The taste of humiliation I have in my mouth doesn’t blend well with the chicken-y goodness of the golden-fried white-meat strips I’ve just eaten. I think I prefer honey mustard sauce to shame as a condiment.
Recently I tried to pull a fast one on the fast-food industry, and had a decidedly “combo” experience. I got a free dinner but paid for it with embarrassment and disgrace that will cost me for a long time.
Tuesdays, as cheapskates everywhere know, are better known as “Topper Tuesdays” at most Chick-fil-A outlets. Patrons at the drive-thru window may be treated to a pack of complementary chicken pieces with the purchase of a regular meal. So if, as my son and I did, you buy the tenders combo, it comes with three additional nuggets of chicken. (I think you can also get the meat formed into tetrahedrons or spheroids as well, and even droplets, if you can stomach what that suggests).
All you have to do to qualify is have a promotional cow-headed antenna topper on your car. I didn’t have an antenna on the car I was driving at the time, so it didn’t make sense to have a topper either. I use an iPod rather than a car radio to get most of my musical entertainment while driving, and I can’t imagine affixing the cow to my earbuds — they’re uncomfortable enough as it is already.
I didn’t think that someone making minimum wage working the headsets at Chick-fil-A would be conscientious (let alone conscious) enough, to enforce the topper requirement, so I figured I’d try to fake my way to a gratis appetizer. I didn’t exactly lie as we drove up to the order box; I figured a little creative deception would do the job.
“What’s the deal on the ‘Topper Tuesday’ again?” I asked.
“Dad! No!” objected my son, but I was intent on teaching him a lesson, in frugality if not honesty. He slumped deep into the seat as I continued our order.
The voice explained the rules of the promotion. I placed an order for the number 6 combo, then added “and we’ll do that topper thing.”
We pulled forward into a line of four or five cars waiting to pay and receive their food. It was only then that I noticed a security camera pointing mostly at the back door, where people come to rob the place, but also in our general direction. Uh-oh, I thought, we’re going to get caught, as soon as we spend the next ten minutes waiting our turn. Now I was learning the anxiety-filled anticipation Mr. Abdulmutallab must’ve felt flying over the Canadian Maritime Provinces on Christmas Day, except I had to stay in my seat and he got to use the bathroom.
When we finally made it to the window, we were greeted by friendly young Amanda. She leaned out of her glass turret and examined the top of my car. Not even one of those stubby antennae, much less the livestock she was looking for.
“Where’s your topper?” she asked.
“Oh. Uh…it’s not up there?” I asked, craning my neck as if I could actually see the roof from the driver’s seat.
She peered into my car, but said nothing.
“Shoot,” I finally said. “It must’ve fallen off. Or maybe it’s on my other car. I think maybe I have the wrapper here in my glove my compartment — can I show you that?”
“You know it came with an adapter, so it should snuggly fit any style antenna,” she said.
How can they possibly afford to incent employees like this with all the giveaways they offer? The three-dollar holiday calendar alone has coupons good for at least triple that amount, including September’s offer of a free poultry farm. Only chumps pay for food at Chick-fil-A.
“Well, I guess you can take the free part back,” I offered lamely. By now, my son was so deep into his seat I was afraid he’d pop through the undercarriage.
“We’ll let you go this time,” she smiled at last, as she handed over the large white bag.
“Thanks,” I mumbled, and drove quickly away.
“You know, we can never go to any Chick-fil-A ever again, don’t you?” my son said.
He was right. I might be able to swallow my free chicken shapes with enough vigorous chewing, but I’d never be able to swallow my pride enough to return, except perhaps in a full-body disguise.
“Important Consumer Information” from the wrapper of the topper package:
1) If Antenna Topper impairs your visibility while driving, remove Antenna Topper.
2) If antenna behaves erratically with Antenna Topper attached, remove Antenna Topper.
3) Works well with most retractable antennas
Warning: Choking hazard.