Steve Annear is in pursuit of stories from the region that are so odd or unconventional, you’ll want to bring them up at dinner parties. Have you seen something out there that you’d like answers to? A giant door? Or perhaps a graveyard of rocking horses, a strange stone marker on an island. Let us know by filling out this form. If your suggestion is picked, we’ll check it out for you.
It was a sign of the times: A bit erratic, slightly hard to comprehend, curiously disconnected from what used to be reality. So, pretty relatable.
Maybe that’s why the zany message on a marquee outside of a Dunkin’ Donuts location in Portland, Maine, became the talk of social media this week.
“Uh Oh Spicy!,” the sign read. “Pumpkin! HaHaHaHa. Pumpkin Tasty.”
(Yes, it’s already pumpkin flavoring season.)
Jesenia Santana, who lives near where the message was displayed, took a picture of it on her way to work Monday morning before posting it to Facebook.
“Forest ave dunkin has some weird energy right now,” she wrote.
By Wednesday, the picture had struck a nerve with many online and was shared more than 8,000 times on the social media site.
“I did not expect it to gain so much traction,” Santana said in a message to the Globe. “I’m glad that this photo has brought a lot of laughter to people online since it’s hard to find joy in daily life right now.”
By late in the afternoon Monday, her image had leapt from Facebook onto Reddit and Twitter, where one tweet of the sign was shared more than 36,000 times.
“Dunkin Donuts is out here having a breakdown like the rest of us,” the person who posted Santana’s picture wrote, seeming to pinpoint exactly why it was resonating with so many people.
The sign’s message pinged around so much on the Internet that it eventually caught the attention of some of the company’s higher-ups.
“This just goes to show that even in summer, when it’s 90 degrees outside, nothing creates excitement like the return of pumpkin,” Drayton Martin, Dunkin’s vice president of brand stewardship, said in a statement.
Officials from the Canton-based company even shared the viral tweet about the message Tuesday, writing, “Could Pumpkin save 2020??”
While some people were left scratching their heads, the 18-year-old Dunks employee behind the sign said the inspiration for the meme-worthy display was . . . a meme.
“My boss couldn’t think of anything and he said ‘Put whatever you want up there,‘ ” said Adam Taddia, 18. “I was feeling goofy. I wanted to put something funny up there.”
What he chose was a reference to a meme known as “Uh oh! Stinky,” which is often shared on message boards and online forums.
Zahra Taddia, Adam’s sister, who also works at the Dunkin’ location, said people thought maybe corporate marketing was behind it, in an attempt to be relatable.
“That’s what a teenage boy would do, put an Internet meme on the sign,” she said, clearing up the confusion. “He said, ‘OK, I’ll have at it.‘ ”
Despite its apparent popularity, the sign was removed and replaced with a more subtle message as of Wednesday: “Pumpkin is back!”
Zahra tweeted a picture of her brother taking down the letters Tuesday afternoon, a move that seemed to disappoint the sign’s newfound fan base.
“Probably the worst decision their management team will make for the free marketing to bring in business,” one person wrote.
Even Santana, who took the original picture, lamented the loss.
“RIP forest ave Dunkin sign,” she tweeted, “you were a fleeting treasure.”