Episode 3: Our Monogamous Follow Heart

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Cabel Sasser: I remember — Oh, no. There's another Carl's Jr. story.

Christa Mrgan: Welcome to the Panic Podcast. A podcast about Portland's Panic Inc, but maybe not exactly. I'm Christa Mrgan. Join me as I follow the quirky subplots and surprising characters that round out Portland's most lovable indie software- and game-publishing company.

This week: an act of social media spite, an unlikely friendship, and a lot of fast food coupons. How did signing up for a Twitter account to answer support questions lead to an odd and endearing relationship? And whatever happened to the cardboard friends we made along the way? A quick note, before we get into it: you're about to hear a lot about Carl's Jr., but they are not a sponsor of this show. At least, not yet.

Cabel Sasser : When Steve and I went to our first Macworld Expo, we picked, of course, the cheapest hotel possible, because we were very broke. And the hotel was in the middle of a very, very, very bad neighborhood of San Francisco. And we checked in and we had not eaten anything. Like we got in super late and we had no dinner. So we're like, we have to go get some food. So we walked a great distance to what was an equally very, very not-good Carl's Jr. in downtown San Francisco, bought some burgers, and went to bring them back to the hotel. Me being me, for some reason, before we entered our room, our room was right by the emergency exit door. And I'm like, let me just see what's out there. Because, you know, you gotta open the door! And there's no alarm. So I open the door, and it was kind of a nice exterior hallway. And I noticed that like in the, ah, the stairs, they had like drilled a hole. Like maybe there's going to be a pipe running through the stairs at one point? And it's just this hole, and I'm like, Oh, this looks really cool. Like I'm leaning over it to look down this hole. 'Cause there's this beautiful perspective of like multiple floors of all of these holes. And I am holding my burger, and I drop it perfectly. Like it's maybe the exact size of the burger, and I witness this perspective falling of my dinner like seven floors down. It doesn't veer off. It's just like boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, all the way down this hole. And then I see it just like splatter on the ground, into a pile of lettuce and burger. And I'm like, I'm done. I have no other food. I don't want to go back in the neighborhood and I, I deserve that. Like I don't know why I was looking down that stupid hole, let alone how I dropped my burger. And so I just didn't eat dinner. And I, that was my first Macworld Expo, and a very memorable Carl's Jr. experience. So I guess I have a rich history of Carl's Jr, but I didn't realize until this exact moment. I'll never forget what that looked like.

Christa Mrgan: Okay, so that's not even the main Carl's Jr story, but we'll come back to that. First, let's talk about Twitter in 2009. Twitter in 2009 was not like Twitter right now. For starters, there just weren't that many people using it yet. I mean, sure, it was definitely catching on at that point, and users had moved beyond talking about what they were doing at the moment or what they had had for lunch. In 2009, people were using Twitter as a platform for jokes, quick micro thoughts and links to interesting things. And Panic co-founder Cabel Sasser decided that the company should have a Twitter account.

Cabel Sasser: It took a long time for me to sort of figure out that Twitter is kind of interesting, and a good way to communicate with a large amount of people with little effort. You know, like doing a blog post, you have to, like, sit down and write a blog post. But you can just like very quickly tweet. And as I began to use it more and more personally, it also seemed like this is a way that we should post news about what Panic is doing.

Christa Mrgan: But, there was a problem.

Cabel Sasser: So, uh, The downside was somebody already had the @panic Twitter handle. So I immediately went into my excited negotiation mode and reached out to the person and they weren't really doing much with it. And I said, Hey, uh, can we like give you something and we could do a trade or, you know, work out some kind of deal. And, uh, yeah. I think in the emails that we researched for this episode -- we did some extensive research and discovered that actually we paid $300 for that Twitter handle because he was interested in buying a copy of Beatles Rock Band. Which seems like the perfect, perfect trade. So, he got to, uh, uh, play along to "I Am the Walrus," and we got to start tweeting as @panic.

Christa Mrgan: I tried really hard to find the guy who sold Panic, the @panic Twitter handle. His name is Todd Baker and he lives in Canada, but that's the best I could do. I did not make contact so I could not interview him. Here instead is a dramatic reading of a portion of one of his emails. In Canadian.

Dan Messing: If $300 is good with you, I'll go that route, eh? Someone's been whispering Beatles Rock Band in my ear since she heard about it. So I have a feeling this is where I'd be using the money.

