When I walk into a Chick-fil-a, I feel like I’m with my people. Don’t get me wrong. It’s not that my people would never step into a McDonald’s. Man, my people have been thrown out of McDonald’s before. I won’t tell you which of my people.
It’s just that when I walk into a Chick-fil-a I feel like I’m back with some of the folks who helped to shape me. I worked at the Chick-fil-a in Southlake Mall, just south of Atlanta, Georgia for a few years during high school and college. David ran the place. You were just as likely to see him emptying a trash can as you were to find him in his office. He showed me that no one at Chick-fil-a, even the really important people, were too important to take out the trash. Renae and his brother Brent were assistant managers. If they saw us standing around not doing anything, they would always yell, “If you got time to lean, you got time to clean.” I hated hearing that. But now, a couple of decades later, I’m sure glad that I did. Sam was there too. We spent a lot of time together busting up boxes and unloading trucks out back while singing old country music songs off key.
People told me that once I started working at Chick-fil-a I would get sick of the food and not want to eat it anymore.
They were wrong.
But now that I’m older I’ve had to cut back on the number of chicken sandwiches I eat. In my diet, waffle fries have been replaced with organic, free range unicorn fur. But last week I was on vacation so I put the unicorn fur to the side and took my family to the Chick-fil-a in Panama City Beach, Florida. As soon as I walked into that store, I knew that I was with my people. As crazy as it sounds, I looked behind the counter for David, Renae, Brent and Sam.
They weren’t there.
But in a way, they were.
The guy who took my order was wearing a tie. That meant that he’s pretty important on the Chick-fil-a chain of command. But he wasn’t too important to stop what he was doing, take my order and tell me, “Go Dawgs” when he saw my Georgia hat. I learned that he was from Henry County, just below the Chick-fil-a where I worked and just above the place where I live now. I asked him why he moved out of Henry County.
He looked at me like I was crazy.
“I had to get away from the traffic.”
He made a good move.
There was another lady behind the counter. She too was wearing important clothing. But she was working on filling up cups with sweet tea like her life depended on it. I’m sure that whatever managerial training she had in the past didn’t focus too much on the proper way to fill a cup with ice and tea. But you wouldn’t know it from watching her. She had obviously learned the lesson well that I had learned from David all of those years ago. No one is too important for the job that needs to be done.
While I was eating, I noticed another worker. This girl was wearing the standard issue uniform and she was sweeping nugget crumbs out from under the booth behind us and piling it up next to her. I’ll bet ten people walked through that pile and spread it back out all over the floor. She never said a word. She just swept it back up each time. One day she’ll probably run a Chick-fil-a of her own and get to wear important people clothes. But she’ll still sweep the floor.
Eventually, we walked out of that Chick-fil-a and back into the rest of our vacation. A few days later, my in-laws stopped in and volunteered to watch the kids so that my wife and I could go out on a date. I don’t take these opportunities for granted so I did my research. I stopped at every beach side restaurant I could find and asked for a menu. Pretty much every one of them said something like this.
Chicken Flëur de la Crępe Scallops
A one ounce portion of lightly grilled chicken fused with two sprinkles of scallops with a side of Flëur de la Crępe shipped in from a tiny fishing village in Germany.
So for our date night, my wife and I went back to that Chick-fil-a in Panama City Beach, Florida.
It was all her idea.