A lot has to go wrong for me to end up at a Waffle House at 3 am on a Tuesday without warning. Thankfully, I’m a writer and can find enough irony in any situation to pay for my own breakfast. It wasn’t difficult to find the irony in this near empty Waffle House in Meridian Mississippi. From the moment I read the public health advisory on the menu, I knew I was in for a special treat. “EGGS HAMBURGERS AND STEAKS MAY BE COOKED TO ORDER. HOWEVER, THE CONSUMPTION OF RAW OR UNDER COOKED FOOD SUCH AS EGGS, HAMBURGERS, AND STEAKS WHICH MAY CONTAIN HARMFUL BACTERIA, MAY CAUSE SERIOUS ILLNESS OR DEATH, ESPECIALLY IF YOU HAVE CERTAIN MEDICAL CONDITIONS.”
I stared at the notice of pending death on my menu as my waitress greeted me. Her name was Nicki. Nicki was up at 3 am serving food and life saving coffee to weary travelers. I was thankful even though I realized upon the first sip that I was drinking hot tea. Nicki gazed at me for a moment to see if I would notice. From my expression, she offered an apology. “I may have given you the tea we were brewing by mistake.” I was actually impressed at this. Had I ordered a nice cup of hot tea in America at any other all night restaurant, I doubt I would have been served it.
The only plug in available was the one used by the silent Jukebox. The nearest booth to the plug in was stacked with dirty dishes. I took it upon myself to clear the table and wipe it down. I plugged my laptop in only to find there was no internet WI-FI available. But Nicki, as well as the other two late shift employees, were somehow able to log in via their smart phones. They huddled in the corner apparently enjoying YouTube nonsense while I stared at the bottom of my empty cup of hot tea. It is now 3:50 am.
The coffee was behind the counter, but the pot of hot tea had been left near the register so I took the initiative to pour myself a cup before it got cold. Momentarily distracted by me, Nicki asked if I needed anything. I politely declined, stating I would help myself and she went back to her YouTube studies.
Perhaps you would assume this is nothing more than a poor review of my meal experience. In truth, it is doubtful Nicki and her fellow night shift employees will keep their jobs for very long. My review is what I observed while enjoying my meal. I observed a table of four behaving as if they had rented a human being as a servant with the very reasonable cost of their meal. These customers treated Nicki and her fellow employees as if they owned them.
A young lady from the table of four joined me at my booth and asked for my name. I told her and smiled politely as she began to inform me that I was an atrocious night manager who knew nothing about quality service. She demanded the number to my supervisor. I showed her the number listed beneath the menu notice of pending death. I sincerely apologized to the young lady and told Nicki I would cover the ticket for the table of four. Nicki giggled and nodded as she played along. I didn’t have to pay for their meal, but it provided an interesting twist to the article I was writing in my head.
Perhaps the service was poor and this would be the table of four’s reasoning for their horrid behavior, but it is my opinion that you get what you pay for. Nicki earns $2.13 an hour and tips. For that, I merit her service to well above my expectation. Alas, I will not be returning to that Waffle House. The availability and quality of Wi-Fi is the first thing I review in a restaurant. If the restaurant does not provide Internet access in this day and age fails my review by default.