September 6, 2016

Beauty in Chaos


Masters at their craft, during a rush these gentlemen never look-up.

I cannot recall at the moment which TV channel came out with it first … but suffice to say I’m a fan of the “How it’s Made” TV craze.  Well, it is a craze in my house anyway. Seeing how the everyday items go from raw material into finished goods is amazing. Be it how the Nestle company puts out millions of cookies every day to how hammers are churned out by the thousands; the speed and efficiency of today’s mass production lines are something to behold. Humans are there, adding product or wrapping up boxes.  But for the most part, they are out of the picture. Machines have taken over adding their program perfection to the coefficient of defectless products. It’s amazing to watch.

But there are a few places that the terminators of tomorrow have yet to slaughter the jobs of the human race. I’m in no way saying that the Industrial and Technological revolutions are the ends of humanity … well, maybe one could make the argument. But today I want to focus the beauty found in the chaos of a Waffle House kitchen. If you are unfortunate enough not to know what a Waffle House is, then friend please move to one of the 25 states that hosts one of its over 2,100 locations. If you cannot move then at least stop in for a visit.

My memories of Waffle House are of late night runs for breakfast with my mom, after staying with her at the office or one of our many trips to and from the hospital. Words cannot describe the cast of characters that you will meet at your local Waffle House. The type of patrons varies based on the time of day.  In the morning you’ll find office workers, millwrights, white and blue collars all shuffled up to the high, or low, bar waiting for their order.  Lunch is typically the same, but with a few more commuters, truckers, and long-road-trippers strung into the mix. I cannot speak for dinner as I’ve never been under the yellow and black letters at supper time. Overnight is when things get interesting.  Bar goers stop in to get something on their stomachs to soak up their drink orders. The late-night shift workers find familiar faces to brighten their otherwise dark night.

I need to stress this, Waffle House gets a pretty bad wrap in the circle of friends that I have. Not that anyone would ever call it a bad place, but they hesitate to call it a good place either. I have no doubt that those who have such an opinion of the WH have it due to the fuzzy memories of late night “after-bar” runs from their college years.  In the southeastern United States, if you don’t go to Waffle House after drinking too much … then you go to Krystals.

But if you go sober, walk in with an alert mind and a watchful eye. What you’ll find is an amazingly friendly staff and a machine of flesh and blood, sweat and shoe leather, that hums with the efficiency of any other well-oiled machine. With the recent opening of a new Waffle House near my home, much to my families delight, I have been afforded the opportunity to see this machine in action. Friends, let me tell you, there’s nothing like it.

We know the girls that take our orders, watch as the cooks execute their orders from the ‘caller’ who shouts out the lingo with a voice like that of a captain calling commands to his crew. The cooks masterfully use spatulas, bacon presses, frying pans, hot grill … all the tools of their trade, to produce a plate of perfection. In the entirety of every single visit, I’ve made to every single Waffle House I’ve yet to have an order brought to my table that was incorrect. To me, this speaks not only of the accuracy and attention to detail provided by the staff taking the orders, but also the process of plating, cooking, prep; everything. The entire staff works together to make your experience a great one.


Every Waffle House I’ve been in has a Juke Box

Allow me to add this. As we marvel at the advancement of technology and engineering, may we never forget the beauty that can come from a team of flawed individuals working a process to serve others. The person(s) who came up with the system that makes certain that my $5 plate of 2 eggs, large hashbrowns (covered, chunked, diced, and capped please), and drink get to my seat in typically less than 10-15 minutes should also be allowed to work on fixing other problems we face in our world. Waffle House, if I may be so bold, borders on the divine. Any place that I walk into and Purple Rain is playing on the Jukebox … has to have a divine spark.

Visit your local Waffle House, go when they are busy and watch the chaos unfold. Watch the servers, callers, cooks, and managers all work as an orchestra. Instead of pleasing your ears though you’ll leave with a full belly. If you kept your eyes open, you’ll also leave with an appreciation of the beauty of humanity working in the chaos. And if you’re lucky … and I mean very lucky … you’ll hear the familiar chords of Purple Rain streaming from the Juke Box, then you, my friend will have dined with the divine.

*Waffle House in no way sponsors this article. It’s just a place we enjoy, and when you keep your head up and phone down you’ll be amazed at what you see.

One Comment on “Beauty in Chaos

Eric Whitehead
September 6, 2016 at 8:58 pm

The best. Susan had a Christmas tradition with her Aunt Sandy. Christmas morning, 9am, there’d head to the Waffle House. Pajamas were mandatory. The tackier the better. Aunt Sandy is missed. We’re thinking about carrying on the tradition.

Fun Fact: Waffle House is one of the very few restaurants that can operate on a limited menu in a national crisis. The have different code levels and different menus for each level. Such as in the case of a hurricane,. Etc, etc.

Great article, Sj. Much love to you man.

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