Christa Mrgan: And that was it. Panic started tweeting on September 24th, 2009, joining a lot of other great companies who were navigating the social media landscape to promote their products, connect with customers, and answer questions. And Twitter did seem uniquely great for doing support, at least for the more straight forward questions.

Cabel Sasser: Twitter and support is interesting. I think many of us sort of quickly came to realize that it's almost like a support cheat code for a lot of companies. Uh, The bigger the company, the more effective that cheat code, because the team that's going to be on Twitter is going to be small. And if the team is going to be small, they're probably going to have more autonomy and be less anonymous than, you know, a giant email support team.

And so, I think we all kind of realized that like, wow, to get things done, kind of tweeting at people is effective. It's easy for me to refresh a Twitter feed and see what people are asking. So, it was definitely just me at the beginning and just, oh, I mean, still today, I guess, although most of the replies are done by the support team, it's what we post that comes from me. Yeah. People just started asking us questions. We would of course announce new versions, and we updated this and we updated that. But then the thing that I really loved about it. And still to this day, love about getting support on Twitter, is that you have a limited number of characters to ask your question, which is the best thing ever.

Because the absolute most dreaded support email is the one that like has like a kind of complicated question. And then, while, I gotcha on the line, comma, here's a bulleted list of like 75 things that I've been thinking about that each require a reply and you're just like... I totally. I understand why people do that, because it's like, it's been building up in their minds for a long time and they're finally putting this email in, so they might as well write these other thoughts, too. But when you're like cranking through an inbox, it's just like the earth grounds to a halt and you have to like put it in a couple hours' work. And the nice thing about Twitter is there's no, while I've got you on the lines. Which is a huge plus. So uh, the questions have to be short and our answers have to be short, which I love.

Uh, I think there are support people here that do not love that for reasons that you should ask them about because I don't totally understand. Uh, But for me, I think it's great.

Jesus Diaz: I think as a point of contact, it's great. 'Cause it's another quick tool for somebody to reach out.

Christa Mrgan: Jesus Diaz does support and QA for Panic.

Jesus Diaz: For the quick questions, it's perfect. Especially after we got the 280 characters, so we can kind of just expand a bit more on that. When it comes to bigger questions, we generally have to move people over to email support: server settings, troubleshooting steps, things that kind of go back and forth as well.

Cabel Sasser: Right. The, and there's definitely a level of question that we cannot answer on Twitter, where it's like we need to do some back and forth and that's going to get really awkward on here.

Christa Mrgan: Early on, Panic used CoTweet, a web app for businesses that allowed multiple people to share social media duties.

Cabel Sasser : It was a shared inbox of tweets, um, and it was a super good service and a great company, and they were super responsive. Of course, as with all the things in Silicon Valley, all great companies must be ruined. And so they were acquired, and then acquired, and then it became like "Exact Target Social Engage" or something, and like it just got, it's just so heartbreaking. So CoTweet was out the window. And so we ended up building our own Twitter to email gateway called Burnside, which was great because we were doing support in email.

James Moore: I designed and built Burnside for Panic. My name's James Moore, and I'm Panic's SysAdmin.

So Burnside would read Twitter every couple of minutes and then create a new email to our support box if the tweet was a basically a new message to the Twitter account. And then a support person could reply to that email and Burnside would generate a tweet reply and send it back to Twitter. Burnside was one of the first projects that we open-sourced. Um, I felt like there were things that we had built that other people could benefit from.

Tim Coulter : Oh, it was fun. I mean, it worked for the most part. My name is Tim and I do web stuff at Panic. But I used to do email and Twitter support.

Christa Mrgan : So Panic obviously took support via Twitter seriously, and had this homegrown solution for handling support questions via Twitter, which they then opened sourced. But as Twitter grew in popularity, more and more services grew up around handling support via Twitter. So, we've moved on to something else. But Panic always kept it real on Twitter, and still does. When you ask us a question, you're getting an answer from one of the awesome folks in support, and it hasn't been workshopped with the marketing team or run through any kind of screener. It's just the people who help test the software answering the questions.

Jesus Diaz: When you "@" Panic, it does feel like you're talking to a real person, versus actually speaking to kind of a script.

Christa Mrgan: But even though talking to Panic support via Twitter can feel personal, Cabel never really saw the point in following other accounts on Twitter. So Panic had thousands of followers, but didn't follow anyone.

