Heading home last night, I had to pull over and see why the Chick-Fil-A parking lot was full of tents. Was this the new location for Occupy Houston? Were people protesting Chick-Fil-A’s support of right-wing social issues like the fight against gay marriage?
So I got out of the car to take some photos and talk to folks. It was about 1 am, so a lot of people could be heard giggling in tents, but one young man lay out in the open reading Catching Fire (Hunger Games book two). I asked him what this was all about. He said that if you camp out from 6 am on Wednesday morning to 6 am on Thursday morning, Chick-Fil-A gives you a coupon book for one free #1 “Value Meal” for a year. Let’s say that “value meal” costs $5–52 of those are worth $260, so the dude is making just under $11/hr camping out for 24 hours. That’s better than minimum wage, I suppose.
I ask him if he’s ever camped out for anything else and he says he’s camped out for some Black Friday sales here and there. I ask him what he thinks of the Occupy Movement and he says something like, “It was just a bunch of people sitting around doing nothing.” I don’t ask him how his 24 hours sitting in a parking lot are any different, but I do ask how he feels about corporate executives who get paid hundreds of millions of dollars every year to “sit around doing nothing” except maybe play golf occasionally as they drive the economy into the ground and then get bonuses on top of that, or how he feels about stuff like books being bannedin this country, this year, and our rights being taken away with laws like the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA) and how the US government can now kill US citizens without even a farce of a trial…
He just kind of shrugs so I let him get back to his reading and go speak to another group clustered around a cooler they are playing Uno on. Among them was a mother and daughter pair who had driven up from the Rio Grande Valley for this! After factoring in their driving time and money spent on gas, their “hourly wage” is going to come out even lower than minimum wage. Wouldn’t they just be better off staying home and paying for a weekly happy meal with their own money?
Another man had come down from Spring, another said he’d come from just a few blocks away. Apparently, there is a whole culture of Chick-Fil-A grand opening campouts–these people are on some kind of circuit. None of them have slept since arriving at 6 am on Wednesday morning but they all seem pretty chipper–probably because they’re not allowed to drink beer.
Maybe I am judging too harshly. The New York Times recently ran an article about the record number of hungry poor working people as a result of the recession coupled with Bill Clinton’s 1996 Welfare Deform. Maybe these people really are that desperate for something to eat. (My friend who was with me didn’t think so.)
But no, this is clearly just another example of “bread and circuses” to appease the docile masses. Let them eat waffle fries!