>CUSS loves fun, so let's play a word game. What is the first word that comes to mind when you hear "Waffle House?" Jewish? No? Well, until my last supper in Tennessee, that was the last word that came to my mind, too.

Although Husband and I spent the weekend with my family exploring Memphis, we flew in and out of Nashville because no NYC airports fly directly to Memphis. We thought it would be easier to rent a car from Nashville and drive a few hours than to freak about possibly missing connecting flights at O'Hare, St. Louis, or Dallas. On our way back to the airport, we stopped at a nearby Waffle House for dinner.

As we were chowing down on cheese grits and a waffle (me) and scrambled eggs, toast, hash browns, and two chocolate chips waffles (Husband), one of the two Waffle House staff approached our booth, sweeping. (Why is it that all Waffle Houses are filled with debris every time I visit?)

"Is the food good?" he asked.

"Yep, it sure is," I said.

"Real good?" he queried.

"Real good," Husband answered.

"Tovashomoyentigd?" he asked. We had no idea what the hell he said, so we didn't say anything.

"Oh, sorry. That's Hebrew for 'Is it real, real good?' My son is studying for his bar mitzvah, so Hebrew is on my mind," he blurted out. He was now sweeping the same patch of floor next to our booth over and over again. "It's hard to get him to concentrate when his grandma is always giving him money. I only have 50s, so I said, 'Stop giving him 100s, ma!'"

Husband and I just stared at him. He went on. "Once in school my son asked the teacher if she knew the real name of Jesus Christ. She said everyone knows it is Jesus Christ, and my son said, 'No, it is Yosef Benedictine, which means son of Joseph of Nazareth.' The teacher said that was not true, and my son said, 'It is,' and she said, 'No, it isn't,' and he said, 'Well look it up in the Torah! It's right there!" He beamed.

"Uh huh," husband said.

"When we first moved down here, there was a sign at the pool that said, 'No blacks, no Jews, no dogs,' so my dad took me there and said I was only a half Jew, so could I wade in the pool?" He brayed. "But no dunking me!"

The man was just getting started with his stories. After he rambled a bit more, he told us how he served in the US Army Reserves in the military intelligence unit in Iraq and in Chechnya. I decided I needed to pay the check.

From the register, I heard him apologize to Husband. "I hope I didn't offend you when I spoke Hebrew, but I thought you were Jewish."

"We are Jewish," Husband cheerfully replied.

"Aha! I knew I could recognize my own kind!"

"Bye," I said and yanked Husband toward the exit.

"Shalom aloheinoo," he waved, then went to man the waffle irons.

Yeah, thanks to our a completely surreal experience, "Waffle House" and "potentially mentally ill Jewish man" are forever linked in my mind.

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