Sweet ride

A yellow Volkswagen Beetle with a giant Peep on its roof? Resistance is futile.

By Ruth E. Kott, AM’07

Driving past the University's Lab Schools: not a huge deal. Driving past the Lab Schools in a yellow Volkswagen Beetle with a giant, yellow Peep on its roof: mayhem breaks loose.

Called the Peepster, this attention-seeking vehicle is currently on a national tour, which started in New York City at the end of March and ends in Washington, DC, in mid-April. The car, says the tour's "chief engineer," Paul Gustafson, "is 100 percent guaranteed to make people smile." On April 4 Gustafson offered to take two Magazine staffers down to campus—the first university-campus stop he's made—to spread the smiles on an otherwise dreary day. And, of course, to help us advertise the deadline extension for the Magazine's UChicago Peeps Diorama Contest. (Come on, peeple, we're giving you more time. Dioramas aren't due until midnight, Sunday, April 10. Take advantage!)

During the drive down Lake Shore, Gustafson shared stories from the tour, like the tweet from Rumor Willis about her Peepster sighting and the school principals who wanted to take a photo with the "hot chick." Once we got to campus, we thought we'd be prepared for the people storming the car looking for photos and free marshmallow candies.

Unless those people were children. As soon as the Peepster came into view of the Lab Schools, children in tidy blue uniforms jumped up from their stretching and started waving their arms. Kids on the playground sprinted up to the gates and grabbed onto the bars. "Can we have some Peeps?" they shouted, before running out and crowding around us—Gustafson had given us packages of chocolate-dipped Peeps to hand out, essentially feeding us to the wolves.

The U of C students and staff were a bit slower to win over. Hesitant at first to approach the truck, the passersby usually responded to a simple call-out: "Do you want some Peeps?" (But not always: a group of faculty somehow ignored the sugary siren call.)

Third-year Megan St. John was excited enough to take a photo with the car to send to her mother. "I love Peeps," she said. "I eat way too many of them. I actually decided ten minutes ago that I was going to start a diet today, and then I walk out and see this car."

Photos by Joy Olivia Miller. See the complete set of Peepster pix at Flickr.

April 4, 2011