I Can’t Stop Thinking About This In-N-Out Burger Found On the Sidewalk in Jamaica, Queens
At approximately 6:30am on Saturday morning, Bushwick resident Lincoln Boehm found an In-N-Out burger—a Double-Double with onions, to be precise—laying on the ground one block away from the Jamaica, Queens LIRR station.
In the battle of the culinary coasts, New York City remains the undisputed champ in several all-important fat-plus-carbs categories, including pizza, bagels, and (now-defunct) 500-seat Guy Fieri-themed mega-restaurants. But one factor has always kept the West Coast one step ahead:
We don’t have an In-N-Out.
In fact, the nearest In-N-Out burger is 1,533 miles away, tucked snugly inside an outdoor shopping mall in the Dallas suburb of Allen, Texas; with 343 more locations stretching west to the coast of California.
So how, pray tell, did this absolutely pristine specimen of 2:2 cheese:beef perfection end up unbitten, untouched, and un-unwrapped on a Queens sidewalk? With nary tomato seed out of place? In a near-record-setting heat wave, no less? With the help of the burger-finder, Lincoln, and our fellow conspiracy theorist/one-time West Coast resident Sara Shelton, I set out to find an answer.
The DFW Theory
As Occam’s Razor would have us believe, the simplest solution is usually the right one, ergo: somebody bought the burger at an In-N-Out, flew it across the country, and, through a cruel twist of fate, dropped it on the ground shortly after arriving in New York. But could it be that simple?
The burger was found at 6:30am in excellent condition, suggesting it appeared there that very morning. This means any flight the OBO (Original Burger Owner) took was likely a red-eye arriving into JFK Airport—a 30-minute AirTrain ride from Jamaica Station, where the burger was found. According to Google Flights, there is a flight from Dallas-Fort Worth Airport, (assuming, hypothetically, the Double-Double came from the closest Allen, TX location), that arrives into JFK at 5:45am. But it’s a 10-hour, 20-minute flight with a layover in LAX, at which point the burger’s safe-to-eat status would be essentially zero, let alone the structural and flavor degradation that would inevitably occur. A serious In-N-Out fan like our OBO, one who was willing to risk the olfactory and social shame of bringing a double cheeseburger as their carry-on on a cross-country red-eye would know this.
Our OBO would not have taken this flight.
But what about…
The LAX Theory
As Sara, a commercial film director who spends plenty of time taking LA-NY red-eyes, quickly pointed out—there are several nonstop flights that arrive into JFK at a time reasonably close to when the burger was discovered. According to Google Flights, there are, in fact, four:
- JetBlue Flight 1224 (landing at 4:59am)
- Alaska Airlines Flight 420 (landing at 5:45am)
- Delta Flight 1162 (landing at 6:00am)
- American Airlines Flight 10 (landing at 6:22am)
Each of these flights clock in at around 5.5 hours of flight time, making the post-flight edibility of the burger questionable, but probably not deadly. The problem, however, lies in the JFK-to-Jamaica timeline.
Taking into account taxiing to the gate, deplaning a large airplane (likely a Boeing 757 or an Airbus A320), getting the hell out of JFK and catching the AirTrain exactly on time for the 30-minute ride to Jamaica where you then proceed drop your Double-Double prior to 6:30am—the timelines associated with three of these flights are just physically impossible. Even if you were sitting First Class and walked directly off the plane. And if you think I’m suggesting that a Double-Double with onions deserves a First Class seat, you’re absolutely right.
Which leaves us with a single flight still in consideration: JetBlue Flight 1224. The airline’s signature blue Terra chips would certainly help keep the burger craving at bay. But there’s another problem.
“I’ve traveled with an In-N-Out burger before,” Lincoln said via our group chat that hadn’t seen this much action since the season premiere of Are You the One? “And the bun is always soaking wet by the time I land in NYC. The sauce always seeps into the bun and it turns the burger into a mess.”
“This one is pristine.”
It’s true. Another photograph, taken by Lincoln’s partner, Dara, shows another angle but a no-less TV commercial quality:
The bun is fluffy. The onion, crisp. The wrapper, un-torn. And above all, look at that positioning. Wrapper down, burger up, at a precise angle so as to allow for prime display of both the burger and the branding.
Forget about the fact that it seems hardly realistic that someone would have the self-control to make it the 7–8 total hours from a Los Angeles In-N-Out to a few blocks away from their home in Jamaica, Queens, only to break down at very last minute, attempting to eat the burger in the middle of the sidewalk, and then, as Sara put it, “drop it in the most delicious position possible and then just…leave it?”
