The payphone was ringing. I picked up.
“Hello?” I said.
“Yes,” a muffled voice on the other end said. “Do you like fun?”
There was a muffled sound on the other end of the line. Like chanting. “I said, do you like fun?”
“Fun with a period or fun without?” I asked, trying to inject some levity into the conversation. “Fun dot?”
“What?” the voice said. “No, fun. Like, spontaneous fun.”
“Oh boy,” I said. “Is this a viral beer marketing thing?”
I began to be excited. I had, just a few days prior, thought seriously about submitting a video audition for Bud Light’s “Whatever, USA.” Maybe that had showed up in my metadata. I was quite confident in my answers to all the questions. (“What are the three clothing items can’t you live without and why? “Two shoes and I guess a dress if I only get one other thing.” What one dance move describes you best and why? “The fainting goat.” If you were a DJ in Whatever USA, what would be your DJ name and why? “DJ Turnitup because think of the ensuing confusion and mayhem.”)
Sure, on the surface, this call seemed a little sketchy. But I knew from the commercials I had watched that right now, you can receive a mysterious call on a payphone and follow a stranger into a basement for a very special evening — and it will turn out to be a Spontaneous, Disruptive campaign for Heineken. Actually.
I know that one of the biggest problems of growing up today is that everyone is far, far too paranoid about stranger danger. Well, beer companies are out to set that to rights. It’s become something of a calling.
Formerly, you could feel pretty secure that if someone came up to you, handed you a drink, and said, “Come with me into this strange vehicle,” you should probably not go. But now you will be left wondering if this was actually a viral beer adventure and you might have missed the time of your life. You say creepy? I say “spontaneous.” Basically, the sketchier it sounds, the more likely that someone in marketing thought it was a strong concept.
At first, I thought this creepy seizing of people off the streets might be limited to “Cash Cab” and Bud Light, which seems hell-bent on getting everyone to have a Spontaneous Good Time In A Florescent-Lit Basement after a ride in a mysterious car. But now it’s spreading to other beers.
I’m not against spontaneous fun, as long as you notify me well in advance. I am down for what, like the proverbial tern.
I worried, though, as I stood holding the payphone, that these stunts might be getting out of hand. Try as I might, I could see no cameras.
The voice on the phone called me back to reality. “There’s a van coming,” the voice said. “Get into the van, and we’ll have some spontaneous fun.”
I got into the van, when it came. There were way fewer models and DJs in the back with me and several more live rats than I had expected, but it was pretty exciting. “Is this 1984-themed?” I asked, inching away from one of them. “Bold choice.”
We drove for a while and emerged in a large field. In the middle of the field was a wicker sculpture shaped like a man.
“Inside,” the driver said. The driver was masked, I assume to make the whole thing more fun and spontaneous. A group of what I assume were models (they were all heavily robed and veiled) gathered around him, chanting.
“I can’t wait to see where this is going,” I said, climbing into the wicker sculpture.
At this point five police cars pulled up. “Whoa!” I said. “You coordinated this well!”
“FREEZE!” shouted several officers, climbing out. They arrested the driver and his robed cohorts and took them away, then came over to see if I was all right. I assured them that I was.
“That was a great twist,” I added. “Where to next? And when does the beer come? Who’s sponsoring this?”
They ignored me on the drive back to the station, where they put a blanket over my shoulders and offered me a Bud Light Lime-a-Rita.
“Some things are worse than a Bud Light Lime-A-Rita,” the officer who handed it to me murmured, quietly. “This was one.”
In conclusion, I am fairly sure this was a viral marketing thing, but I am not positive. It is so hard to know, these days.
The original case of Hey I Won A Sweepstakes To Go To A Magical Imaginative Place Sponsored By A Large Company was “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” and we all know what happened to them.