I love Dixie and I love Waffle House. That's all there is to it. Every time I go to a Waffle House for breakfast, I get the same thing - waffle, sausage and coffee. And then I get the secret ingredient: the people.
|Le Chateau avec Waffles.|
Yesterday morning, I went to the Waffle House in Hot Springs, Arkansas. I sat down at the counter, my favorite place, but I was all alone there. That didn't last. A young man with a motorcycle helmet sat down one seat away. He couldn't have been more than 20 and had tats everywhere, including his neck. He looked like life had been pretty rough on him.
I asked him how he was doing and he told me he was really happy. He had just landed a second job. He was working at a restaurant whose name I can't recall, and his new one was working on a landscape crew. He was genuinely excited to get a gig doing landscape in the coming Arkansas summer. He opened his wallet and showed me the reason. It was a photo of his 2-year-old son. "I'm doing it for him," he said. "I got to take care of him." I didn't look for a ring or ask about mom. That would have been gauche.
A black family came in, mom, dad and ~7-year-old daughter. There were no booths available, so they stood and waited right behind us. Daughter was wearing a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles t-shirt. This being the South, it's OK to be friendly. I told mom that it had been a while since I'd seen a TMNT shirt as our youngest was at least 17 years older than her. Mom, young enough to be our daughter, beamed. "I grew up on them!"
Tat boy moved over to sit next to me and cheerfully offered counter seats to the family. They smiled warmly and said they really wanted a booth.
We resumed our conversation. I told him my theory that fatherhood makes a man. He blurted out, "I didn't have a father." I smiled and said, "Well, you're doing a fine job of it now." In my mind, I thought, "Now there's a man's man for you." He didn't look like much on the outside, but, by God, he was John Wayne on the inside.
We talked a bit more. He told me he was building a small motorcycle for his son to share his passion for riding. "I know he's not old enough, but he will be soon." It was beautiful.
I finished and paid. As I left, I told him, "You're a good man, son."
He laughed and replied, "No matter what people say!"
I patted him on the back and said, "You can't trust everything you read on bathroom walls, now."
We both laughed.
And that's a Waffle House experience. It's good to be back in Dixie.