Hakuna Matata II; The ‘Other’ Cycle Of Life

by Eric Samuels

In the spring of 2001, I moved into a wonderful, tree-lined neighbourhood in Toronto. Given its central location, it was a remarkably quiet street – at least until that July night when the serene silence was shattered by a series of startling noises emanating from the back of the house.

Awakened from a deep slumber, my brain in a state of foggy semi-consciousness, instinct kicked in; I experienced a deep sense of territorial imperative – I must protect the cave!

So, I armed myself with the nearest weapon at hand, a mid-wedge from my golf bag (club selection is key, both on and off the course), threw on a robe & slippers and gallantly (to be honest, it was closer to gingerly) made my way out the back patio doors.

Out of the corner of my eye, I caught an immediate glimpse of the brazen masked perpetrators. Simultaneously, what appeared to have been the gang leader, stared right back at me with a fixed gaze that was both fearless and defiant. At that very moment, we were both confronted by that most primordial of decisions; fight or flight.

There were 3 of them for certain; although, I will admit to having retold the story so as to suggest there were at least 6 or 7. Regardless of actual numbers, the inertia was broken by their leader, who suddenly backed off and strolled down the driveway, without breaking eye contact. The others quickly and silently followed suit. They chose to live and fight another day!

I don’t know what it was that caused them to leave that night, but I’ve thought about it often. It might have been my sudden, unexpected appearance; draped in a red lumberjack patterned robe, rug-beaten slippers, recently re-gripped wedge at the ready. Whatever their motivation, I had successfully protected my turf without a single drop of bloodshed.

What was shed, were my garbage can’s contents, strewn over the driveway like a grand trash buffet. This despite my having firmly fastened the locking handles on the lid. But as you probably know, raccoons are smart that way. The next week, I added a complex series of bungee cords to the works. They were now impenetrable as Fort Knox! Remarkably, the masked marauders managed to overcome my extended security measures. I guess our garbage was just that good. Or perhaps it was the challenge alone, that enticed this relentless gang.

Then it happened. That same week, I noticed a series of posted signs on the wooden telephone poles on my street: “Racoon Problem? Call XXX-XXXX for humane removal”

That’s the thing about advertising. You don’t notice all of the refrigerator ads until your Whirpool breaks down and you find yourself in the market for a new fridge. Then, it seems like coincidentally perfect timing that so many stores seem to be having a sale on refrigerators, just when you need one!

But coming from a marketing background, I knew better, and must admit that another thought soon crept into my mind. Could the sudden and timely appearance of the solution to my problem be more than simply cognitive reframing?

Specifically, what if the racoons that suddenly appeared, wreaking havoc as if in a Disney episode, were actually domesticated by the same people who posted the signs offering to remove the pesky masked mammals (for a fee, of course); only to then gather up their trained critters and move on to the next neighbourhood mark! Seem a tad too conspiratorial? Well, you may want to sideline your scepticism for just a second, ‘cause here’s the thing…..

That same week I learned an interesting tidbit from a friend in law enforcement. In Ontario, as in several other Provinces and States, the use of radar detectors in vehicles, is illegal. Get caught with one and you’ll not only receive a hefty fine, but the device will be confiscated.

Which begs the question, how could police officers know you’re using a radar detector in the first place? I’ve heard lots of theories, including my favourite – if they see your brake lights go on when they engage their speed gun, they know you’re packing hardware.

As is usually the case, the actual method is much simpler. Police cruisers were equipped with radar detector-detectors. These devices were designed with the specific intent of identifying radar detectors in moving vehicles. Now we get to the interesting part of the story.

One of the largest radar detector manufacturers in the world is located in Ontario – a province in which the use of the devices is illegal. Ironic, huh? Well, there’s more. The same company also produced radar detector-detectors for the police, specifically designed to detect their own brand of detectors! Now if this is beginning to give you a headache, you might want to take a Tylenol, because there’s more.

The radar detector companies continued a cycle of releasing radar detectors billed as being immune to current radar detector-detecting technology. They would then develop the next generation of detector-detectors to sell to law enforcement, so as to bust the next generation of their own detector-detector proof detectors! Technically, we have now been down the road of counter-technology to the extent that the current generation is cited as a radar-detector-detector-detector-detector-detectors. And I’m not kidding!

So, we have an organization creating both a problem and the proprietary solution. How’s that for a business model? Part of me wants to stand up and applaud, although I must admit that another part of me would like to visit the lushly manicured lawns of their head office, with a family of raccoons.

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