Childhood Family

Operation: Chick-fil-A extraction

I figured everyone could use a break from Coronavirus information today, so I figured I’d lighten the mood and share with everyone about the time I got stuck at the top of a Chick-fil-A playground.

I know your first thought. You’re thinking, “Mike, I didn’t know they had Chick-fil-A playgrounds when you were a kid?” To which I respond, yeah, I was in my mid-30s.

No, this was not a college fraternity reunion with unfortunate yet predictable results.

This was a result of a rescue mission, a bold and daring journey to the top of the playground. And it wasn’t even for my kid.

My daughter was little at the time, maybe four or so. She was at the age where parents take their kids to fast food playground places and let them go and explore on their own. This is doable because the playgrounds are pretty well encased, so the kids are not going to fall.

The only real danger of falling is when a child climbs on the outside of the playground, a problem I would not face for several years until my son entered the mix.

My daughter was always a rule-follower, so I never really had to worry about her. The main problem I would get was other kids telling me that she kept telling them what to do, to which she would often respond, “Well, they weren’t following the rules.” There was a slight problem on occasion that the unfollowed rules were ones that she had created, and probably hadn’t even been shared with anyone else.

My daughter was busy playing around, climbing and sliding and giving orders of rule-following to her fellow playmates when a mother entered the enclosure. Oftentimes, parents would set children loose in the enclosure, because this is Thunderdome and scores must be settled.

Oh, wait. No, not that’s not it. It’s because there is a great big glass wall, and you can sit comfortably in a booth monitoring your child and enjoying your lunch at the same time.

The mom entered and began to call for her son. No answer. She called again. Same result.

Now, oftentimes, when a parent calls for a child and there is no answer, panic can begin to set in. But unless they have tunnelled out Shawshank style, there’s a pretty solid confidence that they are still somewhere in the maze of plastic tubes and tunnels.

Eventually she spied her son. He was way up at the top, clutching a center pole. He looked at his mom and just shook his head. They went back and forth for a few minutes. Each time she would encourage him to come down, his grip would grow tighter and more tears would flow. I asked my daughter to go up and see if she could help him come down, to which she responded by scampering into what looked like the front of a space shuttle. Big help.

After a while, the mother turned to me. “Do you think you can go up there?”

I was a bit taken aback. “Me?” I said. She said, “I can’t go up there,” pointing to a baby in a car seat in the booth. 

Well, I guess. I started my way up the playground. Hey, guess what – Chick-fil-A playgrounds are not designed for full grown adults. I shimmied this way and slid that way turned and curled and twisted, until I finally reached the top. With one final shove, I found myself on the top platform, next to a child who just found out his fear level apparently had even more levels. I tried to calm him. “It’s OK. Your mom sent me.” Those were apparently the magic words, as he screamed and shot off the platform and made his way to the bottom in record time, right into mom’s arms. Problem solved. At least, theirs was.

The platform I was on was at an angle to the lower that it made it really awkward for me to get down. I tried a few times, each time my legs telling me, “Nope. We don’t bend this way.” So, I guess this is where I live now, I thought.

Eventually, I realized the only way for me to get down would be upside down and headfirst, with a big plop on the lower platform, my legs dangling behind me, flailing in the air.

After a few minutes, I made my way down. The mother and her kids were gone, but I assume she was appreciative of my valiant rescue/scare attempt.

In fact the only one who expressed dissatisfaction with it was my daughter, who informed me that is NOT the way you’re supposed to come down. I’ll remember that rule for next time.

Mike Gibbons was born and raised in Aiken, S.C. A graduate of the University of Alabama, you can e-mail him at or follow him on Twitter @StandardMike.


Leave a Reply