By Lisa Batten Kunkleman
I counted thirteen cars wrapped around Chic Fil-A on a beautiful Monday at lunchtime. Those were just the ones I could see. Not even counting the lanes further around the building. No way was I wasting my morning sitting in a take-out traffic jam breathing fumes.
I parked in one of the many empty spaces so I could walk in and place my order. I planned to take a break from my smoothies and salads. In sheer rebellion, I was about to cheat on my healthy diet with a few teeny, tiny chicken nuggets while enjoying some me time in my car. Perhaps I’d listen to an audio book or just sit there with my windows down and enjoy the breeze.
Walking in, I saw not even a single soul in line at the three open registers. One man waited for a tea refill. Other than him, I was the lone customer in the large empty ordering area and I had my choice of perky, clean-looking employees smiling, ready to help me obtain my forbidden food.
“May I help you?” asked the nearest young woman whose name tag read Joy.
“Yes. I need a six-pack of nuggets and a half and half tea, please. Oh and some Chic Fil-A sauce.”
I was feeling super-defiant that day after eating nothing forbidden for the past forever and seeing no change on my blood work.
“And your name is?” she asked, showing me all her bright, white teeth.
“Lisa,” I said.
“Your order will be right up, Lisa, if you’d like to wait over here, we’ll call you when it’s ready.” Laughing, she waved her arm like Vanna White showing me my new car I’d won in the last round of Wheel of Fortune.
I moved two steps to my right as directed and heard from another smiling face behind Joy, “Lisa, your order is ready.” I saw another set of those shiny, white teeth.
Dang, that was fast. Smiling, speedy people. I took my little white bag; out of habit I grabbed two of the heavy-duty long straws, even though it was just me today and I only had one drink. Also, I stuffed a few napkins in the bag. Opening the heavy door, I took some pride and sick pleasure seeing that the car line had only moved ahead one car length.
Food in hand, walking beside the cars, I glanced at each driver in the take-out lane to see if anybody had a handicapped tag or had a car full of kids they didn’t want to wrangle in the playground. I remember that feeling and I used the drive-through lane back then, myself. I saw neither. I fought back the urge to tap on each driver’s window and say, “Seriously ya’ll. There is no line inside. You could be in and out as quick as a rabbit, plus adding a few steps to your Fitbit while saving gas and fighting air pollution.”
But I didn’t. People looked perfectly content to chill all alone in their air-conditioned vehicle and look at their smart phones. So what if it took half an hour to get their food. I wonder; are we lazy, anti-social, or in need of “me time” and the drive-through lane is an easy way to get some? Or are people more comfortable talking to an electronic speaker than experiencing smiling, fresh-faced, Joy?