Woof-woof. Now what?
I’ve always been drawn to the metaphor of the dog who catches the car. I mean, of all the weird and wacky behaviours dogs fill their lives with, chasing cars ranks right up there with letting some dog pee on your nose because you’re so intent on sniffing his bum you don’t notice he’s hiking his leg. Even that, one could argue dogwise, at least stems from some bizarre social/identification/survival thing going on somewhere in the Primitive Cortex of the dogbrain when bumsniffing is afoot.
But chasing cars?
Even the most unrepentant tirebiter would have a tough time explaining that behaviour were he suddenly given the power of speech and reasoning, both of which I suspect dogs might be capable of if they weren’t so distracted by their outsized noses and the ever-present belief a human is going to walk into their life at any moment, treat in hand.
Where is the upside to chasing cars? If you chase and catch, for example, other dogs, something interesting is bound to happen. They might play with you, chase you back, relinquish their ball, exchange sniffs, pass along coded gossip. Worst case scenario, they bite you, in which case your human servant lavishes love and treats on you for being a victim.
Chase people? What could be more fun. They either like dogs and will scratch your ears or they hate and possibly even fear dogs. Bonus. They might kick in your direction but most of ’em aren’t very good at it.
Chase bikes? Fair match.
But cars? Too fast, too big, too deadly.
So the image of catching the car is absurd. And that’s what gives the very idea both its humour and its David-and-Goliath cachet. What a victory to actually catch a car. What a pain in the bum. What do you do with it once you’ve caught it? Quite possibly it would be such an anticlimax chasing cars just wouldn’t have any appeal in your future.
And so it is with me and consultants. I know, that seems like a rather abrupt leap from dogs chasing cars… but bear with me.
By and large, I’ve been chasing after and barking at consultants off and on for, oh, about 560 columns now. Sometimes it’s the absurdity of watching the muni hire consultants to ferret out what seems on the face of it to be sun-rises-in-the-east information. At least that’s the way I interpreted a consultant’s report nine years ago when, having deferred any action on affordable housing for almost a year awaiting the report, the muni was rewarded by learning that (a) the situation had grown worse, (b) it was even worse than expected, and the denouement that made all the time and expense worthwhile: (c) it was going to get worse before it got better. C’est miracle! Like a ballpeen hammer to the forehead… enlightenment.
That they could have saved the time and money the consultants cost them and made the same discovery over a beer and conversation with anyone who both lived here and had a pulse seemed obvious and silly. But such is the mystery of life.
My animus towards consultants is steeped in experience. I’ve overseen too many who were, simply put, flim-flam artists who sold a handful of dreams and delivered obvious platitudes. I’ve also watched what might have been good consultants misused by cowardly managers who simply wanted their findings and recommendations as a buffer to hide behind when delivering bad news they didn’t really need a consultant to either verify or justify.
But I’ve also observed good consultants gently tease information out of employees that management could have gotten for free had they been more skilled at communication and fostered a culture where employees were encouraged to speak up. I’ve conspired to hire consultants to help managers change the thinking of the people above them in the food chain who couldn’t understand the world was changing faster than they were. And I’ve worked with consultants who brought skills to the party that didn’t exist in the company or were only needed for a short project.
The other car I’ve chased for a long time is the Olympics™. I am not the Olympics’™ number one fan. I’m repelled by the greed and overreaching of the IOC and the culture of graft and corruption that was particularly fulsome under the dictatorship of Juan Samaranch. I believe the Olympics™ lost a great deal of its appeal when it turned its back on amateur athletics and became just another professional sporting event. And I’m pretty certain the social and economic costs associated with hosting an Olympiad™ constitute an obscene expenditure of the public purse, one future generations — assuming there are enough future generations still to come to achieve something approaching social enlightenment — will shake their collective head at and tsk-tsk for its wanton waste.
Having said that, three years from now, along with Vancouver, we will be the Olympics™. And it’s a one-shot deal: we either do it as well as it can be done or… the alternative is unthinkable. If we get engaged, if we get involved, if we take every advantage we can to cadge our way into the party and celebrate whatever good we find, it’ll go a long way to mitigating the unprecedented inconvenience being host to the world will entail.
So how ironic is it that I’ve signed on as a consultant to the muni on, you guessed it, the Olympics™? Woof-woof. I caught the car… and it’s turned out to be a bus.
Life unfolds in strange ways and it doesn’t get much stranger than this.
To the extent you’re interested — and I’m not saying you have to be, at least not yet — I’ve signed on to help develop a communication strategy. I’ll be trying to communicate with, well, you. Not on this page, mind you; Max may be for hire but Maxed Out remains blissfully sponsor-free.
It wasn’t easy deciding to chase the car. I’m pretty certain I did it for the same reason I accept the occasional invitation to speak in public. Because it’s good for me. It’s a challenge. It’s difficult and more mentally taxing than what I usually do. Okay, it pays better too. You happy?
Whether I’ve become part of the problem or part of the solution only time will tell. I’ll endeavour to be the latter but these things have a way of surprising, amusing and bedeviling us.
And I guess that’s why some dogs chase cars in the first place.