Friday, February 24, 2006

All I know about life, I learned at the Waffle House

In one of his programs, motivational speaker and guru Zig Ziglar tells his listeners that he thinks that everyone should write a book. You don't actually need to get it published, but just to write it will help you. As I drove to Camp Lejeune on Wednesday to pick up 1500 pounds of ammo cans, my mind wandered to this subject.

Thirty five years ago in February of 1971, I started work at the Waffle House in Tampa. For the next six years I experienced the wonderful world of 24 hour restaurants. Several years ago, a waiter at Tex & Shirley's made a memorable comment that I still use today. We had been discussing different people when he pointed to the front doors and said, "Sooner or later, every form of life imaginable will come through those doors." In one sentence he described my six years at the Waffle House.

I try to explain to people today that the Waffle House of 1972 was not the place that they know today. We had customers from all socio-economic groups. The Waffle Houses here in Greensboro seem to have a less desirable customer base but I'm not really sure. After spending six years at the Waffle House, I have been in a Waffle House less than half a dozen times in the last thirty years. It doesn't really matter, this story is about my years at the Waffle House in Florida.

I spent several years at the Waffle House on Dale Mabry in Tampa, a couple of those working the third shift (midnights). Through those front doors came people such as Doc Severinsen (Tonight show bandleader), Lawton Chiles (Senator and Governor of Florida), Andre the Giant, Dusty Rhodes, some guy who was Col. Sanders parade double, John Matuzak, Pete Rose, the Great Malenko, a bunch of professional wrestlers, Oscar Ayala, Nathaniel Watts, and thousands of other characters.

One of my favorite memories is the night big John Matuzak, pro football player and "B" movie actor, got into an argument with some drunk giving the waitress a hard time. Matuzak shouted at him "You f***er! Out of here!", picked him up, kicked open the front door, and threw him over the Buick Riviera parked in the front parking space. The guy cleared the length of the Buick and landed on the pavement. The police arrived in time to keep Tooz from tearing the guy to pieces.

We used to get a lot of professional wrestlers. The bad news about those guys is that they have a few drinks and start believing that crap on TV. We had a disturbance in the parking lot one night involving some wrestlers and some normal people. A Tampa policeman arrived and using only his nightstick put three wrestlers on the ground and cuffed them in less than a minute. I am sure those boys had never been hit like that before.

Oscar Ayala, who was one of Tampa's first black policemen, was a regular late night customer. He was retired from the police department and ran Bexley's BBQ. He would sit for a couple of hours talking and drinking coffee. He was there the only time that we were robbed. The bad news was that the Big O was asleep in his seat during the robbery.

So what did I learn during my years at the Waffle House?? Here are a few things I can remember.

1. Doors and bad tempers are not a good combination. One day in 1974 , my district manager had been at the restaurant and left presumably to go to another unit. He locked the office door with my keys on the desk. After making several calls to find him and being unsuccessful, I made a quick decision. It was only a hollow core door so I put my fist through the door and unlocked it. I got my keys and went on home. A couple of days later, the District Manager was at the restaurant again. He asked about the door and I told him what happened. A few days later there was a deduction from my paycheck with a note that it was the cost of the door. A logical examination of the situation made me realize that I should pay for the damage that I had done. Logically, I had paid for a new door so I took the old one off the hinges and took it home. A few days later, the District Manager returned to find the door missing. A bit upset, he asked about the door. I explained that after paying for the door, it was now mine and I had taken it home. Blogger rules prevent me from placing his comments here! I still think that it was funny.

2. Not everyone passed chemistry. A few months after I bought the door, we had a new District Manager. One afternoon, we were getting ready to de-lime the dish machine when Chester walked in the door. He asked what we were doing so I explained the situation. He told me that we should not have been using Limeaway at $5 a gallon when we could use muriatic acid at $2 a gallon. He had us wait while he went to get some acid. A few minutes later, he was back to show me how to cheaply de-lime a dishmachine. He proceeded to pour the acid into the dishmachine. Unfortunately, Chester did not first drain the tank of the machine. The mix of dish detergent and acid produced a mushroom cloud over the dishmachine. It was like an atomic bomb without the radiation. We all ran out of the building gasping for air. As we sat in the parking lot, waiting while the fire department ventilated the building, the vice president of the company drove up. Having just arrived from Atlanta, his was a simple question, "What the hell are you doing out here?" My response was brief and to the point, "Saving three dollars." That was the last dish machine that Chester cleaned. He was gone a few weeks later.

3. Plumbers don't always read the plans and follow them. We had a recirculating pump to make sure that the rinse water at the dish machine was 180 degrees. We were getting ready to open a new restaurant and I went over to see how it looked. After a quick trip to the restroom, I went to find the job superintendent. In my brief visit to the restroom I discovered that the plumbers had 180 degree water going to the toilet. That warm, steamy feeling as I sat there briefly was not my imagination. As I graphically explained to the Construction Supervisor that the hot water in the toilet was a lawsuit waiting to happen, others listening were in tears from laughter. I will admit that it was the only time in my life that I used a food thermometer to check the temperature on water in a toilet.

