The phone rings with all sorts of strange requests.
We've had a wide variety of creative approaches relating to marriage proposals and other surprises. Very little seems to raise my eyebrows anymore. When the phone rang last year for a TV commercial, however,
I was genuinely surprised.
It went something like this:
"We want to rent a gondola from you for an in-studio shoot."
"OK, we've done that a number of times.
What can you tell me about the shoot?"
"I can't tell you many details, but we want your widest one."
"My widest one? How wide do you need it to be?"
"Um, well, I can't really tell you exactly what we need it for because the subject matter is under wraps at this point."
"I understand. We're used to non-disclosure situations,
and I promise we won't divulge anything until the finished product is on TV.
Now if you'll just tell me what you're looking to do,
maybe I can do a better job of helping you achieve your goal."
Only then did the person on the other end of the phone use the "e-word"...
That is where my eyebrows went up.
I probably snapped my fingers to get my wife's attention,
giving that "you're not gonna believe this" kind of expression.
After a quick conversation regarding the weight of the elephant they were planning on using, I said that I'd be happy to assist in any way I could,
but that there was no way I could provide a gondola that would fit their needs.
In the end they rented several removable gondola parts from me, I provided some advice, and they built their own "pachyderm-capable" gondola.
It was about nine feet wide, built using plans they'd bought from Venice.
They actually only built the aft two-thirds of the vessel - which gave them the ability to get an in-the-boat angle more effectively.
Cleverly, they also built it with the rails flared out, making for a better shot.
Now that the commercial is in circulation, I can finally share this information.
Remarkably, even though the ad is running regularly on TV,
I have yet to find it anywhere online, so you'll just have to
keep an eye out for it - trust me, you'll know it when you see it.
I can imagine that advertising these types of medical products isn't easy because they're not nearly as exciting as juicy burgers or sporty cars.
And yet the folks with the elephant have done a great job with this campaign.
My only regret...is that I never got to meet the elephant.