Rednecks Starbucks

January17/ 2000

… The SwaggerMobile crisscrosses the Eastern Seaboard from New England to Mississippi and has been doing so for 15 years.  I know a little something about “white line fever” and Interstate cuisine.  If WAFFLE HOUSE had a “frequently fed club”, I would be a Gold Platinum VIP Elite member.  I have plenty of choices, so why do I look for that familiar Black/Yellow WAFFLE HOU*E sign (usually with one letter burned out)?

   I was supposed to meet “College Charlie” on Sunday night outside Chattanooga.  The nature of our meeting called for either a Bob Evans or Cracker Barrel get-together.  “Charlie” had a last second emergency and had to postpone our meeting until my next Chattanooga visit so what do I do?  

   Cracker Barrel is fine, don’t get me wrong.  When traveling with Team Swagger during Kid’s formative years, it was “road restaurant of choice” with a few checker games by the fireplace mandatory.  Did you know ??? … Cracker Barrel’s most popular meal???  … Chicken & Dumplings.  Do you learn cool stuff here, or what?  But this time I was solo and did not need the “ambience” of CB.

   This was an I-75 exit with gazillions of hotels and eaterys so certainly there was a WAFFLE HOU*E.  When I am solo, hungry, and want reliable vittles served efficiently, courteously, and economically I always head for that familiar little yellow pre-fab box.  Over the years I figure I have eaten at WHs at every hour of the 24 in a day.  My standard order – sausage and cheese omelet, grits, toast, coffee and a Coca Cola in a “go cup”.  Yes, I know their hashbrowns are “famous” for all the “smothered, covered, diced, … …” but I’m a grits kind of a guy.  And NO WAY do I go for “Bert’s Chili” when I have many miles and hours ahead of me.

   My goal is to one day walk into an interstate WH and have the waitress and grill cook holler out “Hey BobLee, the usual?”  I may be getting close to that point.

   Let me remind you … I spent 18 years around 5-Star restaurants entertaining fru fru clients with unlimited “signing privileges”.  I do know the difference between a sorbet and a finger bowl.  I don’t measure my self-worth by how big the dinner check is or the faux Euro accent of the waiter.

   For me, WAFFLE H*USE is a combo of “good food served quickly and courteously” and a hearty dose of Real Americana.  I appreciate both.

    From a business perspective, there is a simple secret to WH’s success.  No, its not the simple pre-fab buildings or the limited laminated menu.  It’s their staffing.  They only have TWO EMPLOYEES in the entire company … and that same waitress and that same grill cook are coincidentally at every WAFFLE HOUS* I pull into.  

   The waitress’ name is either Gladys or Ruby and the cook is “Ralph”.  Gladys/Ruby is definitely related somehow to Sissy Spacek.  Ralph is just working at WH until he hears back from his application to be “gas can man” on Rusty Wallace’s pit crew.  Ralph kind of has a crush on Gladys/Ruby and plans to ask her to marry him once the deal with Rusty comes through.  Until then he “protects her” from her no-account lyin’ ex (“Kevin”) who is 14 months behind in his child support and won’t leave her alone.  If “they” ever find “Kevin” with his head bashed in from a tire iron, “Ralph” better have an airtight alibi.

   Gladys/Ruby has 2 knee babies at home and her mamma watches them so she can work her shift at WH.  Her mamma’s “arthuritis” is getting worse so they don’t know what they will do next year.  Hopefully Rusty’s people WILL call with that job offer for “Ralph”.

   Now if it sounds like I am satirizing these folks, I’m not.  Theirs is a world called “real life” and it is populated by hard working solid citizens who somehow “get along” under circumstances that would break your average “silverspoon frat boy” like a cheap chip in heavy dip.

   Knowing the stone cold reality of “Gladys and Ralph’s” world, I am even more amazed at her overt cheerfulness whenever I sit down in her station.  Mizzus Swagger and I have a “don’t ask, don’t tell” arrangement about all my WAFFLE wimmen calling me “Sugah, Honey, Handsome, and Sweetie Pie”.  

    After literally 100s and 100s of stops at WAFFLE HO*SE I have never received anything but courteous cheerful service day, night, or pre-dawn.  That sausage and cheese omelet and the hospitality is the same whether I’m in Hattiesburg, Emporia, Gaffney, or “where in the hell am I?”.  

   Gladys and Ralph are always the same and the “other customers” are the same … over-the-road truckers and shift workers from “the plant”.  Every WH has a “the plant” nearby that most everyone works at at some point in their life.  I’ve never worked at a “the plant” but thank goodness some folks do or lots of stuff I take for granted would not be manufactured, assembled. or delivered for my convenience.

   WAFFLE HOU*E is headquartered in Atlanta.  There is one spot just south of The Atlanta Hartsfield, Maynard Jackson, Hank Aaron, Biff Pocoroba, Micheal Vick, Dominique Wilkins Airport where I-75 merges with I-285 where you can turn 360 degrees and see FIVE WAFFLE *OUSE signs.  It’s like seeing 6 states from Lookout Mountain.

   Chik-Fil-A is also headquartered in Atlanta.  Those folks also know a little something about their customers and how to keep them satisfied and coming back (but not on Sunday!).

   My only “issue” with WH is always having to ask for Sweet N Low.  They should have it on the table.  My normal check at WH is around $8.00.  I NEVER leave less than $2 tip sometimes $3 … part of that is a “flirt tax” and part is to help Gladys’ mamma with her “arthuritis” medicine.  I stay about 45 minutes and leave a better man for the time spent.

   The next time you and yours are highballin’ down the Interstate to somewhere, pull over at a WH and give’em a try (is there ANYONE who has never eaten at a WAFFLE HOU*E?).  Look for BobLee’s harvest gold F-150 SuperCrew out front and tell Gladys and Ralph I said “Hi”. 


 Swagger’s Stumper

What went “Zip” when it moved …

“Bop” went it stopped …

and “Whirrrr” when it stood still?


    Spencer Haywood was the first pro basketball “early out” in 1971, leaving Univ of Detroit for the ABA.  It was called “a hardship case” back then.  In 2005 “hardship” is defined as “I don’t have an Escalade” … times sure have changed. 

    Going from Asheville to Chattanooga thru the Nantahala Gorge is worth the extra time versus going to Knoxville and down.  The “Banzai Pipeline” coming east out of Asheville is always fun to “shoot” dodging the 18-wheelers.

    Check out … James has a good clean concept for linking any/all media stories on UNC Sports … and best of all … NO MESSAGE BOARD.  Check it out.

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