceeds to lean over and basically rape the bar and watch your every move like you are a dangerous convict, take a drink.
(14) Share this list with your fellow bitter baristas. If they laugh at your list of rules, take a drink with them.
If you aren’t drunk by now, you aren’t paying attention.