Yesterday I brought my daughter Yaeli home from kindergarten. As soon as we got home, the little one noticed that the door had been left open. As we entered the kitchen, she shrieked with delight, "Daddy, you left the door open and look! That cat came in and he's eating a pita." And then she added with the lovable guilelessness of childhood: "I'm going to tell Mama that you left the door open and a cat came in."
At this stage I admit I'd normally enter a negotiation with Yaeli, with the aim of reaching an understanding that Mama doesn't have to know every little thing that Daddy does or doesn't do. But as Yaeli squealed, "Daddy there's a cat in the house," I suddenly felt cold sweat trickling down my back. I wasn't afraid of Mama, at least not this time. The sight of the small animal fleeing into the garden aroused an entirely different shiver.
I could almost see it. One day I'd get a call from the consumer affairs show: "We have the tapes," they'd growl, tapes clearly showing the door I left open, the cat entering the abode, the pita he gnawed and the alarmed little girl. And then he will descend, thunderous bass and all, and expose my ugliness, my hideous corruption: leaving doors open, enabling cats to gorge, abandoning pitas intended for little girls to a hideous fate.
Me: "Look, it only happened once, I just went to get the kid, I slammed the door, I guess it didn't close properly."
Investigator: "You can spin till the cats come home. We have the shots of the cat and of the remains of the pita."
Me: "But I threw the pita out, I swear."
She: "Can you be 100 percent sure that the cat didn't open the cornflakes or jump onto the kitchen counter, smearing his filth?"
Me: "Relax. It's a cat."
She: "Yeah, we see what your attitude is. We see your true ugly face. It's the face of the nation."
But daunting as the thought of the investigative reporter was, the thought of roping in crisis consultants, lawyers, the PR agents, the marketing veeps and workers was even worse.
Me: They evidently have a tape. I don't know exactly what it shows. It's apparently a cat eating a pita.
Rani (PR): "It won't just go away. Don't be a lump, be a man! Be active!"
Me (trembling): "Meaning what?"
Rani: "Call a giant press conference of all education, health and legal affairs correspondents, all embargoed until mid-day and we'll tell everything we know. Don't hide a thing. Then we'll hold background chats with the editors who matter and with the writers I mark for you. We already have three writers in our pockets."
Me: "But what are we going to say?"
Rani: "Doesn't matter. It'll be a madhouse. We give an exclusive to one of the big papers and the rest will be busy trying to kick each other in the teeth over who got what story first."
Me: "Truth is, a glittering press conference seems like overkill. It was a CAT."
Reuven (ad exec, crisis manager): "That was a huge mistake, admitting that to the press. Our strategy should be to attack! I suggest smothering the town in ads: 'This time you got it wrong. Period.' I'll get you a good price, say $2 million, including our super-commission. There won't be a billboard in town that doesn't tell our story."
Me: "C'mon, billboards, smothering. It was just a cat that got into the house."
Rani: "Don't try to downplay the story. It's out of your hands. The medium is the message, handling the crisis is a bigger story than the crisis. It isn't a cat, it's a media mega-event. Every PR maven in town every lawyer every crisis expert will be giving double-spread interviews."
Me: "Crisis my auntie. A cat got in."
Reuven: "Under normal conditions I'd agree. It was just a cat. But look, it isn't a cat any more. Don't forget, every news site in town reported yesterday that the attorney general decided to open a third criminal investigation against the prime minister and since then, nothing's happened in the whole country. No news for 12 hours. Bad timing, but you're the hottest story in town."
Me: "So what are you saying?"
Reuven: I'm telling you that tomorrow, the front page of the biggest paper in the land is going to be running an expose of that cat in your kitchen, with columnists analyzing every aspect and every fang-mark in that pita. Olmert will be relegated to page 17."
Me: "Heavens to Murgatroyd, has everybody lost their senses? Cat. One."
Rani: "That spin won't wash. Now it's about the credibility of a 28-year-old TV show. Nobody's ever gone up against it and won. They won't let go until justice is done."
Me: "The whole country is awash in corruption, half of the ministers should be behind bars, education is collapsing, poverty is running rampant, the tax burden is growing, the military junta is sucking billions and billions for their pensions or for projects that they give their friends..."
Reuven (clicks tongue disapprovingly): "Booooring. Whatta they gonna do, take a picture of a cabinet meeting? Old women lining up at the National Insurance Institute for their pensions?"
Me: "What about the fat cats?"
Rani (leaps as though snakebit): "Fat cats? There were fat cats too in your kitchen? You didn't tell me. Didn't I tell you to tell your advisers everything!"
Me: "Relax, there weren't any fat cats, it's an expression that means people in high government and big business who cozy up to shower goodness on one another..."
Reuven: "They try not to do investigative TV shows about these people. It's a huge headache and, between us, rightly so. There's a big interface between the press and these people. Why investigate a person if tomorrow you're going to be dancing together at a minister's wedding or launching some real estate baron's yacht?"
Me: "The banks or cellular cartel - the retail chains, the monopolies - they're all closing in on the little man from every direction. They fix prices, scare regulators, divvy up the market, buy journalists, raise money on the market at ridiculous prices..."
Reuven: "Wake up kid, these cartels are the biggest advertisers in the land. That isn't the stuff of hard-hitting TV."
Me: "What's the answer?"
Omer (22, expert on Web 2.0): "Start a blog. With everything, talkbacks, trackbacks, RSS. It'll be bigger than MetaCrunch. You have to open a direct dialogue with surfers or it will come back to haunt you. Live online or die."
Me: "No, you don't get it, what do we do about the corruption in government, the allocation of resources to cronies, the terrifying true tax burden, the billions wasted or stolen from the national budget, the deterioration of services to the citizenry, the insane gap between 50 billionaires and five million people?"
Reuven: "What does that have to do with anything?"
Me: "It doesn't. I'm just thinking aloud."
Reuven: "The rating companies say the cat story will get 25 percent. We don't know if they have the tape of the kid screaming, 'Look, daddy, a cat!' but they're starting to show teasers from the show tonight and they're talking about more exposes. They may have more information about the cat."
Me: "Okay, we'll just have to deal with it. But I have one request."
Everyone (together): "What?"
Me: "Don't tell Mama."
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