ARC STORIES SUBMISSION: The Crappy Chicken Incident of 2016
I grew up in Atlanta, Georgia – which meant that Chick-fil-A was one of my primary food groups. In high school, I would skip class to go pick up Chick-fil-A for lunch, and as long as I brought some back for the librarians, nobody would snitch on me. After school or tennis practice, the CFA down the street was where my friend and I would go to hang out.
If we’re being honest here for just a moment, Chick-fil-A was the House of God where the Food of God was cooked by the People of God for the People of God. Thanks. Be. To. God. Chick-fil-A was my religion, at least while growing up.
Eventually, I moved to Birmingham to attend Samford University to get an education in communication and religion, and while in college, I lived on Chick-fil-A fries – the only thing on our CFA menu I could afford. But still, Chick-fil-A was my sacred food.
Fast forward to the end of my senior year at Samford and I was applying to jobs everywhere in hopes of becoming a youth pastor. While directing a local TEDx event, a woman approached me. We’ll call her Bethany. She was the wife of one of our speakers and also, as it so happened, the marketing director of one of the local Chick-fil-A restaurants. Bethany wanted to know if I had any post-graduate plans, which, at the time, I did not. I told her that I was applying to ministry positions across the southeast but I was trying to keep my options open. (Really, I just didn’t have any job offers yet).
Fast forward a few months, and I end up accepting 2 part-time jobs – both at the House of the Lord. The first was as a student ministry director at a small, local congregation here in Birmingham that will remain unnamed. The second was as the assistant marketing director at Chick-fil-A under this wonderful woman named Beth.
Now I loved both jobs working at these two Houses of the Lord. And while one was sacred and the other secular…ish, I felt like I was exactly where I was supposed to be.
At Chick-fil-A, I fell in love with the people. They came from all walks of life – single moms, high school students, a few young adults… black, white, Hispanic, you name it. In particular, I loved the Hispanic moms who worked in the kitchen. They spoke both English and Spanish, but they would let me practice my subpar Spanish with them and we would joke and laugh and enjoy the behind-the-scenes life at Chick-fil-A. They would create gorgeous looking salads and put nuggets and strips in boxes while I took pictures for social media and created marketing campaigns.
Even though this was the fast food life with bad pay, grease everywhere, and the smell of chicken so strong it took a good shower to get it off you, it felt like family – perhaps even like home.
Then, the Lord decided to de-li-ver me… but not from the Chicken House of the Lord… but from the other one – the church.
Because Chick-fil-A cares, maybe?… they decided to extend an offer to let me become a part-time team member as well. I’d spend part of my day doing marketing as usual and the other part in front of a cash register. In a red, fast food uniform.
I felt a little humiliated. Here I was one of the top graduates from one of the best universities in the south now working fast food. But alas, the bills had to get paid somehow.
It was my first or second day as a regular old team member, and my uniform had yet to come in, which meant I still got to keep a little bit of my dignity by wearing my light blue button down that said I was “more than” just a regular team member.
I’m sitting in the back office behind the kitchen when a team member, Kacy, walks in.
“Ummmm… there’s a situation… in the bathroom.”
Daniel, one of the team leaders, looks up at her and says, “then deal with it.”
“I don’t know how to…. It won’t … it won’t flush.”
Daniel then looks over at me. “You. You go deal with it.”
Kacy and I proceed to go into the women’s bathroom and she points me to a stall. There’s nothing on the floors. The walls. The ceiling (THANK THE GOOD LORD). Then I look in the toilet, and there is a mass.
I had never seen anything like it.
It was poop all right. … But I wasn’t sure if it was from a human.
Now let’s pause for a moment.
See my fist? Now let’s put both of them together. Now imagine that size doubling again.
That is how large around the poop was, and it was about the length of my forearm.
I flushed, trying not to vomit and add to the mess. Nothing happened.
I flush again. Nothing.
And again. Nothing.
“Well,” I say. “I don’t really know what to do.”
Flushing some more isn’t doin’ nothing. A plunger ain’t gonna to fix it because it’s not like it’s stuck in the pipe. We’re in trouble.
I go back to the back and explain the situation to Daniel. By this point, both Kacy and I are in fits of giggles because the situation is just so bad and it’s also all we can do not to throw up in absolute disgust.
Daniel’s response was the same. “Figure it out.”
I go back and look at the toilet again, and then… I have an idea.
I walk into the kitchen and turn to Maria. Now Maria oversees all the catering orders in the kitchen, and she knows everything about every order. Trying to put a stoic expression on, I say, “I need a catering spoon.”
“Why? There’s no catering orders.”
“There’s a situation in the bathroom.”
At that moment, knowing what I was ABOUT to say, Maria covers her ears, tells me to shut up and points me out the door.
I grab Kacy, tell her to get a trashbag, and then we go, catering spoon in hand.
Back through the dining area. Back into the bathroom. Back into the stall.
Mustering all the courage I had and shoving my remaining dignity aside, I proceed to
It all goes down.
May you never look at Chick-fil-A catering spoon in the same way again.
That day, I lost most of my dignity and learned what it meant to be a servant in the House of the Lord.
Over the next 6 months working at Chick-fil-A, I continued to encounter circumstances where I continually lost more and more of my dignity until I had very little left.
Those 6 months were some of the hardest, most humiliating days I have ever encountered but there are a few life lessons I should impart to you before we go our separate ways…
Number One – Every person has a story – even the ones who work behind the counter at fast food restaurants. Some of the people there were working multiple jobs to keep food on the table. For others, this was their first job in a long time and was helping them get off the street. For many of my friends, this was a stepping stone to becoming a restaurant operator. And for some like myself, this was just an in-between.
Number Two – Just because someone is working in fast food doesn’t mean they are undeserving, uneducated, untalented, or unworthy. They may do what some may consider to be the lowest level of work but they are humans – worthy of respect and attention – not the scum of the earth. And since you don’t know their story, you don’t get to judge ‘em.
Number Three – Nothing is beneath anybody. Whether you’re in the sacred House of the Lord or a secular House of the Lord like Chick-fil-A, you can pick up that trash, wipe down that table, and carry those drinks. Whether you are a team member, director, or owner, you can scoop that poop.
And finally Number Four – When the poop is too large, a Chick-fil-A catering spoon will do the trick.
ALY HATHCOCK is a marketing and communication consultant in Birmingham, Alabama. Before starting her own company, she worked as the director of TEDxSamfordU, the art & photography director of a local publication, a student pastor, and a congregational administrator… though not all at the same time.