People love free. It doesn’t matter what the free thing is. When presented with the concept of “free,” seemingly rational humans will turn into raving lunatics, crowding into fire hazards and acting like flailing 4 year olds for stuff they are not even sure they need.
It’s no better in New York where you need a home equity loan just to afford a decent martini. There are plenty of free things in this city, but there are 8 million people here trying to take advantage of them so the competition is intense and frankly, chaotic.
So you can imagine how surprised I was to find myself hustling across 13 blocks and 3 avenues to stand on line for 20 minutes to get half a free waffle.
Bear with me on this one.
I love waffles. They are in my top 3 favorite foods along with donuts and my mother's Chicken Parmigian. I have quite the discerning waffle pallet. I’ve made my own, I’ve eaten at Waffle Houses, and I’ve done waffle hopping in Belgium. I am a connoisseur.
So you can imagine my elation when I heard about a waffle truck that journeyed around Manhattan selling happiness to eager patrons. It is a simple concept; a beautiful yellow truck complete with a waffle making kitchen and chock a block with all the toppings you could hope for.
The truck makes stops in different areas, and rotates semi regularly. My first and so far only encounter was last summer when my boss and I emerged from a meeting on Park Avenue and happened upon the truck.
It was like a DHL truck filled with awesome. We pooled our cash to purchase some light and crispy quadranted happiness. Walking with a briefcase and a waffle covered in strawberries and Nutella turned out to be dangerous. And my boss had to save me from getting hit by a car twice as I couldn’t bring myself to concentrate on anything but this Midas touched breakfast treat.
The waffle truck and I had not seen each other again until last week. My sister knows of my obsession with the mighty waffle and sent me an email that said.
“Waffle truck giving away free waffles from 12 to 1pm at 45th and 6th.”
This was at 11 am.
Now remember I am the guy who shows up 20 minutes early for movies nobody wants to see. So you can imagine the instant anxiety I felt about a waffle giveaway.
My heart started pounding. How many people had heard about this phenomenal occurrence? Was it worth the trip up there?
When engaging in ridiculous activities you usually want somebody to accompany you so the two of you can laugh about how ridiculous it is.
But sometimes, an activity is so ridiculous that you want to engage in it by yourself so nobody will see just how incredibly excited you are.
I thought this activity was the former… as it turns out, it was the latter.
I called a couple friends that worked where the waffle truck was making its magical appearance but they were unable to attend. So, unable to attract a cohort, and with my pulse approaching record speed as the clock struck 11:36, I fled my office on a crusade for waffles.
I was so excited I actually ran out without my umbrella even though the forecast called for a 173% chance of rain.
No time for worries!
It struck me as I was practically jogging down the street that maybe my love of waffles and my quest for a life of frugality had led me to what an uneducated bystander might refer to as “desperate” or “pathetic.”
So as I speed walked 3 avenues to take a train one stop so I could walk 4 blocks to a giant yellow truck that sold waffles out the side… I thought to myself, am I going to be late? Will this place will be mobbed? Will people wait until 12 on the dot to get on line? What about the guy who bought one at 11:59? Was he going to be pissed off that if he had waited 38 more seconds he could have saved $4.50?
And was he terrified at the strangely large group of people that were just encircling the van like a bunch of breakfast hyenas? As though they would jump him as soon as he bought his waffle.
“He’s got the waffle…. LET’S GET EM!”
But I got my answer as soon as I arrived. The truck was parked near the corner and there was already a feeling of excitement in the air. Or maybe it was poverty. Either way, at 11:45 there were already 25 people on line. I was kind of surprised but I felt relieved. I would probably be guaranteed a waffle while still not appearing to be a super dork by being first in line.
I helped pass the time by talking to the “King of Belgium” who had flown in for the occasion.
By 12:02 there were 30 more people on line behind me. And as more people walked past me to get on the line my feeling of pride devolved into that of dork. I went from feeling like I was online for a free tasty treat to feeling like I was waiting for the pocket protector store to open.
I averted my eyes as everyone passed, and not having anyone with me, and unable to strike up a decent conversation with the people behind me I was forced to kind of look up at the sky with a constipated smile on my face while the line moved slowly along.
Eventually I got my waffle with blueberries and Nutella (because nothing says “healthy” like covering your fruit in spreadable heart attack) but it was only half a waffle. Pitifully sized at that. But I wasn’t totally upset. After all it was the only way they’d be able to serve such an excited crowd.
And besides the waffle was delicious, I passed on the knife and fork opting, small as it was, to eat it like a slice of pizza. I probably looked like I had just come back from the state fair eating a waffle covered in nonsense, but hey I was happy. Plus I got to meet the founder, the waffle king, and I got a story out of it.
So it was totally worth it. Kind of. Not entirely. But the good news is I learned a little something about waffles, and a little something about myself. But I know I’ll never do that again.
Unless of course somebody opens up a donut truck…