It is nearly sunset. I’m an hour away from my Mobile where I know I can find a “clean comfortable room at a convenient price.” Tired and in danger of nodding off, I need a quick break. Don’t want to wake up dead, so I look for a place to get a bite and stretch my legs.
I get off the interstate at the Vegas of Alabama. I’m in the shadow of the Creek Indian Casino, a gleaming monstrosity of a building rising up out of the south Alabama piney-woods. Out of place as a Baptist deacon at a strip club.
Not being a gambler in the casino sense of the word, I pull in to the Waffle House lot. Breakfast at supper is about as good as it gets. Breakfast at Waffle House is as good as it gets, unless you can still eat at momma’s table.
My hostess is young, black and pretty. Pearly white smile and twinkling eyes. She invites me to “sit wherever I want.” It’s an easy decision, since the joint is mostly empty.
Her name is Tiffany. I know this from her name tag, and because she tells me so. She will be my server, said with such conviction that would not allow me to even consider otherwise.
Never met a black woman named Tiffany. I keep this to myself, supposing that to mention this might somehow be construed as racist. I’m not sure why, but you can’t be too careful in the land of the perpetually offended.
Her voice is sweet and lovely, lilting. The cadence and timbre somehow familiar. Suddenly my tired mind puts it all together.
She sounds like Butterfly McQueen. Now I am completely mesmerized.
I keep this opinion to myself as well. She is much too young to know who Butterfly McQueen was, and even if she did, I’d face the racist prospect again. I suppose if I thought her voice was like Rosa Parks I’d be safe. But a talented actress who portrayed a slave, not so much.
Mouth firmly shut except to eat, I watch Tiffany work. She is quick and courteous, bouncing between patrons with genuine enthusiasm. I know with certainty that she is the real deal. Nothing fake or phony. Not working patrons for tips, but actually enjoying her work.
Tiffany has potential. I see a future beyond Waffle House. I hope she does too.
I leave a big tip. Too big for bacon and eggs.
Call it an investment. A hope that she too might one day have breakfast at Tiffany’s.