I looked to see what was so captivating. Ah. Of course! The Costco Tire Center was directly behind us. The boy is obsessed with cars and - more fundamentally - wheels. There were stacks and stacks of big, black, shiny tires. The smell of new rubber alone was probably enough to make the boy's head swim.
"Wow, cool!" I said to him. "Look at all those big tires!"
He looked at me, totally confused. Then glanced at the stacks of tires I thought were so intriguing, and then back at me. "There's wheels, Mom" he said, throwing me a bone, and then with all the intensity a two-year-old body can contain, he thrust his pointing finger toward the sign display NEXT to the stacks of tires. The sign featured the Michelin Man saying something quippy about the awesomeness of his tires vs. the competitors.
Wyatt stared hard at the puffy white man in the display, and said, "This is...this is..." Then he looked at me with great concern - and slight dread - and said, "what is this, Mom?"
I explained to him that it was a white, puffy man - kinda like a marshmallow - and that he really liked tires. This explanation only caused more confusion and concern. The Michelin Man is, after all, pretty creepy if you're not used to him.
Bill returned. "Wyatt is a little bit concerned about the Michelin Man," I whispered to him conspiratorially. Bill found the display in question and said, "Aaah" while Wyatt mumbled about marshmallow men around his bite of pizza.
I wanted to explain to him what the Michelin Man was all about so he could set his mind at ease, but I discovered that I had no idea what the Michelin Man was all about!
"What's his deal, anyway?" I demanded of Bill. "Is he made of marshmallows or what? And what does that have to do with tires?" I was imagining some sort of air-bag tie in.
"I think he's meant to be made of tires," Bill said. Where does he get this stuff?
So I decided I'd research the guy. I mean, EVERYONE knows who the Michelin Man is, but does anyone really know him? What was his childhood like? What's his favorite color?
What I discovered surprised me. Like, did you know the guy is French? Well, that explains a lot, don't you think?
And so, for today's Friday Fact, I bring you:
MEET THE MICHELIN MAN!
facts found here.
He has a name. A real name. Meet Bibendum:
He was created for the Michelin Brothers in 1894 by the French artist Marius Rossilon (known by his friends and cooler enemies as O'Galop. That explains a lot too, I think).
Yes, our friend Bibendum is one hundred and sixteen years old. Lookin' good, Bibendum!
Bibendum is also very well traveled. He's a recognized trademark in 150 countries.
His first (and career starting) slogan was: Nunc Est Bibendum!
Translation: Let's Drink!
Well. No wonder he's so popular.
Bibendum didn't always look like the jolly stay-puffed chap we know him as, today. Originally, he was even freakier.
This is Bibendum in his infancy. He is, in fact, made of tires (smarty-pants Bill!), but originally he was made of stacked bicycle tires, not big puffy white ones. He smoked cigars and drank - but that's okay because he had pinc-nez glasses with a lanyard, so he's cool. Also it was the 1800's. And he's considerably less creepy than his competitors, pictured at his right or left. THOSE stacked tire people were obviously left in the sun too long.
The sign says, "C'est à dire: À votre santé. Le pneu Michelin boit l'obstacle."
Translation: That is to say: To your health. The Michelin tyre drinks up obstacles.
And if you look in his glass, you'll see that he means it. Literally.
And here we have proof that he was a ladies man:
(Translation: Michelin Bicycle Tires: The Best, The Least Expensive)
As Bibendum traversed through awkward adolescence and entered his early adult life, Michelin became concerned about his image. Apparently, all that drinking and smoking made the guy FAT. He gave up the cigars and even the pince-nez. In the 1980's, Bibendum was shown running...
...and in 1998 (his 100th anniversary), the slimmed down Bibendum became the company's new logo.
Yes, he's still puffy - but it's all muscle.
The Michelin Man is every tire-lover's hero. He stands for truth, justice, the American way. Even though he's French. And should you find yourself one late night in a dark ally with one of his less-quality competitors, Bibendum will come to your rescue!
That is what Bibendum simply calls: customer service.
Or, I guess, service à la clientèle.