At the Chick-Fil-A in Lufkin, TX

On the first leg of our drive from Houston to Philadelphia (October 23): We stop at the Chick-fil-a in Lufkin for lunch after the long haul through the vast and desolate roads of Northeast Texas. I have never been to a Chick-fil-a before, but Zack raves about, well, the chicken, and the superior customer service. We walk into the establishment and look around, shocked by the number of people in the restaurant. Most of the tables are occupied with couples and children; an entire block of two-seaters are taken up by an extended family who are just talking, casually, surrounded by sandwich wrappers and plastic plates as if it were their own dining room. A group of teen moms try to wrangle their children at the table next to us. One girl has ankle tattoos and is wearing a t-shirt that reads “Beauty and Brains.” She is showing off the ring on her middle finger to her friends while sharing an ice cream cone with her toddler daughter, who is barefoot and screaming, “I DON’T WANT TO GO ANYWHERE.” The entire restaurant quiets down and I can’t help but stare out of my peripherals while I finish my salad. I realize suddenly that this Chick-fil-a is a third place for the residents in Lufkin, Texas. The toddler daughter, overweight, lets go of her ice cream cone and grabs the hand of another little boy, who is bruised below his eye, and pulls him into the play room. An older mother passes by the group of young moms and says, “It’s so nice to see y’all here, it’s been awhile!” A high school boy in uniform comes by and asks me if I want a refill on my drink. I look up, startled, realizing that I may or may not have been sipping out of an abandoned soda cup at our table this entire time. “Superior customer service,” Zack nods.

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