From the Sublime to the Ridiculous

A Short Discourse on Why Our Guest Maud-Blogger Won’t Be Buying Krispy Kreme Stock

First, Krispy Kreme (obligatory link) donuts (gratis link to cooler donut-store chain) have a layer of pure sugar frosting in the middle. This layer of sugar cuts cross-wise through the length of the donut, like the cream cheese in a split bagel. Yes, you can, at the Krispy Kreme store (or the Krispy Kreme donut case in the nearest Loaf ‘n’ Jug) get the kind without the middle layer of frosting. But that middle layer of sugar frosting is the “Krispy Kreme” signature. Without that middle layer of frosting, it isn’t really a Krispy Kreme donut, even if it’s called that.

I don’t like that layer of frosting in the middle. I can’t eat a donut with that much sugar. So the question is, can I buy stock in a company if I don’t like its signature product? Can I sincerely tell my friends that I’ve gone long on Krispy Kreme, knowing in my heart that the middle layer of frosting should make the quintessential Krispy Kreme donut unpalatable to any right-thinking individual? No, I cannot.

Right now you are saying, “this reason is nothing more than a pathetic foil for a deeper, psychological reason that our writer does not want to admit.” And you are right. There is, in fact, a more powerful reason I can’t bring myself to buy into Krispy Kreme. It’s because I’ve already missed my chance.

Here is what I mean.

One morning I learned that Krispy Kreme was expanding. They were going to be adding more stores to their growing franchise, serving piping fresh donuts in even more cities. And one of the places they were going to put a store was in Seattle. I learned this from our college-student office assistant Veronica (not her real name). This was about two years ago.

On the day at work V. (not her real first initial) told me this, we spent the morning joking about Krispy Kreme’s arrival in Seattle. Thinking back on it, we joked about this a little too long, if you know what I mean. But it was fun, spending the morning scoping out Krispy Kreme’s Jetson’s-style web site and talking about the donut company’s brilliantly-conceived marketing and timing, given that Winchell’s and Dunkin’ Donuts had been steadily disappearing from the landscape without anything comparable taking their place. “Piping hot donuts out of the oven,” I remember saying, “that’s brilliant. Those guys are going to make a killing.”

A few months later, Veronica quit the office and asked me out. Here is where I should casually mention that Veronica (not her real name) was 22, had earned a B.A. and a master’s degree in only five years of college, looked like a super-model and laughed at my jokes. On our date (which came, I hasten to add, after she no longer worked for me), Veronica (not her real name) had already crossed the line from college-student office-assistant to something more dangerous. Suddenly, she had those cool glasses that Chumbawumba wears and was talking about getting the image of a snake consuming it’s own tail tattooed around her seductively exposed belly button.

A few months down the road Veronica would land a job with the Forest Service that involved setting small fires in wilderness areas to keep them from burning down completely, but for the time being she was blissfully unemployed, and seemed sort of interested, and we had a nice dinner, saw an OK play, and caught a pretty decent band at the Sunset Tavern in Ballard. Except for one small social blunder on my part, it all went really well.

Well, I think you can see my point about the Krispy Kreme stock. My point is, THAT was the time to buy Krispy Kreme stock. Anytime between the day Veronica told me that Krispy Kreme was coming to Seattle and the evening of our date would have been fine. A purchase of Krispy Kreme stock anytime in that window would have been a capital investment, a bold move, the right thing to do.

In fact, I may have said to Veronica, on that one morning at work: “I should cash in my Janus Fund for Krispy Kreme,” not really meaning it of course, just saying it to fill space in the air. I said that then — lightly, casually — but let me tell you that today my Janus Fund is one-quarter its former value, Krispy Kreme has pretty much gone through the roof and Veronica doesn’t call me anymore.

So, to go back and purchase Krispy Kreme stock now, when I have clearly fallen from a position of some unearthly grace — involving late nights with whip-smart young women in Chumbawumba glasses about to adorn their stomachs with coiled-snake tattoos– when I am reduced to making a martyr of my personal experience for the entertainment of strangers (although I’m sure all of you are really nice people, no, see, I didn’t mean that like it sounded…), to go back now and buy Krispy Kreme stock would be a way of damning the losses in the experiences I’ve just described, fating them with a kind of bitter permanence. No matter what the stock did after I bought it, I would be doomed. If it went up, it would be mocking me, reminding me of everything I’d lost. If it went down, it would be confirming the lost opportunities I’ve just described. If it went up then down, it would be mocking me and then confirming the worst. If it went down then up, well, you get the point.

Another reason I’m not buying Krispy Kreme stock is — and this reason isn’t personal, you’ll be relieved to know — I can’t imagine this donut thing is going to last.

The fact that the most profitable company of the day is an institutional donut maker that serves its product right off the rack — so you can just stand there and swallow them up– the fact that this is the best investment in America, is too ironic to be believed. Really. Krispy Kreme’s name ought to be “The Donut Trough.” Don’t get me wrong, I am by no means anti-donut. But taking the larger view, you have to admit you couldn’t pick a better symbol for our time than that our most profitable company in America makes glazed donuts.

Glazed donuts. Doesn’t the image of a nation feasting on racks of glazed donuts fit ingeniously well with the image of a White House cleverly shading the meanings of the lies it intends to employ to herd a nation to war? “It was only 16 words — pass another donut!” A motto for our age. “What can we say about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq? I don’t know, Bob, but can you pass me another donut?” It’s a White House State-of-the-Union-eve conversation one can too easily imagine.

[NB: I want to add, on edit, that it is not glazed donuts I am railing against here, nor even the popularity of glazed donuts. I am railing against the fact that the best investment in America is in the company that makes the glazed donuts. Please don’t misunderstand me, because I don’t want to come off as some sort of cretin donut-hating cynic]

I also happen to believe — probably naively — that the present era — this pre-depression George Bush divisiveness right-wing fundies-in-power whatever this is — isn’t going to last. I just don’t see how Bush can hold it all together through next November. The huge deficits run up by the tax cuts, the sinking economy, the aftermath of the Iraq fiasco — are all going to come home to roost, because such things always do.

So, by extension, this donut craze can’t last either. In fact, I think it would be perfect if, decades from now, people looked back on our time and they said, “the most popular investment of the day was in a company called ‘Krispy Kreme,’ that made donuts with — get this — an extra layer of sugar in the middle!” and then they laughed and shook their heads. That would be perfect.

These are my reasons for not buying Krispy Kreme stock.

About trucker hats and Paris Hilton, thankfully, I have nothing to say.

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