Back in 2010, before I suddenly decided that I wanted to become an actor my whole life, I got my dream job: Director of Marketing at Pea Soup Andersen’s. At least I thought it was going to be my dream job, but it quickly turned into a nightmare.
For those who live outside of California, Pea Soup Andersen’s is a roadside institution along the I-5 interstate highway. To get to San Francisco from LA, you have to drive through four straight hours of nothing but the boring, featureless farmland that is the putrid, inbred-laden hell hole known as Central California, but when you reach Santa Nella, you see the familiar windmill rising in the distance and you know you’ve arrived at Pea Soup Andersen’s!
It’s much more than a restaurant, it’s an attraction, really. There’s two dining rooms for no reason, a bar that nobody lives within two hours from, thus practically ensuring intoxicated drivers on the road, and a gift shop that sells Danish food items and tchtchkes. There is also the aforementioned windmill and some fun cut outs that children (and the young at heart) can put their heads through and take a picture!
When I got the job as marketing director, I was so excited! And not just because they had bought my lie that I had sixteen years of ad experience at Kraft Foods! I was poised to take this much beloved destination to the next level! I had met with my boss the week before and she said she was looking for a way to raise awareness of the restaurant to travelers. As soon as I looked up the description of the job that I had just gotten on Wikipedia, I was ready to get started!
I showed up on my first day of work early. The place had only been open for about five or six hours. I strolled around, surveying the grounds, hoping for inspiration to strike me with some great ideas to get people to pull over and help themselves to a delicious bowl of pea soup.
Clearly the product wasn’t the problem. Pea Soup is a delicious treat that everybody loves and there is really nothing that sounds more appealing when you are driving in a boiling hot car under the relentless California sun on a trip that seems to take forever and often takes you past high density cattle feed lots where everything smells like shit.
No, my problem was more complex: how do you raise awareness about a cultural icon that everybody already knows and loves?
Then it occurred to me that just because everybody in California knew about the restaurant, didn’t mean outside travelers would also be so well informed. So the way I saw it, I needed to tell outsiders that there was a restaurant that existed and that this restaurant served pea soup.
I asked myself, “What would Don Draper do in my situation?” I had no idea because I don’t watch Mad Men, but I suppose Tywin Lannister would spend money on a bunch of roadside billboards, but those were probably expensive and only got your attention briefly before you drove on by.
As I walked through the gift shop, perusing the various pieces of crap that nobody could ever actually want, I had a brilliant thought. The answer was right in front of me the whole time!
I would invite my enemies to a wedding and then murder them! I mean Bumper Stickers! Everybody loves bumper stickers on their cars. They are inexpensive and to the point. Plus, we had a ton of them. I grabbed two handfuls and ran to the parking lot, announcing to the startled clerk that I was the new marketing director, lest she think me a burglar.
When I got outside, I attached a sticker to each car I saw. Well I must have been daydreaming about how everybody would thank me and shower me with compliments because I didn’t see the old guy with the cane grab my shoulder.
“What the hell are you doing to my Lincoln, son?”
To my surprise, rather than grateful, he seemed quite agitated. I explained to him that there was no need to worry, I wasn’t going to charge him anything for the sticker, as I would just write it off as a business expense.
“Do you have shit for brains, boy?” he asked. “You can’t just go putting bumper stickers on other peoples’ cars without their permission. Now take that off my damn car and you should probably go and take all of them off of the other cars too before I call the cops.”
I stood up and brushed his hand off me. “Look Pops,” I addressed him in my most condescending and therefore most authoritative tone. “Why don’t you just wander back inside and have some more soup. I’m the marketing director here. You seem to be having a senior moment.”
“Listen here, you little prick. I didn’t lose my leg in France to have some smart aleck young punk sass me and vandalize my car.”
He took me by the lapels of my vest. He was surprisingly strong for someone his age. I dropped my bumper stickers and screamed as loud as I could, just like they had told me in that women’s self defense course I had unknowingly took because I thought the instructor was joking about being a lady.
It worked though. He was so startled, he let me go and I slammed my heel down on his foot, but instead of the crunching of broken bones, I heard only a loud metallic clang.
I had yet to stop screaming and when the old man put his hands over his ears, I saw my opening and punched him straight in the throat with all my might, just like they showed me in class. He let out a raspy exhale, struggling to breathe, and I took off as fast I could and hid in the Taco Bell bathroom next door.
When the police finally found me crying and cowering in a puddle of other peoples’ urine, they explained the old guy was so embarrassed that he let a “sissy” get the drop on him, he refused to press charges and went about his way. Apparently, my mighty blow had failed to cause any lasting damage.
I thanked the officers and waited until nightfall to slink back to my car and drive here to Los Angeles where I have been ever since. I never heard another word from the Pea Soup Andersen’s people and now when I have to go north, I fly.