The most obvious is the cook and he's usually the only guy on the clock. He's always middle-aged with a bad hair cut worn long, a crude home made tattoo and looking like his employment here is a part of his probation terms. I'm beginning to think Waffle House has a nationwide furlough initiative with our federal and state correctional facilities. Then there are the waitresses, which typically number three or four for the third shift. The blend of persona, however, is apparently a mandate of company policy.
The first of these is the brain dead young lady who is a pleasant enough person but doesn't appear to have ever noticed that the register keys are in the same place every time. Tonight's role is played by a young woman who adds a squinty-eyed, stoner charm to the part. Miss Brain Dead, though, is a lifer; probably due in part to constantly reinforced inadequacy. She's always eager to please and makes every attempt to supplicate her co-workers. Of the people actually serving guests, she has the fewest tables, if she has any at all. She spends most of her time running things up and down the line for the other more skilled waitresses and cashing out customers at the register.
Next is the Pro. She's a hustler who's been waiting tables a while. If she's relatively young and attractive, this is a probably a moonlighting gig to supplement the real deal as a cocktail or full-service restaurant waitress. If she's not, then this is the best she can find, even though her skills and personality far exceed 50% of the cute'n'rude variety at your average mid-price bar and grille. In either case, if anyone notices you when you walk in the door, it's probably her. She walks the line bantering playfully with the clientele, custom tailoring her charm to the target. Her waiting skills are also above the mark, never missing the cup of coffee that's running low.
The third I call the Old Biddy. If you're lucky, there's a fourth waitress here tonight (which we'll cover in a moment) and the Old Biddy won't be serving. She'll be relegated to dish washing and running things around with Miss Brain Dead. The Old Biddy is either an ex-Miss Brain Dead or an ex-Pro. If she's the former, her skills have progressed to a respectable level but her charming naiveté has been crushed by the bitterness of progressing age and the fact that she never became a Pro. If she is the latter, there is a physical reduction in skill due to progressing age and the bitterness that comes with no longer being the Pro.
Finally there is the manager, who unless you're really paying attention, you might miss because chances are he or she has their back to you the entire time helping the ex-con on the grill. They are the most well-groomed of the bunch with a meticulously kept uniform: neatly pressed, shirt tucked in, clean, and probably with some sort of neck tie that is gender appropriate. Their skill where ever they happen to be on the line is exemplary and their personality is professionally sterile and invisible. Their story is usually that they couldn't or didn't want to deal with the pressures of management at Denny's but were too proud to leave the "professional" tier of the corporate America restaurant ladder to wait tables or run a register again.
If there is a fourth waitress on staff, you're in for a treat because the dynamic is dramatically altered. The fourth waitress is the girl who's forced here by circumstance rather than limited opportunity or natural proclivity. Unlike Miss Brain Dead, she's unlimited in mental capacity and unlike the Pro, she excels in skill and personality not because it's second nature, but because she has the capability to make it appear so. She's here because a major circumstance of life has interrupted her professional growth from which she may or may not recover. Tonight she's a tough chick of Italian stock with a moderate New York accent and looks to be about six months pregnant. The dynamic becomes interesting because Miss Brain Dead envies her capability and is drawn to her personal magnetism. The Pro admires her skill and can relate to her because of the similar personality styles. The Old Biddy hates her because she's making the tips tonight instead of her and hates the other two for getting along with her so famously.
-Waffle House, 1 A.M. - Richmond, VA