4. I have always loved stupid people. ( More elsewhere on this blog) Most Waffle Houses were built the same. Big windows on at least two sides of the building so you can see everyone in there. Still about once a week, we would always get the Stupid Person of the week. They would walk by the windows, seeing all the people inside, open the door, lean in and ask, "Are you open?" The first couple of years I was polite and would just say "Yes". After that it degenerated into an opportunity to hone my sarcasm skills. One of my favorites was " No, we're just waiting for an idiot to lead us out of here."

More things I learned later or you can wait for the book.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

On the road to Norfolk

Friday I rode to Norfolk to pick up a load of surplus that I had purchased. It was a quiet ride there by myself and even quieter riding home with 300 pounds of white shirts and pants. As I cruised Highway 58 at 4:00 AM, my mind wandered even a little more than usual. So just a few random thoughts from my trip.

1. My brother-in-law said it best: " I would rather go hunting with Dick Cheney than driving with Ted Kennedy."
2. I saw "Hilla the Hun" Clinton complaining about the White House not going public with details of Cheney's hunting accident immediately. I have tried several search engines but still can't find those "immediate" public announcements about her husband getting blown by an intern in the Oval Office. Hillary, if you read this, could you direct me to those announcements?
3. Do I buy one of those Mohammed cartoon t-shirts and risk offending Muslims or do I just risk offending Muslims with my everyday comments?
4. Do those Muslims in the Middle East and nearby areas ever work or do they burn and protest full time? I guess this answers question #3.
5. Porky's BBQ in Southampton, Virginia puts their BBQ sandwiches on potato rolls. BBQ was a B but presentation (Rolls) brought it up to an A-.

Mercifully, that's all for tonight.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

NASCAR and Diversity- Liberals gone wild!!

Last week the local news was filled with stories about NASCAR and diversity. The Greensboro News and Record even had an editorial about NASCAR and their need to reach out to minorities. One TV news report that I saw was about NASCAR "reaching out" to historically black colleges with programs to get more minorities involved in racing. STOP!!!! I have had all that I can take about "diversity".

"Diversity" has become the altar at which the liberals (conservative word for those who feed at the public trough and spend all their time telling the rest of us how to live) worship. One more idiot babbling about the joys of diversity and I'm going to lose my lunch. But in the interest of fairness, I am willing to examine the logic of diversity. So let's get started.

The liberals have decided that NASCAR needs to diversify its fan base. Evidently they have found someone in the spineless France family (NASCAR owners) who believes them. So NASCAR is trying to make the sport more attractive to minorities. WHY?? Can't we just accept the fact that different people have different interests and talents? Isn't that the definition of diverse?

Let's carry this to other sports. When will the NBA start a program to "reach out" to historically white colleges? Do you think that the rosters of NBA teams accurately reflect the racial makeup of America? Let me see if I understand this, all black basketball teams are OK, all white NASCAR teams are not OK? Where the hell is the logic in that one? What do you have to be smoking before that one makes sense?

Let's keep going. How many white defensive backs are there in the NFL? Hint. You can write all their names on a Postit note. Do the rosters of NFL teams accurately reflect the makeup of the general population? Has the NFL "reached out" to historically white colleges to start programs to develop players? Why not? If it will work for NASCAR, surely the NFL and the NBA can do it. At least Major League Baseball has a better mix of minorities. If you don't agree, name one Hispanic NBA or NFL player. Yeah! Get back to me on that one.

Last year I saw a spot on baseball lamenting the declining number of blacks playing baseball. This is only speculation, but there are not as many opportunities in baseball to jump, dance, and beat your chest after making a play. I have about given up watching football because of the endless celebrations after routine plays. Let's face it, a guy making $10 million dollars a year to tackle people doesn't need to dance and demonstrate after each time he does that. At the restaurant we don't high step and bump chests everytime we serve a burger.

When will this endless worship of diversity end?? Will I have to wear shorts that go to my ankles and t-shirts that go to my knees? Will I have to install a $5000 sound system and put 20" rims on the minivan to prove I'm not a bigot? Maybe I could get by with a set of spinners from WalMart. Do I have to hang an air freshener from the rear view mirror or put one of those crown things on the dash? Will the do-gooders force me to tint the windows on the minivan and turn it into a lowrider? Will I have to put one of those MEXICO decals all across the back window?? Do I have to drink a soft drink with lime? Do all foods have to be spicey?? Will I be forced to listen to a rap song?? Speaking of rap, all the liberals complain about the lack of blacks in country music. How about a list of all the white rappers? You have room for that list on the same PostIt note that you listed defensive backs on earlier.

