Thursday, January 15, 2009

The Waffle House Phone Licker

I've finished my first draft of the Waffle House essay, and I plan to send it off today to the book editors. Given my recent writing about omnitopia (the book is just about ready to go to the printers), I couldn't resist weaving some of that idea into my reflections on Waffle House. But my favorite parts of this essay involve some of the fascinating people that I met. Here's a taste.
The Waffle House on 51st is subdued, part of a lowslung row of businesses, a narrow cleft that is darkened by lowered blinds. Even the sign is less obvious, located above the entrance but under the eave. A server tells me that the place of 51st attracts a pretty strange clientele. Without much prompting, she illustrates her case with the legend of the Phone Licker. This guy, she says, occasionally ambles down McDowell Road before stopping by the payphone outside. He sneaks a salacious peak for privacy's sake and then tongues the phone receiver. She caught him once, if only to prove to her friends that she's not crazy, but he scampered off without an explanation. "We don't need TV," she announces to me. "We've got McDowell vision."
(Photograph by Andrew Wood)

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