Happy Place – Waffle House

Photo of a classic-style waffle house, taken by Billy Harthorn from Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons license attribution and share alike.
Photo from Billy Hathorn / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)

I almost didn’t think of anything today because I had a rough day (not bad, just rough). Luckily my family as far as I know is safe for now.

I was on Twitter a lot today, and I saw that Waffle House was trending. I’ve heard that Waffle House has a legendary status for remaining open in rough times, and it is also the type of barometer on which people make a judgment between inconvenience and catastrophe. We view CPS similarly in Chicago, and it just closed.

I had a hard drive down to my family’s Christmas gathering in Tennessee a few years back. We had been up all night getting ready, then encountered a couple lines of severe thunderstorms in Kentucky on the Bluegrass Parkway, complete with a few zero-visibility rain deluges. After a while, when I was pulled to the side of the freeway, we decided to wait out the storm.

I was dead tired, and we pulled into the only restaurant open, a Waffle House. We had to run through the downpour to the entrance, and were soaked like dogs on entering.

There was a cook and a waitress, and that’s it. The waitress came to our table, and in a hushed tone she said we didn’t have to buy anything and we could just sit if we wanted. We were both starving and tired, so we got their breakfast with ample coffee (my wife had to take over driving).

There’s something super comforting about a diner to me, especially in hard times. I’m thinking of tending to a loved one in the hospital, after a wake or funeral, when you undergo a tough medical treatment, or when you feel like you have nowhere to go. It doesn’t matter if it’s a chain or a hole in the wall. I’m a little sad that we can’t go to those places now in my city and that some will disappear, but I understand and empathize and will grieve, and I think it will make those that remain, and those that emerge, a little sweeter down the road.