Before the beginning of Fall 2018, UCI had little cultural prevalence in the university world, reflecting its arguably nonexistent college subculture and spirit. Last year’s fall quarter kicked off with memes that had “$2 boba” punchlines, Howard Gilman A.I. theories, and (often) insufferable “zot” puns on the Zotmeme.jpg Facebook page, UCI’s unofficial “premiere meme stream.”
But the bittersweet conclusion of the 2018-2019 academic year, given the sudden cancelation of Shocktoberfest, UCI’s annual fall concert for students, the unexpected original “Petr” face reveal and his simultaneous departure, served as a reminder of just how far UCI culture has come in a matter of just one school year.
From Petr’s humble beginnings to his creator’s unforeseen farewell, Petr has evidently captured the hearts of many UCI students as designated Petr sticker distributions, or “drops,” grew from small Reddit-announced gatherings to great competitive assemblages announced via Instagram on an account with a following of over 7,000 followers in a period of just a few months. Like all else who eventually took to the skinny-limbed, adorably awkward rendition of UCI mascot Peter the Anteater, Petr’s creator “didn’t expect [him] to hit this hard.”
The typical Petr drop went as follows: days before the event, the creator notified his followers of the latest drop time via Instagram story, leaving the location a mystery; as the drop time approached, students waited eagerly on campus, ready to run and hypothesizing which location he could have picked this time; when the clock striked, he would posta picture detailing his location, cueing students to sprint as fast as they could; upon arrival, they would find a figure cloaked in black with Dodger blue mittens, a fanny pack and a bright red beanie appearing before an overwhelmingly long line of students, often covering the distance from UCI’s law school to Social Science Hall; once there, the only thing one could do was hope for the best—that one would just happen to be part of the few hundred lucky ones to claim a sticker.
In a survey observing local opinion on the Petr sticker phenomenon, 62.3% of respondents said they attended at least one drop. However, interestingly, slightly more respondents (66.7%) strongly agreed with the statement that the creation of Petr positively impacted UCI culture, with 99.1% of the survey takers being UCI students. In total, 89.5% of those that participated in the survey held a positive impression of Petr, with only 5.3% slightly or strongly disagreeing with Petr being a positive impact on UCI culture. A comment on his farewell post on Instagram by user @fourmilier_de_bay may have best reflected the appreciation of the almost 90% of individuals who participated in the poll: “Thank you so much for making these. I feel like you’ve done more than anything else on campus to give UCI culture.”
Aside from making students happy and fostering school spirit in those who, like myself, are highly predisposed to not having any, Petr also inspired other students to create their own renditions of the beloved bipedal anteater.
Inspired by the original @petr_the_anteatr, @petr_the_planteater—previously known as @petr_the_asseatr—presented more comical Petr designs, often integrating the original Petr template with references to pop culture. Planteater—as students call him—tended to distribute designs that embody UCI humor, as seen through his Piano Thief Petr, a reference to the UCI’s multiple cases of piano theft last year. In addition to Piano Thief Petr, arguably his most popular sticker, Planteater also created the beloved Holo Petr, which is the original Petr design with a holographic outline. Planteater even had a Holo Petr Petr, or Holo Meta Petr, which is a Petr dressed as the original Petr creator printed on holographic material.
Planteater did things a little differently than the original Petr though. For one, his drops were much more physically demanding on his part. Rather than handing out stickers to a long line of excited yet patient students, Planteater often sprinted across campus dropping individual stickers in obscure areas on campus, posting a picture of each sticker dropped for the convenience of followers trying to claim it. Though he did dabble in doing traditional drops, he much rather prefered the cardio, despite how exhausting it could be.
Unlike the original Petr, much of Planteater’s sticker designs were not his own. Rather, they were designs students submitted to competitions held during the beginning of the year. The top designs were printed for drops and then distributed. Nonetheless, in addition to this, Planteater also printed out designs of his own. One of his rarest stickers, Black Hole Petr—a reference to the first picture ever taken of a black hole produced this year—only held by a handful of individuals, was actually his own design.
Other notable original Petr creations by inspired original Petr fans, were those created by @petr_the_mad_hatter—who created hats, and recently announced they are planning to release more hats and stickers—and @petr_the_woodeatr—who created wooden versions of the classing Petr design.
Since the exponential rise of Petr’s popularity, the question remained: just how enduring could this tradition be? As frequent as drops became, that by no means was evidence that printing these stickers was cheap. In an exclusive interview with Planteater, he revealed that a box of a hundred stickers could cost about a couple hundred dollars.
Nevertheless, Petr creators were willing to pay the price. “I’ve made so many memories here and so I wanted to give UCI something to remember me by,” original Petr told the New University. “I don’t really hope to achieve anything besides making people happy and embedding Petr into UCI culture.” Along these lines, Planteater talked about his motivation for being a Petr distributor in the same vein—he wanted “to reach more people” and instill UCI pride in students who may not necessarily be predisposed to possessing and expressing school spirit.
Upon original Petr’s—now revealed to be Qasim’s—surprise farewell, several UCI students took to social media to not only show him how heartbroken they were to hear him leave but also, more importantly, to express their gratitude for him and all his hard work, and to wish him luck as he enters the next chapter of life. Such as the following comments found on Qasim’s reveal post:
The Petr reveal and farewell post by no means marked the end of Petr. Qasim’s contribution to UCI culture will be difficult to forget. The number of diverse Petr creators he inspired is far from fixed—it’s just beginning to grow. Surely, his stickers will remain inseparable from students’ water bottles and laptops, just as he is from the history of UCI and from our hearts.
Kaitlin Aquino is a second-year English major. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.