Montgomery Donuts in Bethesda isn't a place you plan to visit. It's more of a place between places, a pit stop between a movie and the last hour of "Saturday Night Live." Or a last resort kind of place. Nothing else to do? Go feed your face. Strangers sit alone at the counter, nursing cream-filled like bourbons on the rocks, stealing sidelong glances but never talking. Lovers sit together at tables against the wall, winding down, priming up.

Set on Old Georgetown Road, between a Firestone Tire dealership and a Dance World studio, Montgomery Donuts is an oasis of Formica where the neon sun never sets. A place where you can buy some time and still get change back from your dollar. Dunk, chew, swallow the night away.

Butts in mounds of ash in crinkled foil trays. Nuts, crumbs, drifts of sugar. A Bunn automatic coffee dripper enshrined on an island. Rows and rows of colorful calories. All within a cool cloud of light white noise: the rush of conditioned air, the gurgling of purple and yellow liquids in a cooler, the occasional avalanche from the ice maker, the squeek, sush, tinkle of the opening door, the computer bleep of the cash register. And passing through, the bit players of a Bethesda night.

A fat man with jelly jowls orders three jelly donuts; a woman with spiked hair and three shades of color on her eyelids orders "two of those pretty black and white one." An old woman with a gray bun of hair and a blue overcoat pumps quarter after quarter in Ms. Pac Man.

The father and daughter, buying a dozen for a sleepover party. The father and son, both with grass stains on ther knees. The bald man whose head reflects the fluorescents.

Chocolate and powder and cake and coconut. Glazed and spinkled and toasted and twisted. Decision, decisions.

"Whatdaya want?" the guy asks the girl.

"I don't know. Whatdaya want?"

"I don't really want any," he says.

"Well, I only want half. My diet, you know."

"So why did we come here anyway?"

"Because there wasn't anything else to do."

Two beats of silence.

"So whatdaya want?" he asks.