Outdoors? I like to go camping and hiking, I know that's hard to believe. There is an absence of minorities at the campgrounds and out on the trails. When are the liberals going to get some of those folks outside?? Judging by the rate of diabetes in minorities, everyone could use a little more exercise.

What's the point of this whole tirade? It's time to end the bullshit. Let's just accept that we are all different and move on. Think about it, do you really one everybody to be just like you? Even worse, do you want them to be just like me? Government backed social engineering has never worked and isn't going to start working today.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

American Idle

Yes, it's that time again. American Idol has returned to a television set near you. I guess that it could be worse, but I honestly don't want to imagine how.

My wife likes the show, so it's on the TV now. The early "audition" shows are the worst. Thousands try out, hundreds get ridiculed, a handful go to Hollyood for more detailed abuse. There is evidently a strong masochistic streak among "singers" or potential "Idols".

I really don't understand why people who sing (and I use the term loosely) so badly try out. Shouldn't their friends tell them that they suck before someone tells them and fifty million other people watching on television that they can't sing? How can they not know that they can't carry a tune? Are we so obsessed with self-esteem that we can't be honest with our friends?

The only thing worse than the contestants is the judges and I am using the word judges extremely loosely. Let's start with Randy Jackson. Randy, can you use a word other than "dog" or is it "dawg" when speaking to someone? How about using "dude" or "guy"? Even "man" would be an improvement. Frankly Randy, even as little as I watch, I'm tired of hearing "It didn't do it for me." Of course, nothing is as overused as "It was a little pitchy". What the hell does that really mean?

How about Paula? Has she ever seen a young male "singer" she didn't like? What's it like to be taken under her wing (or other body part)? If she were a school teacher, she would be on the six o'clock news.

Finally, we get to Simon. He's the core of the show. People are fascinated by a guy who is coldly critical, seemingly uncaring, and brutally honest. Why? This guy gets paid big bucks to be a prick, I've been doing it free for years. Simon, how about springing for something other than a T-shirt to wear? You're making millions, how about something with a collar and some buttons?

"American Idol", some kid who sings? How about somebody working a job, raising a family, and trying to leave the world a little better than they found it? That's what I am looking for in an "Idol". Yo Dog!! It's OK if they are "a little pitchy".

Friday, February 03, 2006

State of the Union

I watched about five minutes of the State of the Union speech on Tuesday night. It's not a partisan statement, I have never watched more than about five minutes of any infomercial. That's all that any State of the Union speech is, a sales pitch. Here's the new, improved product. It will only take a little more of your paycheck to get it. Enough cynicism!

Why don't we do a real report on the State of the Union? Pick one person at random from every state and let them speak three minutes on how they think that things are going. Even if they didn't pick me, I would watch more than five minutes of that show.

After the reports, Representatives and Senators would have to write a report on what they had heard. No report, no paycheck. Write your name and district in the upper right hand corner, Congressman.


My older son came over and helped me out with a moving project the other day. As we were preparing to part, he came over to my truck and asked, "Were you bored when you were my age?". He went on to explain that he was tired of the routine in Greensboro and thought that he needed a change in his life. I explained to him that I believe that he needs to enlist in the military. I explained the benefits of travel, training, retirement, etc. that he could reap from military service. I urged him to go see the recruiter who calls the house on a regular basis. I will have to wait a while to see if he takes my advice. Stay tuned!

BUT, his question started me thinking, which is always dangerous. Was I bored at 19 or 20? If I was, it has completely skipped my memory. When I was 19, I worked 60 hours or so a week at the Waffle House. I worked the midnight shift and met enough interesting people that I still have stories to tell today. Many who are reading this have heard some of these stories. I haven't really been bored since I left high school. I guess skipping college eliminated that extra four years of boredom that I could have experienced. More on this when we cover ADHD and me.

I hear lots of young people at work tell me that they are bored. I guess that by the time they reach 18, their parents have spent so much time and money keeping them entertained that having to provide their own entertainment leaves them stumped. Maybe this explains the popularity of rap music. You can't be bored with someone calling you names, cussing at you, and celebrating the degradation of human life. But I digress, back to the topic.

I told my son that one of my few regrets in life was not serving in the military. As my only friend once told me about Vietnam, "I can't believe that with all those guns, explosives, and big power equipment, you weren't on the first plane over there after high school." I always tell people, "The government is smarter than you think, they wouldn't take me." My wife worries that our son would end up in Iraq. I pointed out that he would probably be safer there than in a nightclub in Greensboro, a convenience store at midnight, or driving 80 MPH down US 29.

So Gilbert, what's the point of all this?
1. We have spent so much time and money entertaining this generation that maybe going to fight a war or preparing to fight a war is the only thing left for them to do. God knows that I hate to quote a leftist like Andy Rooney, but he once said "If you can survive, war is the greatest experience that a man can have." Maybe Andy had been bored.
2. Like I would hope that every other parent does, I want my children to achieve a higher level of success than I have. They will have to solve the boredom thing on their own. I don't understand it.