I woke up for the day at 4 am.
That's dumb, you say.
Why yes it is, I answer, but let me explain why I did that.
Ever heard of Chick-Fil-A Top 100 Grand Openings?
Basically, the first 100 people in line 24 hours before a new store opens gets a free Chick-fil-a meal every week for a year (or 52 free meal coupons.)
There is a penned up area where you 100 first-liners must stay for the WHOLE 24 hours (6 am one day to 6 am the next day) before the store opens.
No running to your car, no taking a lunch break, no visiting a friend around the corner. This is lock-down. And every few hours they do roll call. You line up by number, show your wrist band and get checked off for the time being. If you miss roll call, you're out. No soup for you.
Chick-fil-a feeds you meals, entertains you with activities + music and honestly makes a fun, memorable event for all involved. I've been wanting to go for years (it's even on my dream list) so when this chance came up for this Arlington, VA opening, I had to do it.
So summer-lovin' (and my-own-bathroom-lovin') me packed up all kinds of layers, blankets, socks and my favorite silk pillow (don't judge) and joined 10 other friends for the blessed event in the chilly autumn weather. 24 hours outside, following a day where it rained non-stop, was not my favorite idea in all the world, but I knew I'd be fine. 24 hours. That's all. Then I could go back inside. No. Big. Deal.
The whole day was nice and easy - the 11 of us bundled in the tent and talked, sometimes we read, sometimes we played soccer or fell off skateboards. A DJ came at night and thrilled us with group games, dance parties and a really cool microphone he wore on his head like ESPN in 1997.
Probably the "worst" part was the three meals of bread and breaded chicken in a row.
Yet, who can truly complain about free, hot food?
It was a bit breezy and, yes, the tent either almost flew off the ground OR collapsed in the wind a number of times. But people teamed up to keep our little plastic dome in-tact for the night.
By 11:30 pm we were all winding down. The party was over. We were cold. We were EXhausted. We were especially porky thanks to the excess protein. Someone was wearing a headband flashlight. It was bed time.
Most of our tent-dwellers had added all their layers like a human croissant, carved out a little piece of tarp property to sleep on, rolled around in the sleeping bag just right and began to fade into dreams.
My thought train chugged along tracks that created a story about me getting a hair-cut on an elephant in a sleeping back. While I was on the elephant, it started to POUR rain. Then the elephant starting unzipping itself (like a giant halloween costume) while I ate a lollipop. Then real life and dream life merged. And I was awake.
Water played outside our tent like many children on a large slide - "Oh no. It's raining." - one person unzipped the tent door-flap, sprinted to the back of the tent, stepped on my calves and ankles and started chucking things. Books flew past my head, back-packs hurled through the place, and girls jumped up, holding their blankets above the ground and SOMEthing was making a buzzing/clicking sound.
"My booooks! MY BOOKS!" My cell-phone sailed past me as the tent-un-zipper kept throwing things to avoid their stuff from getting wet. A different person looked outside to see the rain.
But the sky was quiet and clear - peaceful even.
All the other tents around us were swishing with noise and filled with "aaGGH!" and murmer and "quickquickQUICK!" Like little beating hearts in the center of the sleepy city, we all moved and quivered in colorful, staked-down confusion. Within moments we all understood what was happening.
The sprinklers attacked with water, water that - thankfully - wasn't dripping down into the tent, but it did creep in like a plague through the bottom. It started in our toes and work up to our butts. We all readjusted, packed in closer and curled into tight fetal positions trying to stay dry and warm.
One man outside was sleeping in his lawn chair and the sprinkler was right at his feet. His sleeping bag acted like a giant sponge soaking in the water and he bravely fought the attack by trying to put a smaller lawn chair atop the spicket. Sprinkler Water is a beast, though, and always shot that chair straight up, tossing it to some wet puddle beside the man. But the man didn't move and that made us laugh.
It made us laugh that we were all hiding in fear and trembling from sprinklers.
It made us laugh that we were all filled to the brim with chicken.
It made us laugh that our adrenaline was pumping and we were wide awake at 2 am.
It made us laugh that we decided to watch America's Funniest Home Video clips on our iPhones.
It made us laugh when someone said "Seeeeeya LAter!"
It made me laugh that a stink bug was crawling through my hair.
It made us laugh that that man never did move away from the sprinkler.
Everything made us laugh.
A few hours later, at 5 am, we were screamed awake boot-camp style by a friendly but too-friendly-for-5-am Chick-fil-a employee . Our tent popped back to life like kernels heated in an Orville Reddenbacher bag in the microwave.
"I'm sooooo tiiiiiired."
"My feet are still wet."
"You took the blanket from me last night - I was FREEZing. I woke up. I was freezing. I was like 'why the heck am I so cold.' I looked down and I had NO BLANKET. But it's cool, I took it from you and then I was fine."
"I'm so angry right now."
"Ooooh crap, my shoes are SOAKed."
"I did not come this far - and get sprinkled on - to quit now. I am not missing roll call."
We fussed our way to line, we shivered as they handed out new over-sized t-shirts and paper hats, we groaned when they said News Channel 7 was here to broadcast us LIVE. But by 6:15 I had 52 free-Charlie-in-the-Chocolate-Factory-golden-Chick-fil-a-tickets. By 7:00 I had coffee and by 8:30 I was in a warm house, with warm clothes, with no wrist-band or CHICKEN or sprinklers.
Dang I love a good memory. I'd do that again in a heartbeat.