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No doubt the coming summer-long shutdown of all Yellow and Blue line stations south of Reagan National Airport will disrupt lives.
But it will strike at few people’s souls like it will Jess Mears’ — it will make it harder for her to get Chick-fil-A.
Mears, 31, favors the chicken nuggets to the Original Chicken Sandwich. Metro has been her lifeline to small bits of deep-fried chicken ever since she moved near Alexandria’s King St.-Old Town station in August.
For many people who move to an unfamiliar place, the foods of home can be a touchstone. The absence, or inferior quality, of it can also be a source of distress, as D.C.’s bagels and pizza are for transplanted New Yorkers.
Mears’ affection for Chick-fil-A isn’t as profound as all that.
“It just tastes good,” she said.
She moved here to take a job as membership manager for the national Libertarian Party without a car because shortly before her move, she was sitting at a red light in St. Petersburg, Fla., in her Toyota RAV4 as a city bus approached from behind. She assumed it would stop. It didn’t.
For the most part, taking the train and biking around has worked out fine, she said. Except she can’t drive to get her chicken nuggets when the craving strikes.
But she did find that there’s a Chick-fil-A just two Metro stops from King Street, even though going there brings laughs from even her own mother.
“I don’t think it’s that funny,” she said. “But when I tell people I go to the airport to get chicken, they think it’s hilarious.”
As she said this during a lunchtime run on Monday, Mears was sitting on a Yellow Line train with people lugging suitcases, bound maybe for Hawaii. Maybe Paris? Probably not Chick-fil-A.
During another run a few weeks ago, she got off at Reagan and passed a Metro crew doing construction. She walked into the terminal and made a right, past a self check-in kiosk and a large plate glass window where planes can be seen taxiing toward gates.
“Libertarians joke the government should run like the Chick-fil-A drive-thru, or that whoever runs the Chick-fil-A drive-thru should run the government,” Mears said.
And indeed, she was back on the platform five minutes later, where one of the Metro workers did a double-take at seeing her back, eating fries from her Chick-fil-A bag.
“He said, ‘I just saw you get off. Did you come here just for Chick-fil-A?’” Mears said. “I was like ‘Yes.’”
He flashed two thumbs up.
“Like, ’I respect that.’” Mears said.
But soon she’ll be cut off. King St.-Old Town is one of the six stations that will close from May 25 to Sept. 8 so their deteriorating platforms can be rebuilt.
As she pondered her Chick-fil-A options to the sound of airport announcements Monday, she said she could bike nearly 4 miles each way to a location in Crystal City. She could also order from a food delivery service, like DoorDash. But getting fast food delivered seemed even stranger than going to the airport.
So as thousands of commuters figure out how to get to and from work during the shutdown, Mears said she’s trying to use Metro as much as she can to see D.C.’s sights — and also get her chicken.
Over lunch, it was pointed out to her that there’s a lot more to buy at the airport.
Nearby, a store called Brighton sold handbags and necklaces. Flip-flops and short-sleeved men’s shirts with colorful patterns hung on racks at Vineyard Vines.
She wasn’t interested in getting anything else at the airport.
“No,” she said. “Just the chicken.”