Friday, March 2, 2007

The hosed hoser

It's likely that the title of this post doesn't ring a bell with anybody. In its original French, L'arroseur arrosé is the title of the world's first movie, less than a minute long, created by Louis Lumière in 1895. My mentor Pierre Schaeffer used to refer to it frequently. A gardener is using a bulky hose to water his plants. A prankster creeps up behind the gardener and clamps his foot on the hose, causing the water jet to dribble and halt. The gardener, wondering what has happened, peers down into the hose nozzle. The prankster takes his foot off the hose, whereupon the gardener receives the full force of the jet in his face...

More than a simple cinematographic reference, Lumière's hosed hoser sequence has become a social metaphor in France for things that backfire. For me, personally, I often take pleasure in using the hosed hoser concept as a principle of action... or rather reaction.

For example, a young woman phoned me half an hour ago with the intention of signing me up for some kind of a satellite TV deal. Speaking in naive terms (with the help of my accent), I had no trouble in steering gently the phone conversation around to the level of the important role of TV in rural communities. (I wasn't giving her any private data, of course, because she already had my phone number and address from the directory.) Rapidly, I told the anonymous lady—still in a naive tone of voice—that I was constantly alarmed by the idea of robbers, and that my house was henceforth a terrifying arsenal of mysterious weapons, linked to multimedia satellites and communications devices, designed to explode during the night if ever the presence of an intruder were detected. Exploiting my most seductive tone of an Anglo-Saxon charmer, I asked the lady to give me her name and her age [which the silly girl did: Amélie, 29], and told her that I would be delighted to invite her along to my place to learn all about my system. I added that I also sold insurance policies. The young lady bid me farewell in a friendly fashion that was both rapid and definitive. I had the impression that I had hosed her. What a nice naughty notion!

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