Cabel Sasser: So of course, Panic didn't follow anyone on Twitter, because there was no one to follow. This was not a person's Twitter account where we're like checking our feed and seeing what's going on. It's just a company replying to questions or posting announcements. So we always had zero following. Followers? We Had no followings!

So, uh, and this is totally fine, but one day, one guy I remember on Twitter was weirdly bent out of shape about that. And in my mind, I probably much exaggerated it beyond what it actually was. I hope that you can do a dramatic reading of the original tweet, because something about it. This person could not understand why we don't follow anyone on Twitter — that we should like support our community, and follow our fans or whatever. But in my mind, it made no sense because we're never going to read it. It's such a hollow gesture. Why are we following it where we're not going to read it? We don't, we're not gonna like try to trick ya. And so, uh, this person was super annoyed and was like, I tell you, if I remember this correctly, it was like, you should follow me on Twitter. I should be your first follow. And you should totally start doing that. And I remember just thinking, that is so weird and it doesn't make any sense to me. And for some reason it just really got to me.

Christa Mrgan: So I found the Twitter account of the person who I believe indirectly started this whole thing by requesting that Panic follow them. But their account is private now, and I feel like we should respect their privacy. There are a few tweets to them from the Panic account though, signed by Cabel and Panic Designer Neven Mrgan, that show a clear back and forth. I thought about having Cabel and Neven read those tweets for this podcast, but nah. We'll let that person remain a mystery.

Cabel Sasser: Uh, So instead, like just impulsively, I thought: man, what is just the weirdest, and I don't want to say dumbest, but most, uh, uh, just unrelated account that uh, we could dedicate our following to? And for some reason, Carl's Jr. popped into my head and I just immediately followed @carlsjr. An adventure began.

Christa Mrgan: Yes. You were probably wondering when we'd finally get back to Carl's Jr. Well, here we are. In a fit of pique, Cabel had the Panic account follow the west coast fast food franchise @carlsjr. And that might've been the end of it, except that this is Panic. So, of course, it was just the beginning.

Cabel Sasser: This is like early Twitter days, right? This is like, before mega celebrities and like, uh, before this era that we're in now where a company's social media accounts were just like, are the weirdest, snarkiest, jerkiest things in the world. I just, I still cannot totally understand how it's like a brand to just be a-hole.

Like Wendy's: "Hey, I loved your burger that I ate the other day."

"Screw you, throw the burger in the lake! Never eat at our restaurant again. LOL."

Thousands of retweets. Like I'm just, it's super bizarre to me, but it's also — I get it because it's like, whoa, that company is not acting like a company! And that's kind of amazing, right? It's like, that's not what a company is supposed to say. That company's not supposed to roast that guy for eating at McDonald's. Anyways, we are long before that era when people had any of this figured out, and I believe that social media teams were probably like the marketing department, you know, or like the customer support team at Carl's Jr. or whatever.

It wasn't like we need to get four of the freshest teens in here to answer our feed. It was just like, hey, you answer the postal mail we get about Carl's Jr. Would you mind also answering these tweets? A simpler, more homespun time. Which somehow led to Carl's Jr. freaking out that we were following them on Twitter. Uh, Somehow they noticed very quickly and, uh, probably DM'd me or something, and were just super excited about this.

Christa Mrgan: I looked up the DMs — direct messages on Twitter — between Carl's Jr. and Panic. Carl's Jr. offered to send some stuff to the office, and Cabel responded with, "Hurray! Our monogamous follow-heart belongs to you," and the company's address. So Carl's Jr. sent a bunch of swag to the office, from coupons for milkshakes and burgers, to hats and t-shirts.

Cabel Sasser: I definitely knew we had amassed this enormous, enormous pile of coupons. Um, There was a Carl's Jr. downtown. It was not a good Carl's Jr. And by not good, I mean, just very sketchy. Uh. Which can happen with a downtown location.

Tim Coulter: The Carl's Jr. that we used to have downtown was in kind of a sad part of the transit mall right next to a Radio Shack, and I remember it being completely empty when we were there. It closed pretty shortly after that.

Cabel Sasser: We took our stack of giant coupons and headed to the downtown Carl's Jr., which is not the nicest Carl's Jr. in the world, but we were just going to enjoy this bountiful buffet of uh, free Carl's Jr. food. But I remember definitely being nervous that they were going to think that we were pulling some kind of flim-flam scam, because why would you show up with 50 coupons for burgers and fries? That's not possible. Like maybe you get those coupons at the end of a little league game or whatever? And like each kid gets one. No one person should have not much Carl's Jr. power. And we did. Um. God, and I had a hat, a Carl's Jr. hat, uh, which I think I wore, I feel like I wore to the restaurant on that day, if I remember correctly, cause it seems important.

