Tuesday, April 8th, 2008
ConocoPhillips Has Mercilessly Murdered Halloween
I was driving through my hometown last week when I spied my daughter’s beloved 76 Ball sitting next to a flatbed truck. I called home, and 5 minutes later my Little Miss jumped in the car.
She was jazzed to pose for this photo. I didn’t have the heart to tell her ConocoPhillips was taking her buddy away forever. Goodbye Halloween.
Longtime readers are familiar. Here is a recap for you new kids…
Union 76 is a gas station chain on the West Coast known for its trademark revolving orange ball. The sphere is massive, better than 7-feet-tall, emblazoned with the 76 logo. It rotates endlessly, and at night is lit like a beacon of petrol purity shining through the foggy autumn of our discontent. It is unique. Distinctive. Memorable.
This fully functioning gem of Americana was carted away as if it was a piece of junk.
Oil giant ConocoPhillips bought Union 76 a few years ago and began rebranding the stations in its own image. A war of aggression was waged against 76 Balls across the west, left unchecked, unquestioned by anyone.
Balls were dismantled and replaced with the same boring rectangular signs that all gas stations use. It was corporate peer pressure… self-circumcision for the sake of looking like your oil buddies.
Then one brave soul started Savethe76ball.com, the people found their voice, and mighty ConocoPhillips was brought to its knees. The remaining 76 Balls would be saved, we were told. Hooray! Oh, but not quite.
Last week our healthy and vivacious 76 Ball was replaced with a dinky red one, red being the unique, signature color of ConocoPhillips.
Imagine if the descendants of Marcel Marceau bought McDonald’s and turned Ronald McDonald into a mime. Or if Princess Diana had bought Burger King and demoted him to a prince. Or if Jack-in-the-Box executives blew up the restaurant chain’s beautiful square box. Oh wait, they did that and replaced it with a car antenna topper. My car’s antenna retracts when I turn the radio off. Thanks a lot Outsourced Marketing Team.
Why does all of this matter? Because, 2007 became a bygone era last week. Near Halloween, Union 76 stations everywhere would turn their orange balls into the ginormous personage of “Jack,” a jack-o-lantern created with the help of a mighty vinyl mask. To my almost-4-year-old, jack-o-lanterns and Union 76 are inseparable.
But Jack has been murdered. This October there will be no community jack-o-lantern. Or if there is one, my daughter will know better than to accept a shilled red imposter into her heart.
The new red balls are small, too small to properly fit the majestic mask of yesteryear. I won’t validate them with a photo.
ConocoPhillips has proven itself a vile, soulless corporate ne’er-do-well that has destroyed Halloween for my family and families across the west.
Er, and my pictures.
Oh, and here’s one more thing. See the Bank of America sign in the background of the first photo?
The bank redesigned its logo a few years ago. Does it remind you of, say, an American flag fashioned into a doormat? Hip and trendy, so in-the-now and friendly to people with dirty feet. And yet, it’s no more timeless than those flag magnets everybody doesn’t stick on their cars anymore.
This new logo was, you guessed it, the product of a corporate buyout.
I prefer the old logo featuring interlocking letters that create the silhouette of a bird. Did that bird have a name? I bet it’s dead now, too. Thanks Bank of America.
Oh, okay, one more thing, again. How can I not mention gas prices? Read ‘em and weep. California knocks out even Alaska and Hawaii.
I wish I could build a time machine and travel back to last week to enjoy those low prices. Those were the salad days.
Hoo boy, I’ve had enough mock rage for today. Thank you for letting me purge.