I should start by saying that I haven't actually been banned from Chick-fil-A.
I do predict, however, that it is only a matter of time before I am served a restraining order by the East Lake Chick-fil-A in Marietta, GA. I wouldn't blame them. Not even a little.
I want to take a second to chase a rabbit, of sorts. I want to say something to all of those mothers who sit in Chick-fil-A with their perfectly-behaved little children who are eating their perfectly-healthy grilled nuggets and their perfectly-portioned fruit cups (because we all know that perfect children don't eat fries): I hate you.
No, seriously. I hate you.
See, I'm the mom over in the corner. The one who's worn and haggard and looks ten years older than she is. The one who's yelling at her kid because he's hiding his chicken nuggets down his pants by his...er...nuggets. My kids are the ones crying because their fries are gone and they don't want their FRIED chicken nuggets, they want more of the greasy, starchy goodness that is the waffle fry. It's my kids who are wailing and gnashing their teeth, simply because they aren't allowed to trade their Chick-fil-A book in for ice cream until they eat a single, solitary chicken nugget. It's not a french-fry restaurant. It's a chicken restaurant. It's not called "Fry-fil-A," is it? So eat your daggum nuggets.
I should probably share a little background before I start into what was the single most horrific Chick-fil-A event that has ever taken place in my life. I have what you might call a "history" with this restaurant, specifically this location. One of my historical Chick-fil-A visits involved an evening full of poop, pee, a contaminated playground (my kid's fault), a screaming baby, an exploding milkshake, and a tantrum. The other involved my son suddenly becoming ill and explosively vomiting all over me and several other people and their food.
In hindsight I wonder why I ever thought it was a good idea to return to my local Chick-fil-A (or any Chick-fil-A, for that matter). But the chicken is just so good...
I guess I thought the worst was behind me, so I let my guard down. I settled in. I grew complacent, too trusting, probably. I thought I had this "taking kids out to eat" thing down to a science.
Until that fateful day.
The day started well enough. I took my youngest son and picked up my dear friend's kiddos because she had recently broken her foot. Being the awesome person with the non-broken foot that I was, I took her kids for the day and brought them home. We baked cookies. We cooked spaghetti sauce. We played. Then I had a bright idea.
"Self," I thought, "you should really take the kids to eat lunch somewhere to get them out of the house and give them some play time. Somewhere like...(wait for it)...CHICK-FIL-A!"
I piled everyone in the car and drove up to the infamous East Lake Chick-fil-A. It was smooth sailing. Lunches ordered: check. Lunches eaten: check. Ice creams ordered: check. Ice creams eaten: check. Then, finally, commence to playtime in the play place.
A good friend of mine was also there having lunch with her kids, and we started talking. At this point, I thought I had it in the bag. Everyone had even gone to the bathroom, and they were playing well together. About five minutes into our conversation, though, two of the three kids ran out and told me they needed to pee. I left the other kid, the one who will henceforth be referred to as The Perpetrator, playing with my friend's son while I took the other two to the potty. They took care of business and quickly were back on the playground, and I settled back into a chat with my friend, during which time I'm pretty sure she made the comment, "hey, isn't it awesome, none of your people have peed or thrown up at Chick-fil-A today." #ThatIsWhatWeReferToAsForeshadowing
It was about five minutes later that a Chick-fil-A employee walked up and interrupted us.
"Ma'am, is that your boy in the bathroom?"
I stared at him, confused. I glanced at the playground, where I saw my son and my friend's daughter playing well together.
"No," I told the man. "All mine are on the playground."
"You're sure your boy's not in the restroom?"
"I'm positive," I told him, as he walked away.
And I was positive. Pretty positive. However, something didn't sit right with me, so I got up and went into the play area. I called each of the kids. Foster: check. Pippi: check. Jake: crickets.
At which point I realized, to my dismay, that my friend's youngest son, The Perpetrator, was NOT in the play area, and that he was, very probably, in fact in the bathroom.
I ran back to the back of the store and found a teenage employee standing outside the men's room. It was about that time I heard the screaming. The screaming I must have been ignoring because MY kids were on the playground, and if there's screaming that is not coming from MY kids then I just tune it out.
Now I heard it loud and clear.
I quickly realized that while I was taking the two kids to the toilet in the women's bathroom earlier, The Perpetrator must have stealthily snuck out of the play place and gone into the men's restroom. We were like ships passing in the night, and nary the two shall meet, or however that goes.
I looked at the Chick-fil-A employee and told him I needed to go in to the men's restroom, and he nodded his head.
I opened the door.
Nothing, not anything, nothing, nada, zilch, could have prepared me for what I was about to see and smell.
When I opened the bathroom door this is what I saw: The Perpetrator (age 3), naked, covered in poop. His clothes in a pile, covered in poop. The toilet, covered in poop. The urinal, covered in poop. The restroom floor. Covered. COVERED. in. poop.
And the smell. That smell.
I threw up in my mouth. Now, before you go accusing me of exaggeration, let me state, for the record, that I ACTUALLY threw up IN MY MOUTH. I have heard people say that on a regular basis, and I am pretty sure that it actually happened zero of those times.