Christa Mrgan: Actually, Neven wore the hat. Or maybe there were two hats? Cabel took the picture, so I can't confirm whether or not he was wearing a Carl's Jr. hat. Anyway, Neven is wearing one in a photo that Panic tweeted on December 10th, 2010, and which Carl's Jr. then retweeted. Now, these were the days before the retweet button, so people would just copy and paste the contents of a tweet to retweet it, and just add "RT" to the front of it. Anyway, here's a tweet from Carl's Jr.:

"RT @panic: Some of the Panic crew enjoying a tasty meal at Carl's Jr. Did somebody say hand-breaded chicken tenders?" And then there's a link to a photo of the Panic crew eating lunch at Carl's Jr.

Cabel Sasser: It's all — I blacked out probably, which is why I don't remember much of it, but I know that we ate a lot of food that day.

Christa Mrgan: Carl's Jr. would tweet to and about Panic surprisingly frequently, considering it was a major fast food franchise and Panic was an indie Mac and iOS software company. Here are a couple of examples:

From February 24th, 2011: "We love @panic. We love you all very much, but with at Panic it's, well, different."

From July 19th, 201: "Well, we can't speak for @panic, plus we're kind of shy, but let's just say that Twitter love can be a simple and beautiful thing."

From March 9th, 2012: "Panic Day? We love @panic!" Followed by a link to a page that explains International Panic Day, celebrated March 9th, and a link to panic.com.

So all of this attention and affection from a social media profile of a fast food restaurant was unexpected, sure. Maybe a little odd. But again, this was still the early days of Twitter, when brands were trying to figure out their strategy and what it even meant to have a Twitter voice. And in 2011, when whoever was running the Carl's Jr. account saw that Panic was approaching 20,000 followers on Twitter, they offered to send our 20,000th follower a Carl's Jr. gift basket.

The lucky winner turned out to be Rashid Zakat, a filmmaker, art director and photographer in Philadelphia, who had no idea about any of this beforehand.

Rashid Zakat: Oh, I had no idea. None whatsoever. It was super random. Um, Well, I think I got it from Cabel, but I remember getting a DM from him and just feeling like, what? What is Carl's Jr.?

Christa Mrgan: Of course he hadn't heard of Carl's Jr.! On the East coast, the chain is known as Hardee's, a franchise that Carl's Jr's parent company, CKE, bought in 1997. And CKE stands for "Carl Karcher Enterprises," in case you're wondering. I know I was. So what did Carl's Jr. send to Rashid?

Rashid Zakat: I want to say there were some stickers, maybe, and definitely some vouchers for free burgers from Carl's Jr. I definitely remember a big cardboard cutout, because I took it with me to a couple of different apartments. But I don't remember ever being able to get it set up. And I had this long intention for maybe like two years or three years. I was like, okay, cool. You know what? Next week, every week it was like, next week I'm gonna cut out some cardboard and, you know, try to fix it up.

And it just never happened. So I ended up throwing it out.

Christa Mrgan: And since he could never get it set up, Rashid says he can't remember what exactly this cardboard cutout even was. But fortunately for all of us, I happen to know what it was. Because they sent one to Panic, too.

Carl's Junior Miss Turkey Ad Voiceover: To help you remember our delicious new Char-Broil Turkey burger, we hired Miss Turkey. To help you remember Miss Turkey, we put her in a bikini…

Cabel Sasser: So one day, this enormous box from Carl's Jr. arrives in the office. I'm like, there's no way that's coupons and hats, but I had no clue what it could have been. And I open up the box and flip it open and there's just this like super weird cardboard stand-up of this like woman in a bikini holding a burger with a sash that says "Miss Turkey." 'Cause that's like their ad, you know, it's Carl's Jr., that's their ad campaign. They're like, Oh, we got a Turkey burger? Get Miss--oh, they're so bad. Their marketing is so bad. I'm sorry, Carl's Jr. But your marketing is very bad. Your burgers are pretty good. But yeah.

