Thursday, August 2, 2012

Chik-Fil-A Appreciation Day - Human Stories

The following accounts are true but I must confess, embellished by my imagination in some respects. The overall context of major events are second hand reports and I have no first hand accounts of specific details, mainly because I had no desire to attempt to enter the parking lot...

I drove by our local Chik-Fil-A around 5PM yesterday evening not to view the spectacle that was Chik-Fil-A Appreciation Day but to take my wife to dinner.

The parking lot was full - I mean, its always pretty full, but this time is was absolutely full, with cars in line on the side streets waiting to pull into the lot when a slot finally opens up. The drive through was a long winding snake of automobiles encircling the restaurant like a huge, Christian (?) Anti-Gay (?)  Pro-Free-Speech (?) boa constrictor.

This particular Louisville KY location had erected tents at each entrance to help shelter the throng from the August 1st heat, as the line to get into the air conditioned establishment stretched out the double doors, down the sidewalk, and into the parking lot.

One Chik-Fil-A employee stated that there was a 40 minute wait for milk shakes, people had waited up to 2 hours to purchase a sandwich, and all restaurant staff worked a full shift without a break, without  a full lunch break, without a moment to sit down at all. What follows is a recap of some of the human interest stories I discovered from the spectacle that was Chik-Fil-A Appreciation Day.

Amid the crowds of Chik-Fil-A supporters milling about the property was a lone protestor. She was a thin, middle-aged blonde, wearing a golf visor, white shorts and a blue tank top. She was standing at the corner of the property near the main road leading to the side entrance of the establishment. It was hot. The thermometer in the car read 92 degrees but the humidity made it feel much worse. I can only imagine the temperature where she was standing, on the thin strip of manicured grass sandwiched between two blistering swaths of asphalt. She was standing right under the tall, familiar, red and white Chik-Fil-A sign advertising their popular Peach Milkshakes - "They're Just Peachy". She held her own sign- made of poster board and blue marker. It read "Remember the Hatred". I assume this was her attempt to remind those showing their support for Chik-Fil-A that they were giving their money to a hate factory, or some such thing. Throughout her vigil, beneath, the Peach Shake - They're Just Peachy! sign Chik-Fil-A employees left their posts to deliver her a large cup of their signature, and very tasty, lemonade. This effort to demonstrate that they did not Hate her or anyone, that they were concerned for her safety, that they wanted to show that they loved her failed. The protestor refused their offer, ostensibly, because she did not want to be seen drinking from a cup with the logo of this hate filled establishment. Eventually she did accept a cup of water, in an unmarked cup, delivered to her by a patron.

Inside, the restaurant was packed, standing room only. Two young gentleman, who had stood in line for quite some time, finally approached the counter and ordered two waters. Having received their order (free of charge by the way) the left for the dining area, presumably to sit down and enjoy, their liquid meal (?). A few moments later they approached the counter stating they had a problem with the water. The associate at the register apologized and asked what the problem was. The two gentlement said, "It tastes like hatred." and then proceeded to kiss each other in the middle of the restaurant.

The End of the Day -

The establishment closes at 10PM. One Chik-Fil-A associate worked a 14 hour shift. One of the lead staff, in shirt and tie stood along side the drive through lanes and delivered orders to cars starting at the window and back towards the order board just as fast as the orders were ready. Staff greeted each customer, not really caring if the patron was a supporter or a protestor, with a friendly smile and a cheerful, "Welcome to Chik-Fil-A, how may I serve you?" and when the order is delivered, the trademark "My Pleasure". The day, by some accounts, went by quickly, as there was not a break in the stream of customers all day. Customers that included, mostly, supporters of Chik-Fil-A, either because they agreed with Mr. Cathy's stance on same sex marriage or because they supported his right to free speech and supporters who made comments similar to "i'm glad you hate gay people like I do" to detractors who made it a point to try to disrupt the flow of chicken." It took over two hours to clean the restaurant while closing and preparing for tomorrow.

And I think this brings me to the main point of my previous posts concerning this mess - both sides - the supporters and the protestors - think small. We've accomplished nothing but a pitched battle. A battle Chik-Fil-A is winning in my opinion. We've forsaken the much larger, much nobler path of conversation to the smaller, uglier path to confrontation, anger, discord, and dissolution. Instead of moving both sides closer to each other with convincing arguments, we've moved both sides further apart with an attempt to vanquish. Chik-Fil-A Appreciation Day demonstrated that conservative values have the power to vanquish their opposition - they have more people; they have louder voices; perhaps, they have more money to spend on their causes - one just has to mobilize the sheep.

The real human story in all this, is what is ignored in the midst of the great battle we've created for ourselves through smallness of thinking. Neither side really seems to care about the teen-ager or young adult, who are having trouble getting started in life; those who are trying to pay college tuition, perhaps still living at home because times are hard; those who wear the black Oxford with the Chik-Fil-A logo upon its breast;  those who just want to work hard, earn their pay, and go home. Those that have no skin in the game. We fight our battle; they pay the price...

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