IHOP(e)

It has been a very long time since I have been on a Breakfast Date. A lot went on this morning: I had an appointment with a General Nurse Practitioner. It was something important I had to do. And my medications are important, but, deep down, there is that kid in me that HATES doing things like going to the dentist. Anything concerning the closest resemblance to a Medical Procedure, I despise.

Then again, what type of person LIKES such things

Maybe it has to do with the being an “adult” part I despise so much in such affairs. You SHOULD go to the dentist. A person SHOULD go & get checked-out to get their medication… but, in the primal-part of a Hunter-Gatherer Society, is it necessary?

I suffer from Social Anxiety, along with other psychological maladies that make it awkward (sometimes, down-right frightening) to perform the grown-up role of keeping up with my health.

That.

And I’m an all-out coward!

I had to be in the Practitioner’s Office at 8:45 a.m. It started off as a good morning. And it turned into a great day & night. But there was something strange & fun about me this morning. For example: while drinking my morning coffee, while reading-over my messages, during my time in the bathroom, brushing my teeth (starting the day) I was listening to Ghetto Sex Rap, sung by some very provocative Ebony Music Artists.

Oh, and there was the dancing: I had to dance around the house, listening to this music, making My Special Lady Friend proclaim my insanity.

She agreed to take me out on a Breakfast Date, though, after my appointment.

We agreed on IHOP.

Now, if you have never been to an IHOP in the South, you are being denied one of the greatest pleasures this fine county of Ours’ has to offer.

As of this writing, there are 1,841 IHOP restaurant locations in the Americas. Owned by Dine Brands Global, the International House of Pancakes (shortened to IHOP in 1973) opened its first doors in the California area in 1958.

My mother was the first person to take me to an IHOP, and she still called it by the original name. This morning was the first time in over two years I graced one of the restaurants with my presence in one of their establishments. Last time I was at an IHOP was terrifying. I was terrifying & sad & sick.

That morning was an odd morning. Odd for me, because of the help I received from some fine employee at an IHOP located in Niles, OH.

It was in October.

That part I remember.

It was RAINING, with SLEET! And it had been raining all night. At the time, I was living on the streets. Two bottles of Coconut Rum. I remember THAT! THAT was my inventory for the evening.

I was wet.

I was cold.

I was sick.

My cigarettes had long-done been smoked.

But, I had the Rum.

It had gotten to be at the point of night when everything in small-city Niles was closing & locking its doors for the night. Once again, there was nowhere for me to go. Normally, finding a corner to curl-up & protect myself from the wind was easy to find. But this was turning out to be one messed-up night.

For one: I was paranoid.

Stealing bottles of booze in Niles, OH is NOT the same as jacking some from a department store in Youngstown. In Youngstown, they don’t care. Not a one lick!

So: my fear of wandering around Niles, a much more conservative & protective city, homeless & drunk, no cigarettes… if a Police Officer would have stumbled upon me, it would have been all bad.

A miracle was discovered that night, though. Something I had not thought about… something that stared at me in parking lot: a de facto apartment! A place to get out of the rain! A place to drink my poison in peace: a toolshed!

Placed outside of a Lowe’s Home Improvement were a dozen (two dozen?) toolsheds. UNLOCKED toolsheds!

(Just what was needed!)

I spend a shivering & cold rainy night in a light grey Little Cottage Company 10-ft x 12-ft Engineered Wood Storage Shed.

And the sad part about that was how grateful I was to be in that shed, shirts pulled-up & over my head to keep the heat in. I stayed there all night. And I would have stayed longer. But, like most great things, they must end. And I’m not talking about the toolshed. I ran out of booze. Always & always & always: I was running out of booze. Years of my life have been spent waiting for the next drink… fearing I would not have anything to drink.

That morning was no exception.

My hunt for more began.

On this particular morning, however, something different happened. I went into the IHOP next to Lowe’s. I had to use the restroom.

Even though I looked like a drowned rat, smelling of sweet & cheap Rum, I thought maybe I could ask for a job application.

It had to have been a little past 7:00 a.m. I waited outside of the restaurant, picking out what half-smoked cigarette butts were salvageable in the ashcan receptacle. IHOP restaurants either operate twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, or 7:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.

When I finally made inside, the warmth from the Heating was amazing.

