It was 1 a.m. on a rainy, chilly Monday morning, the perfect environment for questioning your life decisions, like why I was waiting in line with hundreds of other SXSW-goers inside and outside a hotel I wasn’t staying in to eat a free cronut. There was a lot to question, too. Namely, why? Also, what?
But let’s go back in time first, to the preceding Saturday, when I saw Grumpy Cat, the real star of SXSW 2014. Not the bands, not the films, not the brands, but THE #brand, a small, funny looking cat surrounded by Friskies logos that slept through the giddy admiration of his fans. And boy were there a lot of them. Reports from the Mashable House, where Grumpy Cat rested in a bed on a perch like a drunken king, say that people waited more than an hour to have their picture with the most Internet of memes (meanwhile, Chocolate Rain was singing some deep chocolate cuts on a street corner outside Wendy’s, probably).
When I stopped by to check out the scene, the line was 50 people deep, and everyone had the same sheepish, embarrassed grin on their face: they were both excited and humiliated to be there, to spend all of five seconds in shared air space with a cat named Tardar Sauce in the same building as a Mashable-branded, Miley-approved wrecking ball. Above the Grumpy groupies was a flashing screen proudly highlighting tweets that mentioned the House, a montage of cat photos and sincerely ironic (or maybe ironically sincere — such is SXSW) pimped hashtags. It was overwhelming, like watching the arrival and departure schedule at an airport, even though everyone was already at their destination: hell. Meanwhile, the star of the event looked less grumpy and more tired and sad. By all accounts, his owners take excellent care of their pet/money-maker, but you couldn’t help but feel bad for the irritated-even-in-slumber cat.
Speaking of feeling bad: don’t feel bad for those of us who waited for free cronuts Sunday night into Monday morning. Like, ever. We don’t deserve sympathy — we made our beds and now we must lie in them, covered in crumbs. We all clicked the same article, “Cronut Creator Concocts Milk and Cookie Shots,” or at least one much like it, and decided to forgo sleep to eat the food version of a Labradoodle. It read:
The first Chocolate Chip Cookie Milk Shots will be sampled on March 9th at the [Intercontinental Austin Hotel]. [Chef Dominique] Ansel will be there and he will be making cronuts. (Via)
Now, if you’ve never had a cronut, fix that immediately. They are amazing. But should you wait in a line that looks like this for a free one? Let’s do a pro/con list, for both cronuts and Grumpy Cat.
-It’s a cat
-It’s a cat
-It’s 1 a.m.
The event actually began at midnight, but due to a series of mismanagement, it took nearly two hours for even the VIP guest-listers to get their fluffy bounty. Confession time: I was on said “cronut VIP list,” which is two very good words followed by one bad word that makes for something awful. When the clock hit single digits and without a cronut in sight, certain so-called important people began getting impatient; I even heard one guy futilely try to start a “we want cronuts” chant. Must of us were quiet, though, not because we were any better than the chant guy, but because we knew we weren’t in a position to complain — we were in line for a pastry, for cronut’s cake. Never before has the phrase “eating our feelings” felt so real.
Eventually, we got our cronuts and cookie milk shots and they were delicious and perfect. Then we all stumbled back to our motels and apartments, having left a small sliver of dignity inside the Intercontinental Austin Hotel. But hey, at least we didn’t wait in line to meet a cat. Except for those who did.