The drive-thru at Chick-fil-A is open for business in Marysville. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

The drive-thru at Chick-fil-A is open for business in Marysville. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

In the chicken sandwich wars, Chick-fil-A fans go bonkers

Is it FOMO — Fear of Missing Out — that makes us crave battered and breaded fun on a bun?

MARYSVILLE — Three months ago, people went bonkers over toilet paper.

Now it’s chicken sandwiches.

What’s up with that?

Cars lined up overnight for the May 21 opening of a Chick-fil-A restaurant in Marysville near I-5 and 88th Street NE.

These same people could have ordered a coveted chicken sandwich at the local Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen or Kentucky Fried Chicken and gone to bed with a full happy stomach.

Heck, they could have just driven to the Chick-fil-A in Lynnwood and gotten a fillet fix and a good night’s sleep.

Two weeks later, traffic still snakes around the new chicken joint.

Oh, but this isn’t just about juicy chicken. Or rabid fandom.

It’s FOMO — Fear of Missing Out.

After all, it’s really just hype on a bun. Battered and breaded hype, but still hype.

Before COVID-19 hit in early March, people were going FOMO-crazy over the shortage of Popeyes chicken sandwiches. Lines were long and tempers flared in the drive-thru battleground for what was nothing more than a Cajun-seasoned fillet topped with mayonnaise on a buttery brioche bun.

Around that time, KFC got in the game by test marketing two new chicken sandwiches. One was a fried chicken patty doused in icing between two glazed doughnut buns (my Homer Simpson husband loved it). The other sandwich was on a bed of Cheetos and smothered in Cheetos sauce.

Then toilet paper stole the FOMO thunder.

TP became a symbol of the pandemic. Nobody cared about chicken sandwiches anymore.

Well, we’ve been holed up with our 30-packs of toilet tissue for three months and now we have a reason to party for something other than for our own buns.

Maybe it’s a sign our battered and breaded souls are returning to normal, even if we’re not.

A sign advertises the Kentucky Fried Chicken & Donuts sandwich during a test market promo in Everett. (Andrea Brown / The Herald)

A sign advertises the Kentucky Fried Chicken & Donuts sandwich during a test market promo in Everett. (Andrea Brown / The Herald)

Over 100,000 Americans have died from the coronavirus. Thousands more will die. There are new cases daily in Snohomish County, where the virus has taken 150 lives and infected more than 3,000.

As a fried chicken junkie, I was part of the Popeyes FOMO earlier this year. I struck out three times before I scored.

On a trip to the Everett Popeyes in late February, the sign on the door said: “No chicken sandwiches available today, thank you for your understanding.”

I asked the Popeyes worker, “Since when do you need to ask for understanding over chicken sandwiches?”

Her face got serious. “They get mad, they get angry,” she said.

There wasn’t a lot else people could get angry about back then. People could get haircuts, go to movies, vacation, bar-hop, date, hug their grandkids.

Will we ever take those things for granted again?

Despite the Georgia chain’s fundamental conservative politics that keep some people away, Chick-fil-A stirs up attention whenever a new store opens with a “First 100 Event” luring the first 100 customers with rewards of a year of free meals.

For real. When we lived in Colorado, my son and two high school buddies huddled under blankets in lawn chairs overnight in the cold parking lot to each get 52 coupons for a sandwich, waffle fries and drink combo. He shared his prize with his mom, not that he had a choice.

COVID-19 ended the Chick-fil-A parking lot parties, where people camp outside like it’s Black Friday.

Traffic snaked around the corner for the Marysville Chick-fil-A grand opening on May 21. Police continue to direct traffic during the lunch and dinner hours. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Traffic snaked around the corner for the Marysville Chick-fil-A grand opening on May 21. Police continue to direct traffic during the lunch and dinner hours. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

The Marysville Chick-fil-A donated the free meal rewards to the city’s Community Food Bank, Boys & Girls Club and The Gardens at Marysville assisted living community.

This is only the third Chick-fil-A in Snohomish County, with a fourth expected later this year.

The first opened in Lynnwood in 2015, much to the delight of Annie Mulligan, a Herald photographer from Texas where Chick-fil-As were plentiful.

“For seven long years, I have lived in a place absent of the 300 locations of my home state. This has turned me into a chicken-sandwich-craving machine,” she wrote in a “Why I love Chick-fil-A” story.

“I know there are some who won’t eat at Chick-fil-A, because of the political beliefs of the chain’s founders. I respect your willpower. I understand we all have different beliefs, politics, even ideas on how to raise children, but I leave the chicken sandwich out of it.”

The chain is known for its politeness. That’s what I was served last week when I went to the Marysville Chick-fil-A at 9 a.m., along with a breakfast biscuit that was hot and steamy chicken bliss.

Marysville police Cmdr. Mark Thomas said the corporate Chick-fil-A contracted with the city to have three officers direct traffic for two weeks at the store at 8810 36th Ave NE.

“I hope we don’t have people lined up for half a mile for the next five years,” Thomas said. “Eventually people are going to be left to their own devices.”

Meantime, there’s no wait or fights at Popeyes, which has plenty of chicken sandwiches. At KFC, doughnut and Cheetos sandwiches are no longer on the menu (d’oh!), but there’s a Crispy Colonel to be had.

The shelves are piled high with TP at Costco, where a whole rotisserie chicken is the same price as crunchy fun on a bun.

Andrea Brown: abrown@heraldnet.com; 425-339-3443. Twitter @reporterbrown.

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