This has been a difficult year. Whether you’ve personally gotten sick, dealt with illness in a loved one, or just stayed as socially distant as possible while waiting for a vaccine—or, heck, even if you’re convinced the entire global pandemic is a hoax—it is safe to say that your 2020 didn’t go the way you thought it would back on New Year’s Eve. There have been fewer shared moments, less connection, and less opportunity to feel like you’re participating in the same collective social experiences than any of us have come to expect in our lives.
It is within this context that we assess this video, posted by KBTX news anchor Rusty Surette, of the long line of cars on the first day of business at College Station’s new Dunkin’ Donuts location. In the video, which went viral Tuesday morning, more than fifty cars are backed up all the way down Wellborn Road, with each driver waiting for his or her turn at the doughnut chain’s drive-through.
The video was posted just a week after a similar viral recording captured cars waiting fourteen hours in line to order from a newly opened In-N-Out Burger in Aurora, Colorado. In both cases, the reaction from the internet was bafflement and incredulity. What is wrong with people, the comments ask, that they’ll spend so much of their precious time waiting in their cars for treats from a mediocre fast-food chain?
To which we answer: nothing! Nothing is wrong with these people, except that they are perhaps bored, starved for new experiences, eager to share in a collective moment, and fans of sugary, savory, salty things. There aren’t many activities one can safely do right now as part of a group of fifty other humans capable of serving as hosts to the coronavirus, but waiting in your car for however many hours it takes to go through the drive-through line is definitely one of them!
Are there better doughnuts to be found in College Station? Probably, yeah. We’re partial to Shipley’s, which has a couple locations in the area. But who cares? Time is actually not that precious a commodity right now, and you can do most of the things you’d do at home from the comfort of your car, too. Do you normally endlessly refresh your Instagram feed, or further build out your Animal Crossing island, or watch The Queen’s Gambit? You can do all of that stuff while the car is in park. On the other hand, if you want to take the whole family out to experience literally anything together that is different from what you did yesterday, or the day before, or in the middle of March, without putting anyone at risk of catching COVID-19? Getting in the car and waiting until it’s your turn to get a box of a dozen doughnuts is about as good as it’s going to get right now.
Humans are wired to crave novelty and connection, in other words, and in 2020, the opportunities for both have been slim pickings. In a normal year, sure, maybe the hours you spend in your car waiting to get a vanilla latte and a bag of Munchkins could be better spent baking homemade bread or doing yoga. But we are eight months into this thing. Anybody who wanted to learn to make sourdough or master bound-side crow pose has already done those things. It’s time to seek out new experiences, safely. It’s time to do something different that somehow allows us to feel like we are sharing an experience with the people in our communities. It’s time to squeeze every ounce of joy out of lives that have gotten smaller and less vibrant, as we endure the home stretch of a pandemic whose end is finally in sight. It’s time to wait in our cars, for a ridiculous amount of time, for some mediocre doughnuts.