“Wubba Lubba Dub Dub.”
Ashland University students Cait Davis and Cole Rucker on Saturday each repeated the catchphrase from the cartoon series Rick and Morty and plunged chicken tenders into what they drove to Akron for — Szechuan sauce.
Scores of Rick and Morty fans stood helpless outside the glass walls of the McDonald’s on East Exchange Street watching. Many refused to believe they would not get to taste the rare sweet and spicy nectar even though a manager repeatedly told them they had sold out.
If nothing in this story makes sense so far, you’re probably older than 35. Your generation gap is showing.
The Cartoon Network series Rick and Morty is now the No. 1 TV comedy among millennials.
Fans describe it as a smart, psychedelic, sci-fi comedy that follows mad scientist Rick Sanchez and his grandson Morty as they tackle everything from social issues to time travel.
Dan Harmon, a co-creator of the show, infused the character Rick Sanchez with his own longing for a limited-edition Szechuan dipping sauce that McDonald’s offered in 1998 to promote the Disney movie Mulan.
Rick Sanchez’s hankering made fans of the show hungry for the sauce, too. McDonald’s obliged in a promotion Saturday, offering dipping-size containers of the Szechuan sauce at many of its restaurants across the country.
In Northeast Ohio, only the East Exchange Street McDonald’s and another store in Youngstown had the sauces. In Akron, the line for the 2 p.m. release of the sauce started forming at 9 a.m. with Mike Bradfordt, 32, of Cleveland.
By 10:30 a.m., Dominic Camelli, 21, of Northfield, Lance Hale, 26, of Kent, and George Elbel, 37, of Solon had joined him.
All planned to take their sauce home with them. Hale even brought a soft-sided carrier to protect the treasure.
“My wife thinks this is ridiculous,” Elbel said. “But my 13-year-old son is a fan of the show, and he said, ‘You have to get me sauce.’?”
Elbel said he stopped at the McDonald’s on Friday to see if it had sauce or how the promotion would work on Saturday and employees didn’t know what he was talking about.
An employee confirmed Saturday the sauce came as a surprise. About 20 packets — each about the size of a golf ball, only rectangular — arrived that morning in a soft-sided envelope. A couple were damaged and couldn’t be used, said the employee, who didn’t want to be named.
The store also received a couple dozen post cards commemorating the sauce, along with coupons for free small orders of the new chicken tenders McDonald’s was promoting with the sauce.
When the line for the Szechuan sauce began to snake around the outside of the building Saturday, an employee went outside and warned the crowd the store only had 18 sauce packets, which were safely tucked away in the store’s safe. About 15 people left, but they were replaced by scores more.
By 2 p.m., the crowd had grown to a couple hundred, and a store manager began letting Rick and Morty fans in, five at a time, to each purchase an order of chicken strips and a single Szechuan sauce.
Cleveland resident Sam Burgos, who dressed like mad scientist Rick Sanchez — wearing a blue wig, white lab coat and carrying a portal gun to travel through time — drew hoots and hollers from the crowd. He was too late to land his own Szechuan sauce, but Ashland University students Davis and Rucker, both 20, shared a dip of theirs.
Refusing to break character, Burgos took a bite of the sauce-covered chicken tender, closed his eyes and chewed.
When other Rick and Morty fans asked him how the sauce was, he held up his hands asking for silence, purring as he savored this single Szechuan bite of millennial pop culture history.
Then he swallowed, handed his portal gun to Rucker as a thank-you keepsake and, without a time travel device, left McDonald’s like everyone else, through a side door into a parking lot where 100 more people had arrived, hoping to score their own Szechuan sauce.
Wubba Lubba Dub Dub.
Amanda Garrett can be reached at 330-996-3725 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Millennials converge on Akron McDonald’s to taste elusive Szechuan sauce
“Wubba Lubba Dub Dub.”