The Waffle House Index is a Hurricane War Prayer

Your comfort requires someone else’s peril. But hey, at least there’s waffles.

Photo by Simon Daoudi on Unsplash

This is just going to be a real quick observation, because I’m in the middle of playing video games and just need to get something off my chest.

The Waffle House Index is comparable to Mark Twain’s The War Prayer in the level of willful ignorance it requires.

For those who didn’t have time to read up on what the Waffle House Index is, here’s a bit from the Wikipedia page on it. It’s essentially the ‘informal metric used by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to determine the effect of a storm and the likely scale of assistance required for disaster recovery.’ It operates on three levels:

  • GREEN: full menu — restaurant has power and damage is limited or no damage at all.
  • YELLOW: limited menu — no power or only power from a generator, or food supplies may be low.
  • RED: the restaurant is closed — indicating severe damage or severe flooding

‘The measure is based on the reputation of the restaurant chain Waffle House for staying open during extreme weather and for reopening quickly, albeit sometimes with a limited menu, after very severe weather events such as tornadoes or hurricanes.’

They’re known for staying open during extreme weather and for reopening quickly. Come what may. A lot of people see it as a comfort, a reassurance, that no matter what, they can rely on Waffle House. And FEMA can avoid taxing its already extremely limited budget until absolutely necessary. Now here’s why it’s a steaming pile of garbage.

I used to live with a Waffle House employee. They get paid that horseshit, leftover Jim Crow tipped wage. $2.13 an hour. And although you have to struggle to spend $10 on a meal at Waffle House because the food’s so cheap, if you did, even a twenty percent tip would only be $2. My roommate frequently got those fake twenties with Bible thumping printed on them, wet cigarettes, and a big fat goose egg for their tips.

Amalgamate that with toxic American work culture, where you can be fired for no reason, at any time, and its utter lack of compassion or safety nets for people that would allow them to stand up to poor treatment from employers, and you get people trapped working for peanuts because it might be the only work going.

Now these people have to leave their families and brave hurricane conditions for this reliable reputation. They have to sit in a glass box even if there’s a tornado. When there’s a blizzard that could render them unable to get home to their families, they can’t leave. You can never leave. Waffle House is always open.

And they can’t say no, either, because then, after coming through a natural disaster, they’ll have no job to go back to, cause that’s how it works in America. The boss says jump, you say how high, because if you refuse, they’ll find someone who has their own trampoline.

So, basically, it makes my skin crawl that we hold the poor hostage cause we need the comfort of knowing that even when a category 4 hurricane is making landfall, we can still go get some cheap ass waffles.

And now that I’ve blown off some steam, it’s back to Steam.