Chicken Sandwiches and the End of the World

Popeyes has a new chicken sandwich. Well, had, since they’ve completely sold out nationwide. While it was still a thing, people were going a little bit overboard, with lines out the door at seemingly every Popeyes location. Watching this whole thing unfold felt like just another iteration of a phenomenon I see all the time:

People are willing to wait a long time for food if the Internet says they should.

The chicken sandwich. Szechuan sauce. A new Shake Shack opening. Seemingly every restaurant in San Francisco.

I don’t judge – on the contrary, I often participate! We’ve gotten in line over an hour before opening to eat at the trendy new Ramen place, and been a part of the down-the-block, multi-hour line for cheese-covered shortribs. I’d like to try the Popeyes chicken sandwich.

Black Friday is a similar phenomenon. Black Friday deals really aren’t anything out-of-the-ordinary, if you pay a little bit of attention throughout the rest of the year. Regardless, year after year people get caught up in the mania.

This happens all the time: The Superbowl (“everybody” watches it, even though less-than-everybody watches the NFL on-the-regular). The Olympics (suddenly the entire world cares about diving or curling). 247 coverage of natural disasters (for every one person concerned about the trajectory of Hurricane Dorian, I bet there are five who want to make sure they can participate in the hurricane discussion at work on Tuesday).

What’s interesting to me is that when discussing the big-picture issues affecting our planet, we’re told that staving off disaster will require people to make drastic lifestyle changes which they’re unwilling to make. But we see constant examples of people devoting and re-organizing all of their leisure time so they can be a part of the zeitgeist. Where some people see things like this latest chicken sandwich episode as a microcosm for how messed up everything is, I see it more as evidence of how desperate people are to be a part of something – How can we harness that and direct it towards more positive ends? Can we?

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