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What it’s like to walk around Charlotte dressed like a donut

“Guess what I did today?” I said to a friend last Friday. “I’ll give you a hint—it’s National Donut Day.”

“I’m going to go with eating donuts for 500,” he said.

“Nope,” I responded, “much, much cooler.”

Two weeks ago, I was presented with the opportunity to spend National Donut Day inside Dunkin Donuts’ “Sprinkles” mascot. My gut reaction was to say no with a capital N. I hate being hot and sweaty, I have a touch of claustrophobia and I’m an awkward dancer.

But I didn’t say no. One week earlier I had graduated from college, and during my time there I learned one of the most important pillars of living well: DIFTS. A less hackneyed synonym of YOLO, DIFTS stands for “do it for the story.”

My day as a donut

5:30 a.m. – I hit the snooze button for five more minutes of sleep. How do people wake up this early? I don’t know if I’m ready for post-grad adulthood.

5:45 a.m. – I pick up my best friend Anna Shealy, who graciously agreed to join me in my DIFTS adventure.

6:00 a.m. – We arrive at The Doghouse, home to WFNZ 610 AM The Fan’s broadcasting studio.

6:15 a.m. – Anna and I slip into our mascot outfits: brown, long-sleeved scrubs, white gloves, enormous brown shoes and the large, squishy shells that transform us from Jess and Anna into Sprinkles and Cuppy. Despite the low visibility and humid, sauna-like air inside my donut top, it’s actually pretty roomy and I don’t feel claustrophobic one bit. Let’s do this.

6:20 a.m. – I’m standing at the corner of South Mint Street and Morehead Street holding a sign that says, “Honk for a free donut!” Awkward-hands problem solved… for now.

7:00 a.m. – I’ve got a routine going. When cars pull up to the red light, I point enthusiastically to the sign. Once they see the pile of Dunkin Donuts boxes, they start honking and roll down their windows for a free donut. I get more energized with every honk.

7:15 a.m. – I’m just hitting my stride when, suddenly, my pants fall down. Yup. Sprinkles is now a chocolate donut balancing on two skinny, vanilla legs. Not my best moment, but as soon as the light turns green and a new group of cars roll up, I jump back into character.

7:30 a.m. – A school bus slows to a stop and I can hear the kids yelling “Hi, donut man!” from the windows. They get two boxes of donuts and I give them my best dance show filled with classics like the disco point, the whip and nae nae and the scuba diver.

8:30 a.m. – I’ve started doing this thing where I’ll point directly at a car and wave. I’m trying to give people a more personalized experience, and it’s working. Unless they’re on the phone (tsk, tsk), drivers are waving back to me and smiling! I feel like a hybrid Mother Theresa/rock star, spreading end-of-the-week cheer one car at a time.

9:45 a.m. – It’s gotten hotter and I’m losing steam, fast. I’ve given up on dancing and I’m yawning behind my smiling donut face while I half-heartedly wave to no one in particular.

10:00 a.m. – A Clif bar and a Red Bull bring me back to life.

11:15 a.m. – Traffic has slowed down and we’ve run out of donuts, so we head home for lunch, a shower and a nap. When I take off my Sprinkles outfit, I’m as wet as if I’d just emerged from a long swim in the ocean.

5:45 p.m. – Anna and I are both excited to get back into our mascot outfits despite the heat. We station ourselves near BB&T Ballpark’s entrance and wait for the Knights fans to arrive.

6:00 p.m. – I can’t see anything below my chin, which leads to my worst mistake of the day: knocking a little girl over with my humungous costume. She starts crying and I feel awful.

6:45 p.m. – We head out onto the field for the Royal Race. I trip and almost fall on my way up the stairs. It’s clear Homer the Dragon is much more experienced than I am.

8:45 p.m. – I’ve given about a million and three high-fives, but I’m loving it. Some kids are terrified of me, but most light up when they come over to greet me. The little girl I knocked over earlier runs over to give me a hug. I’m forgiven.

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All in all, I had a stellar day as Sprinkles. My expectations that it would be hot and tiring turned out to be accurate, but they were inconsequential compared to how much fun I had.

So, what did I learn? DIFTS works. And a donut doesn’t hurt, either.

Photos: Jessica Capwell

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