I was back in Birmingham to see my mother again and, not incidentally, to see Alabama play Texas A&M. I flew in early Thursday morning and stopped by to see Dear before heading to Tuscaloosa to teach an Honors College class for my good friend Bob McCurley, and earn my football tickets. My schedule got thrown out of whack and I didn’t have time to eat at the Bright Star in Bessemer, as I had hoped.
Instead I stopped at the Waffle House in Bessemer. Actually, there are three or four Waffle Houses in Bessemer. I went to the one on Academy, just off the interstate. I went because (1) I was hungry, and (2) I was in a medium hurry, and (3) because they are a great company that deserves support.
Although it was well into the afternoon, I ordered breakfast, because when I go to Waffle House I order breakfast, regardless of the time of day or night. I had two eggs over easy; bacon; hash browns scattered, smothered, and peppered; and white toast. That’s what I always have at Waffle House.
It was very good. One of the eggs was a tad overcooked, but the bacon was outstanding and the hash browns were excellent, with the potatoes properly scattered and crisp, the onions not overcooked, and the jalapeños offering a nice pick-me-up. And the toast was cooked just as I like it.
It’s a great breakfast, but I hardly ever go to a Waffle House. There aren’t any in DC or the near suburbs, and going to one would take at least an hour. When I travel, I usually get a free breakfast at the hotel, grab something I can eat while I’m driving, or do without. I do remember at least one breakfast meeting a few years ago at a Waffle House in Montgomery, the one on the Eastern Bypass.
But it’s a great company, and I wanted to support them. The immediate impetus was the news that the CEO, Walt Ehmer, had gone to Wilmington, North Carolina in the midst of the Hurricane Florence flooding and was helping serve food to customers, while also doing his day job of keeping the five Waffle Houses there open. Waffle House performs heroically amid natural disasters — FEMA actually has a Waffle House Index to gauge how damaging hurricanes are: the more Waffle Houses that close, the worse the storm. Each Waffle House is open 24 hours, curfews permitting, and in many cases they are the only place people can get a hot meal. Waffle House moves Heaven and earth to keep them open.
A good friend, Bruce Higbie, has a daughter who worked as an accountant for Waffle House — she may still. And at least once every year, every single employee of the Waffle House organization, from the CEO down, spends at least one day working in one of the restaurants, taking orders, serving food, and busing tables, just like CEO Ehmer in Wilmington. I admire Waffle House for that.
A lot of people think ill of Waffle House. In some cases they used to go to a Waffle House to cap off an evening of excessive drinking back in their salad days, when they were green in judgment. Admittedly, Waffle Houses tend not to be in the most salubrious locations, and the clientele can be a little rough around the edges. Having spent much of my work life in less than salubrious locations, I am not put off by them; and most of my work travel was among people who were, at least by DC standards, a pretty darn around the edges. To me, that means the salt of the earth. The most influential book of my youth was The Grapes of Wrath. I regard the Joads of all races as people who know important things I don’t know, and who can do important things I can’t do. I respect and honor them. I’m right at home in a Waffle House.
You should give Waffle House a try. They make a very good breakfast, and they do a lot to help people in need. They deserve our support.
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