Sunday, June 17, 2007

Snake oil

In my blog, I've already mentioned a couple of daring Aussie money-making inventions:

— first, half-naked female automobile washers [click here for article],

— then yesterday, oysters macerated in Viagra [click here for article].

In this exciting marketing domain, there's no reason why I shouldn't add a plug for the following Australian product [click the banner to visit their website]:

If I understand correctly, uncorking a bottle of this magic liquid in the presence of snakes creates an effect of repugnance upon them, filling them with a desire to get the hell out of the area. You might say it's a little like the effect upon humans when somebody stealthily lets off highly odorous wind in a crowded lift.

To be perfectly frank, I have to admit that I once purchased a French version of such a product. My son and his girlfriend, holidaying at Gamone, had informed me excitedly that they had glimpsed a terrible-looking reptile, with colored stripes, on the edge of my vegetable garden. Naively, I went along to a pharmacy in nearby Villard-de-Lans and asked them what kind of product I should have in my medicine cabinet, knowing that I was living in the presence of an unidentified but no doubt awesome snake. Actually, I was thinking vaguely of some kind of first-aid product: maybe a snakebite antidote. [I later learned that the use of such a product by anybody who's not a skilled medical specialist is no less dangerous than the snakebite.] Well, the pharmacist was delighted to sell me a big bottle of expensive yellow liquid labeled snake repellent, and I was out of the pharmacy and on my way home before I realized what a sucker I had been. I mean: What can you actually do with a bottle of alleged snake repellent in the case of a reptile that you haven't even seen, which is not likely to reappear spontaneously on your doorstop pleading to be repelled? Sure, you can squirt the stuff all around your property until the bottle's empty, then sit back waiting to check that the snake does not indeed reappear. But that's a bit like using a mixture of warm water and sugar to repel butterflies. The chances are that, if you get up early in the morning, and pour a cup of warm sugared water on the lawn, you won't see any butterflies there for at least an hour or so. There's a similar system of a flashing bicycle lamp, in the early evening, to chase away falling stars. To make things worse, my son and his girlfriend finally admitted, with great hilarity, that they'd hidden a rubber snake with green and purple stripes on the edge of my vegetable patch, in the hope of scaring shit out of me. Retrospectively, I can't recall ever having seen this object, which probably means that the rain washed it down into Gamone Creek, from where it might have floated down to Pont-en-Royans to frighten the tourists. As for my bottle of snake repellent, I finally used it in an attempt to repel mice in the attic, but it didn't.

Normally, with a bit of imagination and talented showmanship, it should be child's play to demonstrate that a snake repellent does in fact repel snakes. In the style of the late Steve Irwin, the master of ceremonies could arm a courageous child actor with a can of repellent spray, and then let loose a snake in front of the kid. One press on the button of the spray can, and the disgusted snake would go sliding back into its box. To make the demonstration more scientifically convincing, they could let loose a whole assortment of different snakes and the kid would repel them, one after the other, as if he/she were playing table tennis. If only the ShooSnake people were able to put up such a video on their website, they would sell tons of their product overnight... and the Aussie kid actor would be offered a fortune to star in Hollywood-produced ecological, environmental and wildlife films.

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