For a day, Baltimore's "Mr. Trash Wheel" was more popular than "Star Wars" -- at least according to reddit, the self-proclaimed front page of the Internet.
The team behind the wheel, its builder, Clearwater Mills, and the Healthy Harbor Initiative, launched a Q&A with Mr. Trash Wheel himself on reddit at 1 p.m. Tuesday. "I am Mr. Trash Wheel, the first invention of its kind that has removed 331 tons of garbage from Baltimore's harbor," the AMA -- short for "ask me anything" -- proclaimed.
Within three hours, it shot to the top of reddit -- an indication of its popularity -- with more than 1,000 comments and questions. It surpassed a thread about the latest poster for "Star Wars: The Force Awakens."
That kind of interest was unexpected, said Adam Lindquist, director of the Healthy Harbor Initiative, though it wasn't the first time Mr. Trash Wheel has gotten attention on reddit. The wheel was installed last year between harbor Piers 5 and 6, where the Jones Falls empties into the harbor.
"When we tried to schedule this event with reddit, they told us it wasn't even popular enough to put it on the reddit calendar," he said.
Reddit users peppered Mr. Trash Wheel with questions, and he responded with the same persona behind @MrTrashWheel on Twitter. (What Works Studio, a Baltimore digital marketing agency, was behind the curtain for the AMA, and also voices the Mr. Trash Wheel Twitter account.)
"Ever pull a dead body from the harbor?" user PastelFlamingo150 asked.
"It hasn't happened...yet," Mr. Trash Wheel responded. "I won’t lie to you, it could happen someday. The thought of it gives me nightmares."
The oddest thing the wheel has pulled from the harbor?
"I’d say the weirdest have been a live ball python, a half a gallon of frozen strawberry ice cream, and a beer keg," the wheel responded.
Another user shared a petition to affix "googly eyes" to Mr. Trash Wheel.
But other questions were more serious -- such as whether a goal to make the Inner Harbor swimmable and fishable by 2020 was realistic. Mr. Trash Wheel suggested it might be more realistic if Maryland adopted a bottle deposit law or if the city banned plastic bags or fixed aging sewer pipes.
Lindquist said he hopes the attention to the trash wheel promotes similar efforts in other cities, just as Baltimore was a model for the country in making its waterfront a tourist destination three decades ago.
"I'd like to think we can continue to be a leader in the sense that we could help spread these new technologies for cleaning up urban waterfronts," he said.