Summary: The church is to be the welcoming place for struggling sinners and stained saints.
The Church of the Hot Waffle
The Waffle House is to restaurants what little league baseball is to the Major leagues. The Waffle House serves food and that is where it’s comparison with other restaurants stop. It features, waffles, of course, Bert’s Chili, Omelets, and hash browns. Don’t ask for french fries and don’t try to use an American Express Card. The Waffle House stands as a monument to a different era. As you might guess I find the Waffle House fascinating.
When going to the hospital in Mobile I had to leave bright and early. You know you are leaving early when Hardee’s isn’t open. I usually waited until I arrived in Mobile to eat breakfast and the only thing open was this Waffle House near the hospital. The first thing that strikes me about the Waffle House is the mix of people who come there to eat. I can’t think of any other place where this crowd would be together. To my right as I walk in are four bikers. Their leather jackets and bandanas gave them away. It’s the Harley-Davidson Men and the Marlboro ladies. They are loud, who knows they may be winding down after a long night. At the counter two men sit. The hats and the pants, and the bass boat in the parking lot tell me these guys are going fishing. Before dropping their boat they’ve decided to consume some groceries. In a booth in the back there’s a man and a woman talking quietly. She looks young enough to be his daughter but she may be a date, it’s hard to tell. His better days are behind him and she could do better but they have found each other at least for now. In the booth next to me another couple sits. After listening in for a minute it appears they have left the hospital, where they have been waiting by their father’s bedside, for a short break and breakfast. In the parking lot I see a Ford truck with a bass boat, four motorcycles, an Acura, and an El Camino. Where else but a Waffle House
The Waffle House’s customer profile is most unusual. Ruby Tuesday’s has a certain market, McDonalds has the kids market, and the health conscience are heading for Subway. The Waffle House is made up of an eclectic mixture of people. People who are drawn together not because of their common economic background or their marital status but they are together because they are hungry.
Last Christmas we left Greenville headed for Birmingham on Christmas day. We figured since we would have a big meal when we arrived we would try to eat light earlier in the day. We didn’t plan on stopping on our drive home we were going to put some snacks in the van in case we got hungry. It was somewhere west of Atlanta when we decided that trail mix wasn’t
enough to keep our hunger at bay.
So we exited the interstate looking for an open eatery or gas station. The Burger King was closed, the Shell was closed, and the only thing open was the Waffle House. The Waffle House was overflowing, people were standing and eating. We placed our order to go and I waited. The holiday cheer was being spread at the Waffle House. Some of the customers looked to be travelers, like us. Others though looked to be at home. As in a few hours my feet would be under my mother’s table, some of these folks were sitting with their family around their kitchen table right now. They had found a home, they were among friends, it just happen to serve omelets any style. In a world that divides us into clans and families, the Waffle House gives those without family a place to call home.
My first encounter with the Waffle House goes back to a Waffle House near Samford University. Whenever I had a major mid-term test or an early final exam I would rise early and go to the Waffle House to study. The library wasn’t open so the Waffle House became a place to study and review for the upcoming test. It was awkward at first but in time I became one of the family. I may come only once a month but somehow they remembered. I was “college boy.” The fry cook would see me when I came in and holler, “Hey college boy, got a test.” I’d answer, “Sure do, this one is in Psychology.” He’d reply with something like, “Better stay away from that psychology, can’t be good if it teaches you to hate your mother.” I’d politely sit down and order my breakfast. While I did not know all the morning patrons, all the staff seemed to know their stories. It was ironic, as I was receiving a formal education from Samford, the Waffle House crowd was educating me in a different way. The wit of my fellow Waffle House connoisseurs came straight from Lewis Grizzard and the wisdom sounded like Merle Haggard.