Okay. So. Now this thing is in our office. Of course, I have to construct it and build it. I can't, you know, I am required by law. And just very constantly awkwardly in the corner of the office, is this cardboard standup. Life-size, uh, like a model holding a burger. It was extremely, very — it made me very uncomfortable. And the biggest problem being, I don't know where I'm supposed to put this! Everywhere I put it is weird.

Tim Coulter: She would just show up at random places around the office. We had kind of a game of like moving her around from place to place into surprising areas. So it, you know, it was a weird little office game we had. That was fun.

Will Cosgrove: Yeah yeah. So, uh, Miss Turkey had been migrating around the office, uh, and I can't remember where it was. I think it might've been in the stairwell at the time? But it was a Friday afternoon and, you know, it was getting later, and people were going home and uh, I was staying late working on something. And so it was basically me and Cabel were the last two people left in the office. And, um, And I was like, hey, you know, Miss Turkey is hanging around, out, out in the, uh, out in the stairwell. I think... I think Miss Turkey might, might pay a visit to Cabel. So yeah, I just drug it through the hallway stealthily and placed it in the men's stall. Hoping that Cabel would, uh, would use the restroom one time before he, uh, before he went home on a Friday afternoon. And sure enough, he did. And, uh, it was great.

Cabel Sasser: I went to the bathroom and I went to open the stall door. And it's a good thing that I was in the bathroom already, because Miss Turkey was standing there and it was — I must've, I probably actually yelled. And I probably soiled myself to a small degree. And I definitely uh, had a minor heart attack. Like low-grade, 20 to 30% heart attack. You just don't expect to open an empty stall door and see anyone in there, let alone like a super creepy — and it was really, I feel like it was really close to the door, so it was extra terrifying.

Christa Mrgan: So did Cabel ever find out who did it?

Cabel Sasser: I definitely assume that it was Tim, because if there's anyone in the office that's going to be responsible for something like that, it's probably Tim. Do you want to tell — no! I will wait for this podcast to come out before I know who the actual perpetrator was, but I would absolutely put my money on Tim.

Will Cosgrove: He is still blaming Tim. Poor Tim. Uh. But, uh, To this day, he still thinks it's Tim that, uh, that played the prank.

Christa Mrgan: That was Will Cosgrove, an engineer at Panic who's worked on Coda and Transmit for almost 14 years. Well, after that, Miss Turkey moved back to the stairwell.

Will Cosgrove: Migrated out to the uh, emergency stairwell outside of the office.

Cabel Sasser: Eventually I put it on the, in the stairwell. There's a stairwell down to the front door of the office and there's a small landing in the stairwell. And I'm like, well, that's right. Miss Turkey's going to go, I don't know where else it's supposed to go. So eventually I put it down there and it was there for a surprisingly long time, and then it just disappeared one day.

So God only knows where Miss Turkey is today. But what a strange thing to send us out of the blue. These guys are going to love this weird cardboard stand up of — how's Miss Turkey? Can you get an interview with Miss Turkey?

Miss Turkey: Hello, I'm Gizem Karaca, and I represent Turkey.

[Record scratch sound]

Christa Mrgan: I didn't get to interview Miss Turkey for this episode, or anyone else from Carl's Jr.'s social media team. After reaching out via Twitter direct messages to multiple accounts, and finally emailing media relations for CKE, I got a terse response from Director of Public Relations Candice Jacobson, who spelled my name wrong, even though my name was literally right there! Anyway. Here's what she said: "Hi Krista, we do not have anyone here that can speak to this. Thanks, Candice." That's it! My efforts to follow up to this email went unanswered. And like that cardboard Miss Turkey stand-up, Panic's Twitter relationship with Carl's Jr. hung around for a surprisingly long time, and got to be almost as awkward.

Cabel Sasser: I was always looking for an out. The situation had gotten far beyond, of course, what I had ever imagined or intended, and I did not know how I was gonna — how was this going to end? Well, am I following Carl's Jr. for the rest of my life from the Panic account? Um, Social media started to change and the, and the, you know, Carl's Jr. probably, the social media team shifted and they weren't really communicating with us anymore. They probably didn't even notice. But, ah, I just didn't even know-- how's this going to end? Which is the thing you never think about, or I should say the thing I never think about. And so, uh, our Carl's Jr. closed. It is now a Veggie Grill. And, uh, when it closed, I realized that like, we can't even use these coupons anymore. If they're going to send us coupons, we'll have to drive out to Beaverton.