It happened this time.
The stench singed hairs in my nose I didn't even know I had.
Now, to a normal person, this situation would have been overwhelming. Frustrating, Terrifying.
I, however, am not a normal person. I do not have a normal history with Chick-fil-A. The irony of this situation did not escape me, and so I did the only thing that seemed natural to me.
Like, REALLY laughed. Hysterically. Tears-pouring-down-my-face, couldn't-talk-couldn't-breathe kind of laughing. Screaming laughing. So hard that I was sobbing because I couldn't get it together.
All the while The Perpetrator was standing, naked, staring at me, telling me that he was dirty and needed me to clean him up.
I didn't know where to start with the mess. He had "tried" to clean up himself, only succeeding in rubbing orange poop into the white grout with toilet paper that had disintegrated into a million little fibers on the bathroom floor. He had "tried" to get on the potty, unsuccessfully, thus smearing orange poop all over it. He had even "tried" to sit in the urinal, leaving butt-smudges of poop everywhere.
I was at a loss. I was laughing uncontrollably.
I finally stepped back outside, where the teenage kid was still standing. I needed cleaning supplies. Obviously. The problem was, I couldn't tell him what I needed because I couldn't talk. I couldn't stop laughing/sobbing. I tried to tell him, and I even tried to explain myself, laughing/sobbing out something like, "I know it's weird that I'm laughing when this kid has had explosive diarrhea all over the men's bathroom, but you have to understand my history."
Because that made sense. That fixed it.
Finally I was able to make him understand what had gone down, and that I needed cleaning supplies, and stat. He went off to look for a mop and bleach. And air freshener. And anti-bacterial wipes. And...you get the idea.
About that time a man walked up to the bathroom. I told him in no uncertain terms that he could not, SHOULD NOT, go in. I directed him to the ladies' bathroom. He looked irritated and huffed off.
I went back in the men's restroom, barely able to see through the laughter-tears. The employee came back, this time bringing his lucky friend and the store manager, who at this point probably has my face on a wanted poster hanging around their restaurant.
I heard things like, "oh, it's not that bad," and, "oh, we've seen worse," and, "you know, this happens more than you might think." And I knew it was all BS.
I refused to let them clean it up. I just couldn't. Instead I, the crazy lady, got on my hands and knees and scrubbed the bathroom from top to bottom, maniacally laughing the entire time I did it. With a naked kid standing at my side.
After what felt like 20 minutes had passed, I was finally done. With the bathroom, that is. Then it was time to tackle the poop-covered Perpetrator standing next to me. The manager left, commenting on just how fresh the bathroom smelled. I am 99% sure it still smelled like rotting flesh and that we were just immune to the odor at that point.
Anyway, I took The Perpetrator and put him in the sink. I started washing, scrubbing. I doused him in antibacterial soap and hand sanitizer, and then I cleaned some more. At this point it was just me and the teenage employee left in the men's restroom, and The Perpetrator, of course.
As I continued to wash the poop from every crevice on his body the bathroom door swung open. A middle-aged man walked in. He looked at me.
Now, one would think this was a shocking sight, not something one sees every time he walks into the bathroom at a fast-food joint. A teenager, a woman, and a three-year-old kid being bathed in the sink.
Apparently, though, this guy must see it all the time.
He walked in and glanced at me, nodded his head, then walked to the urinal directly next to the sink I was using to bathe The Perpetrator. He stared straight ahead, unfazed, unzipped his fly, and whipped out his firehose. The next thing I heard was the steady stream of tinkle in the urinal.
It was at this point that I officially lost my mind.
You would think it had already happened, but I had managed to hold onto a shred of sanity. However, when brother-man whipped out his junk and started the evacuation process 12 inches from me like it was just another day in the men's room, I couldn't stop myself. I stared at him in awe, threw my arms up in the air and yelled, "well...OKAY THEN!" Then I fell on the ground in a ball laughing until I thought my head was going to explode. I looked up when I heard him finish, watched him shake off (yes, literally, he shook off), zip up his drawers, and walk out the door (the sink was currently occupied by the poo-covered kid bathing in it so I can't fault him for skipping the hand washing).
The teenage Chick-fil-A employee had eyes as wide as saucers, and I was coming unraveled. I grabbed The Perpetrator from the sink, the trash bag full of his soiled clothes, and carried them out into the restaurant to gather my other two kids.
I realized that most everyone in the restaurant had to have heard the commotion (i.e., my hysteria) coming from the bathroom when every eye was trained on me as I walked out. Well, either they were on me or the still-slightly-poop-covered naked kid I was holding.
Somehow I managed to get the other two kids in hand and we walked out of the restaurant together, me laughing/screeching/crying all the way to the car.
This is real life. This is my life.
It wasn't the first time I'd been publicly humiliated, and it wouldn't be the last. That's life, right? I think God gives us moments like that because sometimes we really need a good laugh. Hey, it's cheaper than therapy!