There are masters of illusion and concealment in this world. Artists who can make anything from a handkerchief to the Statue of Liberty seem to vanish without a trace.
Toupee Man is not one of those masters.
Who is Toupee Man? The Spanish police haven’t released his name, but his genius is surely one-of-a-kind. After all, there can’t be that many individuals who have hit upon the mind-bending idea of smuggling 17 ounces of cocaine into a country by … well … hiding it under a toupee.
Needless to say, said hairpiece and its cargo were more than a little obvious. Which is something like saying that Elton John was just a bit unrestrained in the 1970s.
“There is no limit to the inventiveness of drug traffickers trying to mock controls,” the police wrote in a statement reprinted by Reuters, one of the many news agencies to report this.
Inventiveness. Yeah. We’ll go with that.
It’s easy to laugh. Heaven knows I did. But like a lot of life’s humor, part of the laugh comes from familiarity.
We’ve seen this before.
Oh, I don’t mean we’ve all witnessed awkward items being smuggled under unlikely formations of hair, unless anyone has had the opportunity to live next door to Marge Simpson. (D’oh!) But we know the routine of trying to conceal the undeniable.
We’ve seen the prominent figure who “walks back” an outrageous statement, trying to explain why what he or she said wasn’t really what you heard.
Or the celebrity at the center of a scandal who tries to deny, to evade, and then to excuse.
Or anyone, great or small, who finds themselves in the midst of something unpleasant and tries, for just a moment, to “make it not have happened.”
There are a million terms for it. But it’s an urge as old as humanity. Hide the bad stuff. Make it appear normal. Even when it’s as obvious as trying to slip an Uzi under a baseball cap.
From the tale of Cain to modern playgrounds and politics, it’s always born of fear. And the answer is the same one that every kindergarten teacher knows, and that ever PR firm today teaches for crisis control.
Acknowledge the mistake. Admit the harm that was done.
And then make it clear how things will change going forward.
That doesn’t mean there won’t be consequences. There almost certainly will be. After all, if it was harmless, there wouldn’t have been an urge to hide in the first place. Trust gets weakened. Customers leave. Policies can founder and elections be lost.
But invariably, owning your actions causes less damage than trying to bury them. Ask Mr. Nixon sometime.
The last step, of course, is the most important of all – how will things change? That’s where transformation can occur, if we let it. C.S. Lewis once noted that if you’re on the wrong road, the fastest way forward is to first turn back.
No wigs. No disguises. Just coming clean and taking the first step to do something different.
We know this. It’s why we get so angry when someone we know – famous or otherwise – refuses to learn, refuses to change, refuses to acknowledge that they have anything to change. And why we get so embarrassed when we catch ourselves, from time to time.
And it’s what makes it so wonderful when the change truly comes.
It starts with self-recognition. With empathy. With the recognition that other people matter, and that when we wrong them, we need to make it right.
Because if we don’t, there can be hell toupee.