So, um, I guess that's it. This is the end of our, this is the end of our relationship. And it was with very heavy heart that I clicked unfollow and no longer followed Carl's Jr. And I think they noticed that too?

Christa Mrgan: They totally noticed, and they were heartbroken. Cabel explained that our local Carl's Jr. had closed and they replied via DM, "Oh, that sucks that was yours. Our lease was not extended. We were sad to have to go. :( I may have to send you some burgers to ease the pain." No one remembers if they did send any more coupons after that. But Cabel did know one thing: it was time for Panic to follow a new account on Twitter.

Cabel Sasser: We needed to follow something else, and so we followed what is easily the best and most important account on all of Twitter. Donold Donold Duck. Donold Duck. First of all, A. Someone thought, I'm going to squat on this account because it's going to be valuable. It's Disney property and they're going to pay me a lot of money and I'm going to just type in "Donald Duck" and misspell it and screw it up. This is my theory. This is my theory of Donold Duck. I feel like the Donold Duck person thought they were gonna pull off some kind of cool heist and have this rad account that was going to be valuable. And so they, but they, they biffed it at the last second in the most beautiful of ways, by misspelling "Donald Duck" as "Donold Duck."

But they were, they were smart enough to include a picture of Donald Duck, like they Google searched for Donald Duck. This is my dream, and it's probably not true. But just let me have this. And then when they went to type in, you know, what's the full name? They looked at the picture of the duck and their brain just said, Oh yeah, that's Daffy Duck. So they typed in "Daffy Duck" for the full name, so you've got Donold Duck and Daffy Duck. And then they're like, well, we have to prove that this account is in use, so I have to do a tweet. And they just typed, "hey guys," and just hit "send tweet." And you have this amazing combination of a picture of Donald Duck spelled "Donold Duck" with the name "Daffy Duck," and all he has ever said is all lower case, "hey guys."

Tim Coulter: I have no idea where that came from. I don't know how long — as far as I know, Cabel created that account.

Cabel Sasser: God, I wish that was true. I'm here to break Tim's heart and say, that is not my account. I wish that it was my account. I wish I was smart enough to have done that, but I am not Donold Duck.

Tim Coulter: However, there was a brief time when I added, uh, "hey guys," a little "hey guys" flag to the top of all the CSS files on Twitter. There's still a few of them there. Uh, So yeah, if you poke around in our source, you can see a little, little, little Easter egg.

Christa Mrgan: But nothing lasts forever. Not even following misspelled Donald Duck accounts on Twitter. After a few years, Cabel decided to switch it up and change the object of Panic's monogamous follow heart.

Cabel Sasser: Okay, Eat the Ball. Where do I begin with Eat the Ball? The idea behind Eat the Ball is that it's bread but it's a ball. Uh Eh? What if you could eat the bread you already eat, but as a ball? And then call the company "Eat the Ball" because you're eating the ball, the literal ball.

Tim Coulter: Eat the Ball is a, as far as I know, it's a bread product that's like molded to look like uh, different kinds of sports balls. Like there were, there's like a football and like basketballs, and I think they probably do custom shapes for different sporting events.

Cabel Sasser: Eat the Ball is a true innovation in bread technology. I believe that I saw an ad for Eat the Ball in one of the weird trade magazines that we get, like Convenience Store News or uh, Snacks Quarterly or whatever. And I was just absolutely blown away by A. the amount of Tesla/Edison level genius involved in sitting down to say, what if we could eat bread, but in a ball? And then to have the guts to, hahaha I can't keep a straight face on this one. To have the guts to manufacturer said balls and deliver said balls worldwide.

Uh, We've looked long and hard to try to find Eat the Ball. The, their website claimed that it was available at grocery stores here in Oregon, uh, listed a number of grocery store. uh, Went to a few of them can confirm that they: A. Definitely don't carry it. And B: when you ask at a grocery store, "do you have Eat the Ball?" It's awkward, a very awkward situation. So I stopped looking. Uh, I think obviously the, the tradition here is that we need to follow things that are pretty absurd. As much as l-- look, clearly, Eat the Ball is amazing.

Ah, I just, to me, there's just a small micro moment of daily comedy for the random person that happens to click on our account, and says, Whoa, they're following one person. I wonder who they follow. Like that's maybe cool. And then they hit that button as just something totally stupid. That to me, that person hopefully got like a slight laugh in the middle of their horrible workday or whatever, and that's like totally worth it. Uh, Or people think we're completely on another planet, which I mean, to be fair, that's probably true.

