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Conspiracy Theories — and Towing Goes to Hollywood

Feb 22nd, 2013 | By | Category: Nick Kemper's Blog

Intel is developing an Internet television with a camera. The idea behind the camera is that the device can recognize you and address you personally, approved and maybe recommend your favorite shows, patient and probably run some targeted ads at you like the ads that show up on every website you check out. Does anyone besides me see the potential here? I’m not a conspiracy theorist. I’m not even suspicious of others. I prefer to trust everyone because it’s less work. But even I am thinking that the technology must exist for an Internet device with a camera to be used to watch or record whoever is in front of it, with or without their permission. This might already happen with webcams.

I don’t have much to hide, so I’m not worried for myself. I look at it the same way I look at locking my house. It’s a relatively crime-free neighborhood, so it’s not likely that we’ll be victimized, but if someone breaks into our house, they get what they deserve. I live there and I can barely negotiate the stacks by the front door and the mysterious locations of breakables. The garage is basically a guerrilla warfare booby-trap, in which you must simultaneously step over and duck under items stored precariously.

However, I do oppose the invasion of privacy which is probably already in force. I am sure it is possible to intercept any wireless signal and interpret and record it. We’re probably not far away from sensors installed in vehicles that spit out a traffic citation when you exceed the speed limit, just like we’re not far away from a sensor installed in a football that identifies when it breaks the plane, or a sensor installed in a baseball that identifies when it crosses the strike zone.

None of us can stop the march of technology. Wherever the money goes is where the innovation will follow. Before the onslaught of reality television, I thought the towing industry was an ideal setting for a drama/comedy show. For years, our industry was represented by Cooter from the Dukes of Hazzard, and the guys in Vacation who sold bald tires to Chevy Chase for all the cash he has in his wallet. In Ferris Buehler’s Day Off, the tow truck driver crunches the front end of the principal’s Chrysler when he tows it away from the no-parking zone, and he drives off with the muffler dragging and no tow lights, and the principal’s keys in the door as he tries to stop the driver. In For Love of the Game, Kevin Costner saves Kelly Preston from an unscrupulous tow truck driver who swears at him for ruining his chance to be a take advantage of an unsuspecting female with a broken car. Lately there has been the violent ex-husband on The Good Wife, who conspires to get a municipal contract by skirting the law then uses towed vehicles to move drugs.

They’re just caricatures — Hollywood’s way of capitalizing on a stereotype. I don’t think reality television is the proper way for our industry to be represented, either. I don’t watch a lot of reality shows about towing but I’ve seen enough to know that they are not very real, not very representative, and not very interesting. I’ve always thought that the ideal show would be something like CSI or Law and Order or Southland, an hour-long series of fictional vignettes and scenes based on real experience.

You can’t just film a typical work shift — too boring. You have to select scenes and events that are interesting, that have some meaning, and represent them in a way that makes the viewer want to watch more. CSI and Law and Order are character-driven and that would be ideal — a show with good actors about a towing company in a metropolitan area, focusing on four to eight characters, following them through parts of their day and showing how the issues they deal with are similar to those of workers in any industry.

We’ve got enough residual excitement in our industry to make this work — car accidents, repossessions, impound towing, vehicle recoveries, ties to the underworld. These are the things that draw in what I like to call the “cop-wannabes,” people who’ve washed out in law enforcement and are looking for the next closest thing. They like having overhead lights to make them feel important. You could even have one of these in the show. Of course, you could have romance — the boss or one of the drivers has an affair with the new girl in dispatch and gets caught, divorces, marries the new girl and repeats the process.

Who out there knows someone in the entertainment industry? Let’s get this thing going. Then we can all tune in on our Internet televisions and the government and Madison Avenue can tune in to watch us.

Have a safe and profitable week.

Nick Kemper