Now look, I’m a writer in the sense that I really, really want to be. The new screenplay I was working on earlier this year featured a 20-page section about Sassy Patty. Two young adults visiting her at her home and smoking cigarettes out her window, discussing the ins and outs of her life, her opinions on current affairs and pop culture – which she would have even if she actually had no idea what she was talking about.
I’m right here, jackass.
Hey Patty, I’m struggling to remember something – who was the first person to win American Idol again?
Kris Motherfuckin’ Allen, that’s who. Only one that matters anyway.
It was a perfect Sassy Patty scene in that it didn’t progress the plot at all. In that way, it was similar to my time spent within the confines of this Waffle House in that it was a break from plot – a gated community, a shielded “safe space” with her.
The scene made no sense in regards to advancing the overall story, and the script was running fifty pages long. It had to be cut. Then, about a week after highlighting her section and pressing the delete button, I got a call from my best friend Raven informing me Patty had died. Months ago, actually; her second family just hadn’t been clued in yet.
Are you familiar with the idea of a “safe space”? Well let me tell you one thing, you’re sitting in one right now. And it’s a great idea, too – that we are responsible for creating an environment in which everyone is comfortable and welcome. It’s something I heard a lot about in R.A. training in college – something you get certificates for to place on your door so people know you’ve been trained to provide a space where they can feel safe.
Sassy Patty did not need any training.
Sassy Patty was a pioneer of safe spaces, having created one at her Waffle House without even realizing it or being told to.
Patty truly loved the Waffle House and would remind us constantly that
This is the best Waffle House in the STATE!
And then, to celebrate, we’d put “Friends in Low Places” on the jukebox and scream it together, her smoky growl taking the melody to places so low, Garth Brooks never dared dream them.
I knew Patty from the ages of sixteen to twenty-one. That particular Waffle House was the place to be, as it was one of only two establishments – the other being the other Waffle House – open 24/7, and teenagers hate sleeping at hours kept by adults. We would go there after we’d completed whatever our other night activity was – drinking, sobering up, watching movies, driving aimlessly around, or talking about deep shit while smoking packs on packs of cigarettes on our elementary school playgrounds. But visiting Patty at the Waffle House was never the after-party to any of this mindlessness; no, the other stuff was the pre-game. We were hungry and tipsy to the point that the mere concept of hash-browns left us in a daze of desire, let alone hash-browns covered, smothered, chunked and peppered (Waffle House language for cheese, sausage, tomatoes, and jalapenos added). And yet that wasn’t even why we went. Not even close.
You know, I’ve only been to the other Waffle House in Conway once, and it was because I was high and pleaded with my friends that I couldn’t go entertain a conversation with Patty in this state. I was terrified I’d act weird and she would take it as shade, or that I would act obvious and she didn’t approve of drugs – this is a few years before the medical marijuana progress of today, plus the state I was in was purely recreational. I later learned Patty wasn’t a stranger to a little Greenpeace International herself, and would have been totally fine with this part of my life. 23-year-old me wishes he could go whisper it into 18-year-old me’s ear so I could’ve gotten one more night with her.
From the ages of 16 to 18, I learned all about her time in the Navy. The time she got into a bit of a tiff with a fellow SEAL. This anecdote, interestingly, derived out of some Sassy Patty life advice.
I learned in the Navy that quitters don’t EVER win. Quitters get rolled under the staircase so that Sassy Patty don’t get in trouble! That’s what happens to quitters!
The woman on the receiving end of their brawl woke up and survived, by the way, and became one of Patty’s best friends (which is not surprising and sort of sums up Patty’s entire thing in a nutshell).
I learned all about all of the years she had spent as a truck driver before joining the Waffle House team-
I was the best trucker in the state!
I learned of the great love between her and her husband. I learned that he had passed and, while Patty went on an occasional date, she never expected to marry again. That was her one true love and he was gone. There was no point – and if you didn’t really catch my tone, Sassy would say that sentence as if it were a truly-meant shrug. I learned that this was one of the main reasons she didn’t fear death and instead embraced it, so that she would be reunited with him.
I learned of Sassy’s great love of Harry Potter.
We always tipped her well, though I hope well enough. I always remember feeling so awkward about the moment the receipt came. She was our friend, and we spent every night with her we could, yet the receipt was a reminder that Sassy didn’t get off ‘til 7am and couldn’t leave with us.
Patty and I took an immediate liking to each other that grew and grew as if it could never stop. Perhaps I wasn’t the most “popular kid in school,” a concept I don’t remember very well now but vaguely know was, like, a thing I thought about occasionally – BUT at Waffle House, it was cool to like Sassy Patty – and Sassy Patty loved the crew of which I was a proud member. She didn’t just love us, she knew our names. We were greeted, personally, one by one, when we walked through the door, like royalty. So we were always the coolest at the Waffle House; no matter who else was there that night, we ran the show. You can take all the pictures you want with this woman and caption them on Facebook about how funny she is and what a good time you had, but I’m over here laughing ‘cause I know Patty secretly hates this and probably you. She whispered it to us.
And then, after one final tearful night, I left.