It was 10 years ago this week that mild-mannered Gene Green suffered a gut-wrenching mutation after inhaling a cloud of automobile exhaust.
He emerged from the experience with “super powers” that transformed him into OxyGene: the “Defender of Truth, Justice and Really Clean Air,” as those at Community Transit tell the story.
For most people, exhaust would have the opposite effect, OxyGene said.
“Usually it kills ‘em, but me, no. Heck no,” he said in his characteristic booming, announcer-style voice.
For the past decade OxyGene has served as Community Transit’s mascot, traveling Snohomish County to promote riding the bus as a cleaner-air alternative to commuting by riding alone in a car.
During the summer, OxyGene hits parades, fairs and festivals. He figures he makes 40 to 50 appearances a year.
During the academic year, he and Community Transit education coordinator Steve Peters — described by the agency as OxyGene’s “close associate” — take turns visiting schools as part of CT’s Student Transit Education Program, or STEP.
“I talk to the kids about transportation,” said Peters, whose relationship to OxyGene is like that of Clark Kent to Superman. “We bring a bus out to the schools and take kids for a ride.”
OxyGene said his mission is to have fun with talking transit. He drops into his deep, baritone voice as a tongue-in-cheek, humorous starting point for any conversation.
Though people occasionally give him a bad time — he once had hot chocolate thrown at him — the reaction is mostly positive.
“I’ve never not looked forward to it,” OxyGene said. “It’s a great way to get into the community, to bring a good light to CT, especially with the kids, but adults love it, too.
“If you put a smile on people’s faces, it gives them a positive energy about CT, and that’s what we’re trying to do.”
Bill Sheets: 425-339-3439; firstname.lastname@example.org.
Time to party
OxyGene’s 10th birthday party is planned for 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday outside McDonald’s at 176th Street SW and Highway 99 in Lynnwood.
The event is co-sponsored by Christmas House, which distributes gifts to low-income children, and by WARM 106.9 FM. All guests are invited to wear Halloween costumes and to bring a new, unwrapped present for Christmas House. WARM 106.9 FM will broadcast live from the event from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. For more information, go to www.commtrans.org.