Posted on November 26, 2018
by Steve Janowick

That feeling you get when bad news hits can be suffocating and all-consuming.

I’ve racked up many hours in my life just driving around, trying to calm down and clear my head after life had broad-sided me with a gut punch.  On this particular day, around lunchtime, I had just gotten fired from another crappy job after having it out with another crappy boss. Here we go again, I thought.  The usual river of emotions started flooding my heart and mind. Guilt. How was I going to explain this one to my family? Fear. How would we pay next month’s rent? Anger.  Why do so many douchey bosses have it out for me? Hopelessness. Are there any nice, decent people still out there in the world?

My frame of mind was as bleak as my situation.  But oddly, it didn’t affect my appetite. Go figure.  I was starving so I figured I’d stall the trip home with a fast-food pit stop.  Might as well have a full stomach to help absorb the roundhouse kick to the belly my wife would most certainly be giving me later.   

The Golden Arches had a full parking lot, and frankly, I didn’t feel like dealing with the slow, often rude, service I got there.  So, I decided on the next joint I saw: Chick-Fil-A. I’m not usually a chicken guy so I was a little apprehensive. As a matter of fact, I literally couldn’t remember the last time I had even been to a Chick-Fil-A.  But there I was, so I gave it a shot.

My mood was low, and my cynicism was high as I walked toward the store.  I knew something was askew right away when a young lady, cleaning the glass, held the door for me and offered up a genuinely sincere pleasantry.  Okay, maybe she’s just an exceptionally positive, happy kid, I thought. Or maybe it’s just contrived. Probably an anomaly. But when I entered the restaurant I knew right away the cynical thoughts were wrong.  

The place was packed, and usually, crowds and I don’t hit it off.  But this wasn’t that kind of crowd. This was more like the crowd I remembered as a 12-year old at the chocolate factory in Hershey Park.  Everyone was happy. I stood there like a jaded, miserable zombie in the middle of that dining area as smiling customers and helpful staff intermingled like a party at Norman Rockwell’s house.  

I made my way to the counter where the long line of customers moved quicker than a car part down a Japanese assembly line.  This was a well-oiled machine for sure. A tried and true process. When it was my turn, the young man at the register smiled at me warmly, engaged me, looked me in the eyes and took my order.  He wasn’t flustered or rushed. He wasn’t distracted. He was professional and courteous and made me feel like I wasn’t just another “order”. He told me to have a seat and they’d bring my food to me.  So, I did just that.

I’ll be damned.  I could actually feel my doldrums easing a bit.

While waiting, I saw lots of mothers with small children going in and out of the play area, and a few booths stuffed with teenagers.  Yet, it wasn’t pissing me off! How was this possible? Normally, I would have bee-lined for the exit with such over-stimulation. But I felt oddly content.  It was as if only well-mannered people ate here. I just went with it.

On some of the tables was an advertisement for a fundraiser they were partaking in.  And I had to do a double-take when I saw the word “God” printed boldly on it. Evidentially, they were teaming up with a local church to raise money for a cause.  But how could this be? It’s 2018! No one, especially a chain-restaurant, mentions the “G” word anymore. That’s fiscal suicide. A public relations nightmare. I’m not an overly religious man, but I have to admit, I was very pleasantly surprised to see a company holding true to its values

My food arrived from the hand of another genuinely kind employee-a jolly senior citizen.  He even asked if he could get me any condiments or napkins before he walked away. This definitely wasn’t standard fast-food protocol.  Every bite of my chicken sandwich was hot and delicious, and when I was finished, that same older gentleman was right there to take my tray away.  

I thanked the manager for such a pleasant dining experience before I left and it was sincere.  And what did he do? Gave me a coupon for a free milkshake on my next visit! I Googled Chick-Fil-A’s history as I sat in my car to leave.  I was curious. This fast-food experience was unlike any I’d ever had. I wanted to know why. But come to find out, they’re just a company who believes in some old-fashioned values.  That’s it. That’s their secret. They have exceptional food choices. Proven processes. They hire only the best. They pay them well. They put the customer experience ahead of everything.  And most importantly, their values trump their margins.  Do you know how much profit they probably forgo by being closed on Sundays?    

And as I drove off, I realized that Chick-Fil-A represents everything good and right about America. And that made me feel good…and right.  But only for a moment or two, though.  

Because I knew I still had some bad news to share…and Mrs. Bruce Lee was waiting at home.

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