Oh, The Things You'll See at Waffle House!

03/21/2017 04:02 pm ET Updated Mar 23, 2017

Tips for having a fantabulous time at the infamous waffle emporium

Waffle House is just like people. Some days you’re more presentable than others. Some days you’re just a hot junky mess.

Waffle House gets a bad rap in some corners because folks suffer from a condition I call ABT. They Ain’t Been Taught how to make the most of their WH experience. Luckily, this can be remedied. Here are a few Dos and Don’ts to guide you to a complete recovery.

DO

-Dress in layers. WH can be colder than a witch’s nipple. Why? Because the temperature is set for the comfort of the cooks who toil at the grill. It was so frigid once that I dined in my vintage mink coat and watched everyone’s breath as they spoke.

DON’T

-Do not visit within an hour of a shift change. Your waitress is dead tired and OVER IT by that point. First shift is 7am to 2pm; second shift is 2pm to 9pm; and third shift is 9pm-7am.

DO

-Learn the personality of each shift. There are exceptions, but the finest staff typically work the first shift. It’s your best bet for excellent food and service. Avoid the second shift. It’s the wasteland shift. Just trust me on this one.

The third shift, aka The Wild, Wild West, is the realm of the drunks, the brawls, the window smashings by Kid Rock, and other colorful criminal hijinks. It can be said that third-shift customers don’t really intend to go there, it’s just where they end up.

DON’T

-Don’t contribute to the miserable zoo that is WH on major holidays. Stay at home on the 25th of December. As one server whispered to me, “Christmas people are very bad people.”

All staff have to work the holidays, so resentment floats heavy in the air like a butcher knife―even before you waltz in to the packed space with your precious, special requests for lightly whipped eggs and crustless toast.

DO

-Have the right attitude. Leave any snobbery or bias at the door. Be open and expect a good outcome. Be kind to your server, and she will move heaven and earth to please you. Except for maybe on that second shift. Third shift workers will try, but they are frequently providing eyewitness accounts to the police.

DON’T

-Don’t stop your car if all the staff are outside smoking or otherwise loitering. This never ends well. Keep rolling.

DO

-Do pay attention to other signs such as litter, blood splatter, or wads of hair weave so big they look like tumbleweeds blowing in the desert of the parking lot. The weave indicates there was a fight between female customers during the third shift. It’s a regular occurrence at one of my WHs.

DON’T

-A WH selling point is that your food is made right in front of you. That is unique, but sometime it’s better not to look. Avert your gaze if something disconcerting catches your eye. Remember that it’s probably worse inside the kitchen at that high-falutin’ restaurant you patronize. At least they’re not hiding anything at the WH.

DO

-Savor the people watching, and eavesdrop whenever you can. You’ll observe things at the WH that you’ll never see again. It might be a woman changing her baby’s diaper right there on the counter. Or another customer, desperate to pass an impending drug test or go to jail, asking the entire restaurant, “Can I buy some pee from someone, please, please?!” She found someone willing to help. It was a staff member. (Yes, this happened at one of my WHs as well.)

DO

-Tip well. Just on general principle. WH waitresses have one of the hardest jobs on the planet.

Finally, embrace the spectacle that is Waffle House. Acts of extraordinary charity, love, and courage occur under that roof more than we realize. I know a woman who was forced into child prostitution by her mother. She eventually fled her home and lived on the street for a long while. The staff at the nearby Waffle House helped her every day to survive. That woman is now a national voice against the sex trafficking of kids.

So the next time you’re hungry, turn on that blinker and head on in...if the time is right, of course, and the signs are favorable.

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