Saturday, October 27, 2012


Thursday morning I returned from yet another glorious trip to the potato state of Idaho. Though this trip, like all the others I've taken there, had nothing to do with potatoes. This one was all about chicken. Free chicken. For an entire year. This is the story of how 17 friends and myself earned over $5000 worth of Chick-Fil-A.

Tuesday night around 9:00 we got in a fully-packed van courtesy of Ryan's family and hit the road. "We" being Becca, Lorraine, Taylor, Jennie, Ryan and myself. (The rest of the VPLCT, so 12 other people, had already left for Kirk and Kyle's house, eventually arriving there well over an hour before the rest of us.) With Ryan as our driver, we made a quick stop at his home to pick up another van, one that would actually make it to Idaho with no problems. Following this quick re-pack, all that was left was getting to the twins' home. The trip went perfectly, the only hitch being the fact that we arrived at three in the morning and had to wake up that same day around five.

The first thing I heard Wednesday morning just after five? My friend Cameron speaking in a Russian accent. Cameron is not Russian. The first thing I saw? Cameron's bearded face mere inches from my own as he rolled on top of me, pinning me to the ground. He said some things I don't quite remember now but I'm sure they were wonderful to hear so dark and early in the morning. After such lovely wake-up calls, the 18(!) of us slowly made our way to the two vans & one small SUV that would serve as transport to the Chick-Fil-A in Meridian.

We arrived about ten minutes before six, getting in line behind about 30 other people. We knew from the moment we pulled into the parking lot that all 18 of us would be receiving a year's worth of free Chick-Fil-A. All we had to do was stay in the parking lot for 24 hours.

Immediately after getting our numbered wristbands (I was 38), Ryan did the math on how much free food we would be consuming over the next year or so: $5606.64.

So we unpacked our three tents, one for the men, one for the women and one for entertainment purposes (yes, you did indeed read that right), and set up camp in the parking lot. This is what we're experts at, camping in parking lots. We are, after all, the Varsity Parking Lot Camping Team. No other group even came close to matching ours in number. No other group came even close to matching the amount of stuff we brought either: two 8-10 person tents & 1 four or five person tent; countless blankets, at least one sleeping bag per person and possibly two for some, plenty of pillows, a seemingly infinite number of air mattresses; an armful or two of camping chairs; duffel bags and backpacks galore, at least four hefty-looking science textbooks; somewhere around nine laptops, two phones serving as wireless hot spots, one 32" television, one Xbox 360 and a handful of games; random snacks including pretzels, gummy bears, granola bars & Oreos; two decks of cards; an immense number of hats, gloves, coats, hoodies, jackets & other sweatshirts, three heaters, a big box of hand and foot warmers . . . And the crazy thing is I'm pretty sure I could go on.

I'm sure many of you are wondering what you do in a parking lot for 24 hours. Well, we slept, ate free food (Chick-Fil-A provided us with breakfast, lunch, dinner and a nighttime snack), played video games, studied/did homework, sat around talking, won a stuffed cow in a scavenger hunt, played cards, created multiple cuddle puddles/huddles and just bummed around in general.

My favorite part of Wednesday was probably hanging out in the boys' tent playing cards with Peter, Kyle, Trent, Ben and Alex. We played scum, a game I quickly came to realize my friend's at home call "French boys" because they learned it from some family friends who were, you guessed it, French. I'm not terrible at scum, nor am I great at it, but that didn't really matter. Mostly I just enjoyed sitting in a warm tent with some great people while it softly rained outside. (I hope the sentiment is cheesy enough for you.) The thing about Peter, Kyle, Trent and Ben, besides the fact that they're all really, really ridiculously good-looking, is that they're all really good friends, which means playing simple card games gets competitive; they know each other's strengths and weaknesses and definitely don't mind spiting each other every now and then in trivial games. I like to think I kept my cool, unlike them at times, but Becca will attest to the fact that some of my "red was showing." (This is an allusion to the Hartman color code personality test.) At one point Ben put down what were supposedly two 6s and proceeded to run out of cards before me. However, what he really put down were a 6 and a 9. When I noticed this, conversation got slightly heated, at least on my part. I really am not a sore loser; that is, until I lose because of an opponent's error and due to no fault of my own. Ben, of course, was apologetic and admitted quickly to his honest mistake. I don't think any of the boys were surprised by my competitive actions on account of how I've definitely tried to push at least one of them from out of some bushes or out from behind a wall during night games at least twice. (Luckily Kyle has always been forgiving of such actions.) It was also interesting to think about what I would've been doing had we not been in Idaho. At the time we started the first round of scum, I'm pretty sure I would've been about halfway done with my feature writing class. While I love that class quite a bit, I feel pretty certain in saying I was enjoying myself much more in that tent.

One thing I haven't yet mentioned about our group is the jerseys. Yes, we all have matching t-shirts. They were of Ryan's design and turned out fantastic. Both workers and campers alike were impressed with our tangible display of unity.

Wednesday night was filled with cookies and milk, chatting around the large propane fueled heaters outside and, come sleeping time, snuggling. The girls' tent, for whatever reason, was a lot colder than the guys' from the very beginning. There wasn't much anyone could do to remedy the situation apart from hunkering down under as many jackets and blankets that we could find. As someone who loves cold weather, I felt very prepared with my hat, gloves, thermal socks, Under Armour, flannel, track jacket, hoodie and thick fleece jacket. I never ended up wearing more than one jacket or sweatshirt at a time thankfully. Hunkering down in my sleeping bag Wednesday night was wonderful. So many of my friends from the trip definitely did not feel the same way about the cold, but so be it.

Thursday we were awoken around 5:15. It was time to get in line for the final wristband check and then receive our coupons! We waited around outside for far too long before being let into the store to receive our boxes of coupons. Workers were clanging pots and pans and shaking cowbells as some guy in a suit handed each of us our ribbon-wrapped chicken nugget boxes and shook our hands. It was like graduation all over again. All that was left was to pack up. This took a while on account of how we had so much stuff but we were plenty efficient. We took one final picture in front of the store and then we were out of there.

The drive home was completely uneventful. The most exciting part was probably driving into Utah Valley and into snow. Yes, it snowed in Provo but not in Boise. That was pretty great to find out. We arrived back around 12:30 or 12:45, leaving just enough time for me to shower and get to my 1:35 class. My friends in the class and my professor were all duly impressed with my life story of the last two days.

It's sad to say but I do have one regret regarding this trip, and that is not taking any video. My Flip cam stayed safely nestled in my backpack the entire time. I could have had some absolutely golden footage. Then again, some of the things that happened, while it would've been nice to have filmed them, will live on in our memories. Sometimes it really is best to just experience things without recording them. That's the joy of living in the moment.

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