Like countless drunk people before him, the slim man clad in a T-shirt who entered an Atlanta-area Waffle House on Jan. 2 was there on a mission: He wanted to sober up with the help of some greasy food before heading home.
But before he could order his hash browns, he passed out facedown on the counter.
A video originally uploaded to Instagram shortly after, and obtained by WSB-TV, a local ABC affiliate in Atlanta, shows what happened next. As the man slept, one worker at the Waffle House dumped a salt shaker onto his head, layered a slice of cheese on top, then squeezed on a heavy dollop of ketchup, while a second employee danced around in the background. Other shots showed a Waffle House employee moving around the man’s arms, like a puppeteer with a marionette, and making him “dance” to rap music.
The upsetting footage was provided to WSB-TV by the customer’s fiancee, who requested anonymity for herself and her soon-to-be husband. The man reportedly told police that he felt “highly embarrassed” after discovering the video had been posted on social media.
His fiancee, likewise, was furious.
"He went to go get his head together, his mind straight, he passed out during the time, and they took advantage of him,” she told the station.
Nearly 7,000 people had seen the video within an hour of it being posted, WSB-TV reported, and the man got word of his unexpected and unwelcome celebrity after numerous friends advised him and his fiancee to check it out.
“As soon as I saw it, I was in awe and I busted out crying,” his fiancee said.
Until they happened to come across the footage, she said, her fiance had no idea that the Waffle House employees had been mocking him while he was unconscious. Though some Instagram commenters suggested that the man’s friends had created the video as a joke, the woman told the station that the workers pictured in it were complete strangers.
The Instagram account where the video was originally posted has since been set to private, according to WSB-TV. But the man’s fiancee told the station that several similar videos filmed at the same location in Lithonia, Ga., had been posted on the page, suggesting that the Jan. 2 incident was not a one-off occurrence.
“Half of the people who are on this page probably don’t even know they’re being exposed at the moment,” she told the station.
Waffle House has since fired the two employees who appeared in the video and apologized to the couple, company spokesman Pat Warner told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “Their actions in no way represent our company or our thousands of associates who strive to provide our customers with a positive experience daily,” he said in a statement to the paper. Waffle House did not identify the two employees who were fired.
According to the Journal-Constitution, the customer filed a police report with the DeKalb County Police Department on Jan. 7, alleging simple battery. Officials told the paper on Friday that he ultimately declined to seek charges against the workers.
Open 24 hours a day and seven days a week, even on major holidays, Waffle House’s inexpensive food and diner-style service have made it a beloved institution in the southeastern United States, where most of the chain’s 1,500-plus locations are concentrated. As The Washington Post’s Kyle Swenson reported, Waffle House often serves as a backdrop for bizarre mayhem — a function of the chain’s ubiquity, and the fact that it’s often the only place open late at night to serve intoxicated customers.
But true Waffle House enthusiasts see that chaos — and the tolerant, nonjudgmental attitude of the restaurant’s staff — as part of its appeal. In a 2015 episode of “Parts Unknown,” Anthony Bourdain described Waffle House as “an irony-free zone where everything is beautiful and nothing hurts; where everybody regardless of race, creed, color or degree of inebriation is welcomed.”
The Georgia man who found himself unwittingly featured in a viral video, however, might feel differently.
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