Daily Breeze, May 28, 2004

SUPERSIZE

ME

Our adventurer gets into one giant cup of trouble

 BY COREY LEVITAN

 

      I’m dressed as a giant cup, and I’m being interrogated by two squad cars full of police that just screeched to a halt in front of me.

      But then, who hasn’t been in this situation?

      A couple weeks ago my colleagues reported a 7-foot cup advertising a new Quizno’s sub shop in Redondo Beach. It was skipping and dancing in traffic at the corner of Torrance Blvd. and the Pacific Coast Highway. They wanted to run it down. They thought of me.

      The cup was occupied by Matt Irvine, I discover. The 24-year-old Torrance native co-owns the store with his dad and stepmom.

      "I figure the only way my business is gonna grow any is if I do some strong marketing," says Irvine, who originally hired someone else to fill the cup when he opened.

      "He couldn't take it," Irvine says. "I had one of those digital pointing thermometers and it was 120 degrees in that thing."

      Quizno’s is the corporate restaurant chain whose existence owes to the fact that Subway forgot to ask customers if they want their sandwich toasted. Irvine opened a store following the lead of a buddy in Lomita.

      "The next thing you know, I was out in Denver attending their training," he says.

      He bought the costume for $1,600 from the corporate office.

      "And it's worth every penny," Irvine says. "I'm hoping to get another one in a couple of months because they really work." Irvine says much of his store's daily business is brought in through the cup.

       Inside the cup it's like a balloon. A small fan Irvine has strapped to my waste pumps air in through a tube, but there’s no place for old air to escape. It is completely sealed up to stay puffy.

      "I was in here for an hour and a half once," Irvine says. "I blacked out for a second.

      "But that's OK. It's all fun and games."

      I’m wondering why a cup. Wouldn’t a sandwich make more sense? A nice nonpuffy sandwich?

      "I think this was the only costume they had," Irvine says.

       A sandwich could walk up to people and say "eat me," like in that episode of "Sex and the City." "Drink me" just doesn't pack the same oomph.

      Irvine shrugs. "You could ask girls to take a drink from your loving cup," he suggests.

      The cup inflates and slowly I begin to resemble Master Shake from the adult-themed Cartoon Network hit, "Aqua Teen Hunger Force."

      I peer out through my only visual feld, a tiny plastic rectangle. Navigating through it will be like piloting a plane with a pair of binoculars. You miss a lot of peripheral stuff.

      I can see the headline: Giant cup run down, couldn’t see car coming.

      I ask Irvine for my motivation.

      "You're funny and energetic," he says. "Whatever you do, it doesn't matter."

      Remember this quote for later on.

      For 15 minutes I dance around, handing out coupons for $2 off, high-fiving drivers.

      I know the photos will be funny, but there isn't much to write about. I try hitch-hiking, getting on a bus. I really need to think these adventures through better.

      A plan dawns on me. I begin walking away from Quizno's toward my secret destination. Irvine tags along.

      "Ah good," he says, "we can market up and down the street. You're thinking."

      As we walk, cars honk and drivers insult.

      "You nut!" screams a guy in a red Chevy blazer.

      The walk is further than I calculate, and the in-cup mercury soars toward that intolerable 120 mark. I am breathing in my own hot carbon dioxide fumes like the crew on Apollo 13. And the fan is burning a hole in my hip.

      Naturally, I have to go to the bathroom, too. I wonder if I'll make it back to Quizno's in time. I've peed in a cup before, but never like this.

      My destination looms in my fogged-over rectangle, a Valhalla golden and sweeping. The arches.

      I'm a giant fast-food cup. My motivation, of course, is to fill myself up in a soda fountain.

       When I try entering McDonald’s, though, my path is blocked. The store manager and three of his employees make like former Alabama governor George Wallace and barricade the door.

      "You can't come in here," the manager says. His customers crack up.

      "How would you like it if I came to your store and did this?" he asks.

      Apparently, the smiley face on my cup does not work on everyone.

      "Ah, come on," I plead. "I heard you had free refills."

      "Get off my property!" he responds. "Or I'll call the cops!"

      "The cups?" I reply. "Here I am!"

      This is where I misjudge the situation. I'm thinking the ridiculous thought, "No way is this guy gonna call the police."

      Two blocks into our walk back north on Pacific Coast Highway, five of Redondo Beach’s finest pull up and surround me.

      "We have a report of an incident at McDonald’s," one says.

      I offer up my straw for cuffing.

      "Take me in, officers," I say. I'll bet they never took a LITERAL mug shot before.

      Irvine explains our rather unique situation, apologizing profusely. The officers quickly realize this is not their typical gang-related bust. One plants a fake punch on my smiley face.

      We get off with a warning. I suspect that’s only because there's no way I would have fit in the back of a squad car.

      As we walk away, Irvine reconsiders what a great marketing opportunity this column was.

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