Every Friday, my mom picks me up from school and I eat dinner while putting on makeup in the car. (That’s quite an accomplishment; applying mascara while scarfing down a taco is no easy feat.) When we get to the mall, I change into my uniform and head around to the back of the food court. The minute I walk through the door into Chick-fil-A, I get flashbacks of the old Flintstones cartoons where Fred would come home from work and Dino would tackle him to the floor, joyously licking his face. Big, friendly voices from all around peal, “Ashley’s here!” and I’m enveloped in smiles and hugs.
On my first day, I walked in and the kitchen seemed so big it could swallow me whole, like the Phantom of the Opera’s catacombs. I was put on register with another girl. There were too many buttons. The milkshake machine seemed like a medieval torture device, with its whirling disks. The customers didn’t seem human. They seemed like machines programmed to roll up and fire out numbers- “I’ll take the number 2.” “Number 4.” “Number 5 with the 8 count.” By the end of the day, I felt sore and sluggish, hungry and humdrum.
During our training, I was taught second mile service. Back in the Biblical times, if a man of lower social status was asked by a higher-up man to carry a load, he was required to carry it exactly one mile. Then, he was free to leave. At work, we strive to go another mile, a second mile, without being asked. I thought about that while I was at work and when I got off.
The people morphed from cold machinery into living human beings with personalities and thoughts. I began recognizing certain customers. The man from the Apple store who was moving into a new apartment and always ordered the 8-nugget meal with a sweet tea and a lot of ranch dipping sauce. (We got to the point where he would come up to me and ask for “The Usual”.) The security guard who nicknamed me “Smiley”. The couple who told me about their newborn baby and came back the next day with little Aiden so I could see her. The guy without the TV who spent his time reading and couldn’t have been happier. Everyone had something special about them, a story to tell, that I wouldn’t have known by just looking at them.
Chick-fil-A has become a home away from home, a place where family doesn’t mean blood-related. I feel like I’m making a difference in this world when I’m there. It amazes me how cheap food is compared to how priceless a smile and a conversation are. All a customer is expecting is to get hot food in a reasonable amount of time. And I believe that sometimes, a grin is all that’s needed for second mile service. Sometimes, a second mile isn’t that far to travel.