Look back at the original photo. This burger doesn’t seem dropped there. It seems placed there. Which brings us to…
The Viral Marketing Theory
Every few years, as sure as there will be a rumor about The L Train actually shutting down for real this time, something will pop up in the form of a Facebook Event invite or a cruel April Fools’ joke and the whispers will begin again:
“In-N-Out is coming to New York.”
But what, and I can’t stress this enough, if it was actually true this time?
In-N-Out doesn’t just pride itself just on quality ingredients, but a quality experience. Show up to an In-N-Out anywhere, at any time of the day, and the people behind the counter just seem…nice. Like they’re genuinely happy to be there. The taste-to-price ratio is incredibly high. And sure, there’s the probably-true rumor about them sneaking Bible verses onto the bottom of their milkshakes. But overall, In-N-Out just feels like one of the good guys.
So what would be more late-stage capitalism-slash-2019 than one of the last decent corporations in America falling into the grease-drenched grasp of the worst corporate trick in America: viral marketing?
Picture this: You’re a mid-level employee working for an advertising agency that’s been hired to announce that In-N-Out is finally coming to NYC. And after multiple all-nighters fueled entirely by the adrenaline from your near-constant panic attacks, you finally have the big meeting with your creative director in which you present a 124-page deck of ideas. Inspiring ideas. Romantic ideas. Ideas worthy of the quality American corporation that is In-N-Out. And your creative director, in all his (and yes, he’s a definitely “he,” because wait for it), creative director-y glory, says:
“These are all fucking garbage. You might as well just throw a fucking burger on the floor.”
And in that moment, you realize, this guy’s an asshole. But you also realize, fuck, he’s right.
The Viral Marketing Theory posits that the Jamaica, Queens Double-Double was actually placed there “in the most delicious position possible” by the In-N-Out corporation, or a company hired to represent it, in an attempt to gain the attention of social media and New York City’s all-powerful influencers, in order to generate this very type of story you’re reading at this very moment.
And if you need any more proof, consider this.
The “X” marks the approximate location at which Lincoln Boehm discovered the sidewalked Double-Double. And what was he doing in that very moment? Traveling from the Jamaica Air Train Station (bottom circle)…to the location in the top circle.
He was on his way to a McDonald’s.
But why Jamaica, Queens? While it is a bustling neighborhood with its fair share of competitive fast food options and a population density of more than 35,000 people per square mile…you can’t help but think, why not Midtown Manhattan? Why not Williamsburg? Why not a neighborhood that would deliver more viral views and clicks than a neighborhood most recently famous for a morbidly obese rabbit being rescued by the NYPD?
The marketing strategy checks out. But the location does not.
The Private Plane Theory
Lincoln’s current personal theory is that the burger was stewarded from the West Coast to NYC via a private plane. This would certainly explain the off-hours arrival. But why would a person, one with the financial wherewithal to fly on a private jet, then inexplicably decide to take public transportation into the city?
More realistically, this theory posits that the OBO took their chauffeured car through Queens, only to toss their Double-Double out of the window like some eccentric billionaire in an 80s movie. As much as I dearly cherish this mental image, it’s simply too far-fetched to be true.
The Bar/Bat Mitzvah Theory
Another theory circulating, courtesy of Texas resident Kate Leverton, is that the Double-Double is not the work of an eccentric billionaire, but rather, their 13-year-old son or daughter. In the Instagram era, Bar/Bat Mitzvahs have become the stuff of legends, with artists like Drake and Niki Minaj accepting seven-figure paychecks to perform alongside acne-speckled middle schoolers dancing the Horah. So why not the ultimate flex in the form of catered In-N-Out?
But remember, the burger was discovered at 6:29am Saturday morning. Most Saturday synagogue services begin around 9:00am, but the Bar/Bat Mitzvah receptions themselves — especially the ultra-wealthy ones intent on rivaling Diddy’s White Parties — typically don’t get started well into Saturday evening. And anyone who’s encountered a Jewish mother knows that eating meat that’s been sitting out for more than seven minutes is grounds for immediate hospitalization. The Double-Double arrived just too early for this theory to work. Not to mention it’s far from Kosher.
Which leads us to our final, and single most plausible theory…
The Simulation Theory
We’re living in a simulation, and the burger was a glitch.
That’s it. That’s the theory.
Sure, it seems ridiculous. But is it more ridiculous than someone taking an overnight flight only to fail their own personal Marshmallow Test with one second left on the shot clock? Or a multi-million-dollar marketing campaign landing its sights solely on Queens?
And in this world, at this moment in time, The Simulation Theory seems oddly…comforting. In-N-Out may not be coming to New York City, again. But maybe all of this madness has a deeper meaning. Maybe we’re getting closer to that meaning being revealed.
And maybe, just maybe…it will come with even more delicious cheeseburgers than we ever could have imagined.