In my experience, very few people – well, MOST of the people I know – cannot really grasp what being cold is really like. It has become a pet peeve of mine when someone says they are cold.

NO!

NO!

You are just a little uncomfortable.

Being cold HURTS!

I was in the lobby when a short, stout waitress of about 50 took a look at me. At my wet cloths. Wet hair. Dirty. Shivering & Shaking from more than just the cold.

“Are you okay, Honey?”

Her eyes never left me.

I was the only person there, besides her manager & the cook.

But those were eyes I didn’t mind looking at me. They were devoid of contempt. There was nothing cruel about them – about her.

There must have been some look of desperation about me, because she asked for me to sit. That she would get me a cup of coffee.

“I need to use the restroom,” I told her. And I told her sorry. That I did not have any money. That if I drank the coffee, I would get sick.

“My name is Joyce. You go to the restroom. But I want you to come right back here when you are done. You understand?”

(I surely did understand. I understood I was dealing with a GOOD person.)

“Yes, ma’am. I’ll come back.”

“You better! I got something for you when you get back.”

At that point, I was past the point of arguing. – I HAD TO GO TO THE BATHROOM!

When I was finished doing what people do in the bathroom, I made my way back to the table. Ms. Joyce was standing next to the table, a large purse on her shoulder.

“You’re homeless,” she said

It was not a question.

“Are you an alcoholic?”

I surely am. And I told her so.

She then did something AMAZING. Something SHOCKING. She pulled a fifth of Southern Comfort from her purse. It was over half-full!

“Now, I’m not giving this to you for free. And you don’t have money.”

Here it comes, I thought. On more than one occasion I have been asked to do some not so nice things for & to some not so nice people.

Had I been fooled?

She seemed like a nice Lady. But even nice Ladies tend to their gardens, as well.

“I’ll give this to you if you eat something. I already talked with my manager. You don’t have to pay anything. And he wants to talk to you, too. You can pick anything on the menu. Does this sound good to you?”

Boy, did it ever. I couldn’t remember the last time I had had a meal of ANY kind! Let alone one in a RESTARAUNT!

And, of course, I was thrilled about the booze.

Wednesday’s Web-Cakes & Morticia’s Haunted Hot Chocolate – (with generous shots of So-Co,) – that was my breakfast. And the year was 2019! That is when all this happened. 2019 is when IHOP had featured The Addams Family menu.

2019 IHOP The Addams Family Menu

While eating & drinking away, I ask Ms. Joyce if they were hiring. She was sweet enough to placate me, bringing an application & pen. And, while filling out the application, David, the Manager came to the table.

David ask if the food was alright.

“Yes.”

He asked if I attended church.

“No.”

Well, guess what? Mr. David DID go to a church. And he told he called a friend, or The Minister – somebody from a church. He had asked said individual if they had any clothes

They had clothes.

Mr. David ask for shirt & pants size. That his friend would bring them, along with a coat.

Fifteen or so minutes later, I’m in dry clothes. I also had $20. A package of Winston cigarettes. And there was still something left in the bottle to kill.

Some strangers – Strange Angels, as I have come to call people like that – helped me. Really helped me. In the best ways that knew how.

The Strange Angels.

Here, in North Carolina, at their IHOP (MY new IHOP) I met some good people, as well. I’m far from what I was back in Niles. (I sleep in a bed, now.) These Southern People, though, with their Southern twang & smiles make for a fun venture to public establishments.

Our poor waitress spent a good twenty minutes talking to My Special Lady Friend & Me. We, unfortunately, talked a lot about COVID-19. However, Ms. Matt (Yes! That was her name) spoke with laughs…? That’s the best way I can describe it. Every sentence had a laugh along with it.

And I’m seeing this more & more. Every time I go out to get something, to do something, I am meeting more people that are just TALKING to me.

My Special Lady Friend told me I have a way of bringing out the good in people.

I just wanted to shake my head & laugh.

People go up to members of my family all the time & the same damn thing happens,

Well, here, in the South – the trait is exacerbated.

4 thoughts on “IHOP(e)

    1. Dear Mr. Samuel:

      There is no reason I would not want to share my story. Yes! Please re-post the piece. If there is anything I can do for you, do not hesitate to ask.

      Sincerely,

      Leland Locke
      Old Mill Acres Farm
      Taylorsville, NC

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