Christa Mrgan: While Panic stays true to itself as a company, with Cabel still tweeting all of the announcements, and support folks responding to questions about software, Twitter itself has changed a lot since 2011. Rashid, Panic's Carl's Jr. gift basket prize winner, is still there.

Rashid Zakat: Back in 2011, Twitter, I think because Twitter hadn't really gone mainstream, like if I told some of my, like, normal friends what a tweet was or anything about sort of the culture on Twitter, you know, they would just look at me like I was crazy. Twitter's become this force because I think narrative is so powerful in shaping culture. And if you can sort of distill your narrative, or distill your story or distill your point into a tweet or two or three, other folks sort of champion that. I mean, we watched Twitter really change the world, which I think means from 2011 to now it's... I don't know, I guess it's something to be taken a lot more seriously.

James Moore: I no longer use Twitter myself.

Jesus Diaz: I use Twitter. It's a love-hate relationship.

Christa Mrgan: And I'm still on Twitter, too. What started as a place to write goofy jokes and dumb puns has become a way to keep up with important events as they happen in real time, and to hear more directly from artists, activists, and people whose voices might not have made it past media gatekeepers in the past. I still do write dumb jokes, though.

For me, Panic still inhabits that old, goofier Twitter. At least a little bit. And I don't think that Panic's quirky relationship with Carl's Jr. Could even happen today. And I have to admit, that makes me a little sad. But in the end, it's a fun and weird story that highlights the best of what Twitter can be.

Cabel Sasser: It's funny how I instantly respected the, that, whoever that was at Carl's Jr. I like — it went from this joke idea, to like something kind of fun and cool. Actually made me like Carl's Jr., uh, made me think that whoever's on the other end, they were like really appreciating this. It was just such an interesting switch. And that can happen in life when you're a weirdo and you do impulsive, strange things like that. Uh, But that's kind of the best, like when those things happen and when this thing goes from like a one-off impulsive thing to like a story that we're telling here today. Like that's, that's the kind of stuff that makes life exciting and fun.

Christa Mrgan: Thanks so much for joining me for this episode of the Panic Podcast. Season one will feature stories about other blasts from Panic's Past, including Audion, Totally Sidetalkin' and more. So mash that subscribe button as hard as you can, and tell your friends to give it a listen.

This podcast was written, produced and edited by me, Christa Mrgan, and our amazing theme music was, of course, composed by Cabel Sasser. A huge thank you to everyone at Panic, as well as to Rashid Zakat. You should follow him on Twitter. He's @rashidzakat.

Cabel Sasser: Kind of happens often in my life where maybe I will do a thing as a joke and then like maybe it comes back a little bit to haunt me in an interesting way or turn me around. This just happened with the computer checks. Did I tell you about the computer checks? I'm going to tell you about the computer checks. I'll be fast. You can cut this out.

Christa Mrgan: I did cut it out, but it's great. So I stuck it in here at the end.

Cabel Sasser: We ordered computer checks to print checks. There was an error with the checks. So I had to have the following phone call, which was to call the check company and say, "Hey, we got our computer checks, but there's a small problem. The image of the chef is missing and the upper lefthand corner. It's supposed to be a picture of a chef."

And there's a long silence on the end of the line. And of course Steve's next to me at that desk, just like trying so hard not to start laughing 'cause I'm very seriously complaining about a chef image being busy run my checks and the worst part was, it was a long pause and she's like, "Okay, so can you be more specific? Like which chef image was it?"

I'm like, Oh God, it's still going. This is still -- so I'm like, "It was a chef and he was doing kind of like the okay gesture, you know? Like the like chef kiss? He looked happy and he's making an okay."

She's like typing on the computer. "Okay, I believe I found the chef, the description says, chef doing okay." And I'm like, "that's the one!"

So like, going from point A, which is, it would be funny to put a chef on our checks and anytime we write a professional business check to someone, there's a chef doing the okay gesture, to now I gotta like make a phone call and like pursue the missing chef and at the end of the call, Steve's like, "that's the kind of thing where I just would've been like, well, I tried to make a joke and it failed, and I just need to live with that. But you are actually pursuing this and trying to get it corrected."

I feel like you can draw a direct line from, uh, following Carl's Jr. on Twitter to putting a chef on your computer checks. Sorry. Thank you for indulging me on that side tangent.