Part I of our escape into a happy place

Point of No Return

Man, there is plenty of negativity to be found around this world, isn’t there?

Political strife, potential turmoil with NATO members, the constant war between the “haves” and “have-nots,” debates over Nativity sets on public and private lands, etc. If you’re itching for a fight, well, you don’t have to look far these days.

Locally, we have a heroin epidemic that is literally killing people, schools that are overflowing at the seams, and unchecked growth that appears to be putting clamps on our infrastructure. There are plenty of things to raise your blood pressure and cement that scowl on your face, and that doesn’t even include the financial and time-management pressures that come as a package deal with the holidays.

Let’s find our happy place.

We have four issues left in this 2019 calendar of ours, and I’m vowing to use this particular space in those editions solely to spread feel-good stories. Don’t get it twisted — we’ll still report on all the news in this area that we can get to in the rest of the paper, and do that to the very best of our abilities, but let’s make this our happy place. A happy place where dogs play with cats, my hair flows like a wild horse’s mane and...

But I digress. Let’s just make this a place for happy stories the next few weeks.

Our first story comes from Birmingham, Ala. — a town where I had the best rack of ribs in my life while playing golf on the Robert Trent Jones Trail with a group of friends about a zillion years ago. See? It’s already a happy story.

This particular tale, however, comes to us courtesy of, and takes place in the early hours of Nov. 3, in a Birmingham Waffle House. The story says that nearly 30 customers were in the restaurant after midnight, and that service might not have been exactly at a premium for those people.

Why? Well, the Waffle House had one employee working. And when I say “working,” I mean he was cooking the food, serving it, busing tables and washing dishes. Fortunately for this worker, who is only identified in the story as “Ben,” the restaurant was not filled with a bunch of whiny, entitled folks complaining about their service. No, Ben was surrounded by kindness.

According to Ethan Crispo, who was at the scene, an unidentified male customer stood up, grabbed an apron and went behind the counter to wash dishes. Another customer, Alison Stanley, took her stilleto heels and sequined dress behind the counter and brewed coffee.

“I don’t think it’s anything special,” said Stanley. “He needed help, so I got up and helped out.”

He needed help, so she got up and helped. It sounds pretty simple, doesn’t it? But, sometimes, simplicity is the most beautiful notion of all.

Crispo was amazed at what he was watching and started taking photos of the other customers who were helping. Others started busing tables and helping with the dishes while “Ben focused on taking orders and preparing the food,” per the article.

“Humanity truly isn’t good,” said Crispo. “It’s great!”

Waffle House found out about what happened, and explained why Ben was kind of stranded there by himself.

“We had two associates scheduled to leave, however, due to a communication mix-up, their relief did not show up promptly,” said Pat Warner, director of PR and external affairs for Waffle House. “That left Ben, our cook, alone in the restaurant with hungry customers. He worked the grill and got the orders out.”

Let’s start with this — Ben is my kind of guy. He just kept plugging along, trying to do it all because he had a job to do and that is exactly what he had to do in order to perform his job to the best of his abilities.

Though I wasn’t there (and couldn’t get my order scattered, covered and smothered), I’m going to go ahead and assume that he impressed everybody else in that restaurant, as well, if they were willing to roll up their proverbial sleeves and try to help him through a tough shift.

And let’s also hear it for those customers, right? Late night out, having a good time at Waffle House after whatever they were getting into that evening, and they jump behind the counter to help out a guy who is overwhelmed? Great stuff.

“We are blessed that many of our customers feel like they are part of our Waffle House family,” said Warner. “There is a sense of community in each and every one of our restaurants, and we appreciate the fact that they consider our associates like family.”

Sure, they probably did feel a little sense of community and family that night — especially when they were all joined in together to help out a guy who looked like he could probably use a hand. But I like to think they did it out of kindness, too, and a major sense of humanity.


By Darin J. McCann
Executive Editor