A school field trip wrapped up around six PM on a Saturday. Since the return trip would be at least two hours, and for teenagers, going without food for eight hours (and not being asleep) is a near eternity, the bus stopped between two fast-food places, with a third across the very busy street. Strict orders issued forth that NO ONE was to try to cross the busy street to get to the other burger place. Apparently we had to return with the same quantity and quality of students, and flattened freshmen are a challenge to pack. Do you put them in with the baggage, or strap them to the roof? As careful as the driver was with her bus, I suspect neither option would have been welcome, especially since there is no baggage area on a Yellow Dog.
The other teacher headed for Burger Barn, so I followed the throng into Chick-Fil-A. No problem, because for some strange reason I’ve had a hankering for their waffle fries for a while now, but never get to eat there. The place was already quite full, mostly families with kids of varying sizes, and a few elderly people eating on their own. This store had a large indoor play area, which explains the large number of patrons between knee and waist-high. The line moved quickly and it was interesting to people watch.
I was pleased that “my” students behaved, picked up after themselves, and didn’t get underfoot too much. The two super-high-energy boys were a bit of a handful, but the other students kept them on without my needing to say anything. Which is how I prefer it. There were a few young ladies from a local high school volleyball something eating there as well, I noticed, but they were finishing as we came in.
The store kept things moving and my fries arrived after a whole one minute wait. I found an empty table where I could watch the students without obviously watching the students and enjoyed very hot fries. Some days, it only takes hot fried potato to make the world a better place, and that was one of those days. There’s a reason it is called comfort food. The students tended to get more than just fries, and I rolled my eyes a little at the ones who read the ingredients on the catsup and other things and made faces.
Chick-Fil-A, and the neighboring burger barn, are great places to watch normal people. I spend so much time with the characters who live inside my mind, or around unusual students, that its good to get outside. What did I see? Absolutely nothing unusual. Toddlers got into mischief and protested at being removed from the play equipment. Older kids played, ate their fries, and wanted more catsup. Teenagers giggling and rolling their eyes, and then cleaning up the tables, and holding the door for people as they went out. Families with babies and carriers came in chatting and smiling as they surveyed the scene. Color? Every shade from my pallor to very, very tan. Age? Unborn to elderly. Financial status? Hard to tell but the cars in the lot ranged from high-end SUVs to battered sedans and little two-doors. A goodly number of pickups and van-like vehicles, which you’d expect given the number of kids. And everyone pretty much was smiling, and chatting, and being patient as they waited for their orders. Nothing seemed to take a long time, and the folks behind the counter were working very hard to keep things flowing. The bathroom was clean and had the proper supplies.
In short, it was a normal Saturday night in a normal American town with normal people doing family and people stuff. I have no idea what anyone’s politics were, or what religion they belonged to (although probably not Orthodox Jewish, since it wasn’t sundown yet). Nor did I have any clue what anyone’s sexual preference was. And no one else cared either. They just wanted chicken sandwiches or salads, ice-cream, and fries or fruit cups. After a week of stress and all the trash on the news and the internet, watching kids play and adults chat was a refreshing reminder that the world is not going to end tomorrow, no matter what the gravely concerned news-dude intones. I didn’t see anyone being rude or making speeches, the kids didn’t act any brattier than you’d anticipate (toddlers are toddlers, after all), and my crew left their tables in as good of a shape as they found them. The fries tasted great, steamed a little, and disappeared way too fast.
That’s the kind of world worth cherishing.