Tom O'Toole
Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day, Chicago style: by "George," I think Rahm's wrong!
By Tom O'Toole
August 3, 2012

    Chick-fil-A's values are not Chicago values. They disrespect our fellow neighbors and residents. This would be a bad investment. — Chicago mayor, Rahm Emanuel, speaking on why he is in favor of blocking Chick-fil-A from opening in Chicago

    Recent comments from those who administer our city seem to assume that city government can decide for everyone what "values" must be held by the citizens of Chicago..being a Chicagoan never [before] included submitting my value system to the government for approval...must those who do not conform [now] move? Is the City Council going to set up a "Council Committee on Un-Chicagoan Activities" and call those...who are suspect? — Chicago Cardinal Francis George

    I support Chick-fil-A because...their values are God's values. — Bob Rogers, Rogers Heating and Air-Conditioning Services and Bob Rogers Ministries

"Do you want to go to Chick-fil-A's for breakfast?" inquired my wife Jeanette, anxious to show her support for what former governor and current Fox News host Mike Huckabee proclaimed "Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day" for those who support the traditional view of marriage that company president, Dan Cathy, recently spoke out for — and was now being grilled about — by the liberal media...and mayors.

"How about lunch instead?" I countered, explaining that the nearest Chick-fil-A restaurant would not only be busier then, but it would give me a chance to first read the recent Catholic Chicago Blog by Cardinal George on the subject, a commentary my wife highly recommended.

"Oh gotta read that," Jeanette agreed. "Cardinal George is really feisty...and a bit of a wise-a** too."

If I was later proved prophetic on my lunch time assumption (more on that later) Jeanette's "ass-essment" of George's column "Reflections on Chicago Values" was no exaggeration either. While in the past I have called George into question for not taking his charges to task, no similar charges can be filed here, as the seventy-five-year-old Cardinal comes out blazing in a blog that might be his best ever. Indeed, all those sizzling satirical comments I quoted above came in the article's first paragraph! But George wasn't quite finished with the city "administrators," for after calmly explaining that prior civilizations had already upheld the traditional view of marriage for thousands of years before Christ made it a sacrament, he concluded with yet another zinger. "Jesus affirmed this understanding of marriage when he spoke of 'the two become one flesh' (Mt. 19:4-6). Was Jesus a bigot? Could Jesus be accepted as a Chicagoan?" A great commentary on the Chick-fil-A controversy to be sure, but I still figured that the attendance at today's event, as well as the disposition of the day's crowd, would ultimately determine whether George or Emanuel was right.

Actually, the closest Chick-fil-A to us, as well as to the Chicago city limits, was in suburban Lombard. But since many suburbians commuted to the city, and a number of Chicagoans worked in Lombard, the "neighbors and residents" test was still intact. We arrived at high noon, and before we could even get close to the eatery, it was clear the "Chick-Christian" event was already in full swing. Busy was not the word, mobbed or inundated would be more accurate; it was so busy that if you didn't know what was going on ahead of time you could easily assume that Jesus Himself must be handing out chicken, if not also miraculously multiplying it. After several minutes of unsuccessfully trying to pull into the parking lot (two lanes of drive-thru customers which wrapped around the store prevented this) we pulled into a nearby motel parking lot to enter the walk-up line, which was far out the door of the store as well. But before I got in line, I spied a bold black pick-up truck whose bumper stickers included "I don't believe the liberal media," and "Jesus is the only highway to heaven." Figuring the man sitting inside the multi-sloganed truck's support of Huckabee's call to a traditional values lunch was a safe bet, I decided to introduce myself.

"I like your bumper stickers," I said, realizing I was not only saying hello to Bob Rogers, head of Rogers Heating and Air-Conditioning Services, but also his dog Charlie, a big ol' boxer decked in sunglasses. After getting the confirmation that the two were here to affirm the stand taken by Dan Cathy, I told Bob this was my first time here, and was surprised to hear that the Itasca resident had never been to a Chick-fil-A before either.

"Well, what did ya think?" I asked.

"Very good food, and the service, despite the lines, was excellent."

"That's great. But, more importantly," I continued, noticing the dog eyeing me through his shades, "what did Charlie think?"

"Charlie loved it! We usually just go to McDonald's, but Charlie liked this chow much more, so from now on, if we can make a Chick-fil-A, we will."

After Bob gave me a card for both his business and his vocation (which offers "spiritual support for families and individuals in crisis or need"), I thanked this "Joe the Plumber" of the "Chicken Party" movement and proceeded into line. And line it was; but even though at least half of the hundred and fifty or so who were waiting on foot for their food were outside in the forbidding noonday sun, not a soul complained. But perhaps even more of a fast-food miracle was the fact that not one person left to go somewhere quicker, with people actually cheering when a customer emerged with their food. All things considered, the smiling-yet-swift CFA crew were amazingly efficient, with the exception of one item. For although Jeanette and I got through the line and received our sandwiches and waffle fries in record time, the sun had made the milkshakes making their way back outside look so enticing to me (and many other customers standing in the heat) that it caused an additional back-up for them. We were nearly through our sandwiches when the "Cookies and Cream" shake I ordered arrived at our table, but I felt sorry for the girl who had to find each lost shake's patron. Armed only with a first name, she endlessly and forlornly had to cry out "Bob. BOB. Bob?"...until the drink was claimed, clearly torn between her duty to her one missing customer and the ninety-nine still in line.

"You're not leaving!" said a panicked woman still in line, not realizing that Jeanette and I had already finished. Realizing her mistake, I held up my now nearly empty shake, and she breathed a sigh of relief.

"Oh," she said. "I thought you were leaving without — "

"Definitely not! We already ate," I affirmed, and with our salvation again assured, I was greeted by a more familiar face.

"Making a statement again, I see," she laughed, looking at not only the "Get Holy or Die Trying" t-shirt I was wearing, but the Bible I was toting in my off hand. It was Beth Fisette, another "die-hard" Catholic from our town, going in as we were coming out.

"Well, I don't suppose it's just a coincidence that you are here today," I countered. After she confirmed that the Huckabee plea had rallied her group here as well, I asked her if she had ever been to this store before.

"No, I haven't. Is the food good?"

"Yeah...but you might want to hold off on the shakes," I said, explaining the situation, as Beth nodded in agreement.

"But you really like shakes," someone from her company reminded.

"That's okay. I'll get one when I come back for dinner," and as Beth winked, and with the line growing ever longer, I knew I could finally be sure. I knew that, while I can't speak for Boston or San Francisco, Chicago's mayor was wrong. Chicago is a Chick-fil-A kind of town.

© Tom O'Toole


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Tom O'Toole

Thomas Augustine O'Toole was born in Chicago and grew up in a devout Catholic family with five brothers and two sisters. He was the sports editor of Notre Dame's Scholastic magazine, where his story "Reflections on the Game" won the award for Best Sports Feature for the Indiana Collegiate Press Association... (more)


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