Thursday, October 20, 2016

"I'm Oxy Gene. And I Am the Defender of Truth, Justice and Really Clean Air."

The year was 1999 and Community Transit needed a hero. Not just any hero. A clean air-avenging superhero who would inspire the citizens of Snohomish County to fight pollution, one bus at a time. In flew Oxy Gene to the rescue, with a big purple cape and an even bigger smile.

Oxy Gene made his debut at the grand opening of the Ash Way Park & Ride. A bus wrapped with Oxy Gene's image on the side was covered with a tarp for a dramatic unveiling to various dignitaries. And what an impression he made! Oxy's first superhero costume didn't have the recognizable physique we've come to expect (those strapping muscles were modeled after Arnold Schwarzenegger and came a few years later), but the energy and enthusiasm behind his "Hello, good people!" greeting was there from the start. "I got the inspiration for my signature greeting from the 1975 Robert Redford movie, The Great Waldo Pepper, where Redford pulls up in an airplane, raises his goggles and says that line. It was perfectly delivered. I wanted to bring that fun, theatrical persona to my work as Oxy Gene."

Oxy Gene replaced Community Transit's "Rabbit" rapid transit mascot from the mid-1980s through the late 1990s. We realized we needed more than just a mascot to address the serious problem of pollution. We needed a superhero. "Oxy Gene is rare because I'm one of the only mascots that talks. I get to spread the word to kids of all ages on how taking transit really makes a difference in keeping our air clean. This works especially well at parades because we bring a bus with us. In the staging area, people can see the bus up close and ask questions. If the character didn't speak, the experience wouldn't be nearly as fun for them."

Did you know originally Oxy Gene was going to have an alter-ego? When we were brainstorming names for a new mascot, the name Oxy Gene was a play on the words oxygen and clean air. Originally Oxy Gene was going to have an alter-ego called Gene Green. Kind of like a mild-mannered Clark Kent type before he turns into Superman. Luckily it was decided the Oxy Gene name should stand alone. Because really, in the end it's all about that cape, those muscles, and pulverizing pollution with humor and heart.

Look for Oxy Gene spreading his mission to defend truth, justice and really clean air at parades and festivals throughout Snohomish County. And the next time you take a bus, you can feel good about being a clean air-avenger, like Oxy Gene. As he says, "There is only one thing that all of us share... it nourishes, it refreshes, please love it... IT'S AIR!"

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