I ventured off to an ‘After 5’ social event earlier this week to mix and mingle with the masses.
As a self-employed businessman (communications/strategical planning) and city councillor, it’s important to, well, press the flesh.
Within minutes I was engaged in a conversation about marketing and ‘image.’ As I listened to the discussion a whimsical memory resurfaced.
When it comes to marketing, imaging, first impressions, etc.—I talk a fine talk, however, my walk sometimes leaves a lot to be desired.
It was about a dozen years ago, on Vancouver Island, right after I’d first formed Hodge Communications.
My shiny new business cards had barely finished drying when my first classic public relations challenge came along. I didn’t have to look very hard; it found me. My humble home at the time was nestled right next to the railway track, something I rather enjoyed, but a constant source of irritation to my dog.
Bear was one of those funny looking Chow dogs that somewhat resembles a bear, hence her name. She loved kids and women and tolerated most other things in the world. (Chasing cats was simply a sporting thing).
Aside from the male human species, Bear disliked only three other things—the train itself, bunny rabbits and real bears.
For a few days in a row, Bear had been carrying on barking at nights.
It was neither her human bark nor her bunny bark, so the new tone had me perplexed. After a couple more days, I discovered the source of the alarm. A real black bear was standing between our house and the train track, munching away on some windfall apples. My Bear and I wisely decided to retreat indoors.
For the next few days and nights I kept my eye out for the wandering bruin, concerned for my pets, but mostly concerned with my lack of sleep due to Bear’s barking all night.
As the stalking game carried on for a couple of evenings, I was getting fed up. I was well prepared to deal with the beast. My arsenal was laid out upon a table in the back porch—a flashlight, several large apples for throwing at the bruin, and the best weapon of all a large frying pan and a big wooden spoon. Bears don’t like noise.
Around 10:30 one evening, the bear arrived and Bear gave the alarm; woofing, growling and barking to beat the band.
With haste foremost in my mind, I leapt barefoot from the couch into my black dress shoes, cinched up my funky little, fuzzy, knobby knee-high, sky-blue housecoat, shoved the flashlight into my left pocket, assault apples in my right and scurried out the back door.
This was it. My moment of long anticipated altercation. Man and dog against the elements.
The true test of teamwork was about to be put into action. Our home was in need of defending and we were primed for the task at hand.
Without hesitation, I grabbed the frying pan and spoon and boldly stepped out of the comfort of the brightly lit back porch into the dark unknown. Choosing aggression over passive strategy, I furiously banged the frying pan with frothing excitement while advancing towards the back fence.
The ear piercing clanging and banging sounds were only slightly diminished by my boisterous and utterly lunatic meaningless screams, crafted solely for the purpose of terrorizing my furry foe. The verbal assault combined with the loud clanging of the pan created a blaring assault reserved for the likes of Jericho.
I paused my assault briefly and in the sudden silence heard the distinct sound of heavy rustling near the tracks. I quickly stepped back into the light of the porch where I would be visible to the bear and repeated my quasi war dance type ritual. I bashed the wooden spoon so hard on the frying pan that it splintered and fell apart.
It was at that point that the bear turned on his flashlight and pointed it in my direction. I ceased my banter.
“I’m sorry, can I help you,” the bear with a flashlight in the dark distance asked.
“Err…uhm, no I guess not. Sorry about that. I thought you were, um, err …a bear,” I said, noticing that my own Bear had disappeared somewhere.
“A bbbearrr,” the voice behind the flashlight asked with trepidation.
“Um, yes, there is one around here lately. I err, um, suggest you be careful out there. Maybe make some noise, or… something,” I said, far more passive now versus aggressive.
“Yes, I, umm, get the idea,” the flashlight said, quickly retreating down the tracks.
I turned around, broken spoon and frying pan in hand, and headed back in the house. As I did, I spotted Bear sheepishly curled up in the darkest, furthest corner of the yard, with a look on her face suggesting that her master had flipped his lid.
Man’s best friend had abandoned me to my own humility. Even my dog was embarrassed.
So much for image.