When I signed up for the show, I also signed a contract with CBC that talked about the fact that I could be portrayed in a less than favorable light when and if it came to air. I decided to accept the risk knowing that the PEPCan was an unusual looking thing and, since the show was less reality than it was theatre, the chances were very real that an attempt would be made by the Dragons to humiliate me.
Of course, as any of you who watched the show can bear witness, they did not disappoint in achieving that goal. That’s a strategy that they’ve learned is good for ratings in a world where humiliation of others feeds the thirst of a society that sits in front of television sets and computers and derives their own sense of belonging not from social interaction but from seeing others trip up in this journey we call life – being able to say, “...at least I didn’t do the stupid thing that guy just did, I’m better than that.”
I went to Toronto with eyes wide open, knowing that it was a way of getting nation-wide exposure for less than the millions it would otherwise cost me to do. I had no way of knowing that what the producers of the show wouldn’t relay to the audience in the 60 second clip was what actually took place behind the scenes.
I wasn’t privy to the discussion they all had after I left, where they talked about how the fact that it was made out of steel provided lots of ways to injure yourself or worse while panning the table where the steel prototype lay as I left. That got to air but it was a hi-jacking, an unfair portrayal of what really took place in my deliberations with the Dragons. It was almost a betrayal of the trust I felt CBC owed me as a condition of our contract.
In the early stages of my presentation, I was asked what I was going to do with the money if I got a deal. I explained to them that what they were looking at was a prototype, and that I made it out of steel because it was the easiest and cheapest way for me to develop a working model that could be tested for functionality and wind performance characteristics. I told them the first order of business if I got a deal was to hire a professional industrial designer to convert my working prototype to a market ready model by both making it safe and optimizing strength-to-weight ratios of the various components. In fact, Mr. Wonderful was the one who told the others that the entire thing could eventually be made out of any of a wide range of plastic materials that would effectively eliminate any danger concerns - and the parting words at the end came from Jim Treliving, with whom I agreed that it needed to go back to the drawing board to achieve those ends.That somewhat important discussion never made it to air.
During my pitch I talked about how I could see a use for this device by the military and the RCMP officers we see every year at police road stops checking for drinking drivers around Christmas time. We’ve all seen those guys trying to do that job while having to stand in the west coast rain for hours getting their asses soaked. Knowing that Jim Treliving was at one time a police officer, I surmised that he would appreciate that. I wasn’t wrong, because near the end he actually came down off the stage and spoke quietly to me away from earshot of the others that I needed to build a safety feature into the PEPCan that would ensure that the canopy would break away from the back support in case a perpetrator tried to defeat an officer by grabbing the canopy. He explained that as an ex-police officer he knew that they wouldn’t consider it for their members unless it had that safety feature built into it. I got the sense that he was telling me there was a distinct market for it within the police and the military if it was done right.
With respect to whether or not they thought there was a market for the PEPCan, all were in agreement that there was except for Arlene Dickenson. That didn’t surprise me, though. I doubt that she would be caught dead putting anything on her body that wasn’t in the latest fashion. It wouldn’t be good for her image.
So...did CBC treat me unfairly in the footage that North America saw? You bet they did. Their job was to add to their ratings - but did they have to deceive me and the public by hiding the truth of the discussions between them and me?
My job now is to turn that to my advantage – to make lemonade out of a lemon, so to speak.