Friday, October 22, 2004

Like a cat in a tree
Last night we had one of those ‘no-partners-invited’ workplace parties organized enthusiastically by co-workers who are having extra-marital affairs with each other and who need a legit excuse to meet up in the evening (God, I’m getting cynical). The rest of us would rather be at home with our families, of course, but we have to go too, otherwise we will be regarded as ‘Sotzyomatim’.

‘Sotzyomat’ is a derogatory term derived from the so-called socio-metric exams, which are extremely popular in this country, mainly in hierarchal organizations like the army. The lofty idea behind the ‘Sotzyo-metri’ is to provide a relatively impartial tool for evaluating the quality of workers, by making use of the knowledge of co-workers and immediate subordinates. It is regarded as a good way to check workers’ social skills and popularity. In practice it is mainly used for getting even.

So a ‘Sotzyomat’ is someone who would be given low marks should he be unfortunate enough to have his peers evaluate him. In a country where ‘the Hevre’ rules supreme, no one wants to be a ‘Sotzyomat’.

‘How was it?’ Bish asked when I got back. ‘Well’, I answered, ‘if we hadn’t become vegetarians eight years ago, you and I, we wouldn’t have been able to eat as much meat, during those eight years, as was roasted and devoured in one evening, by fifty, odd, people.’ They had some guy in to do an Argentinean barbeque. They all said it was delicious. I had some lettuce salad. I still had to pay the same seventy shekels as everyone else. I tired of arguing that point long ago.

I actually managed to be quite uncharacteristically sociable, except to certain unappreciative parties (Some of you might have been lucky enough to catch my Calimero post on the subject, written on Monday of this week, and deleted inadvertently on Tuesday).

But without a doubt, as far as I was concerned, the focal point of the evening, which took place in the garden of a co-worker’s moshav home near Ben Gurion airport, was the cat in the tree.

As I was stroking one of the numerous dogs that were wandering about enjoying the tidbits people were sneaking them, someone who knew I was partial to cats, asked me if I’d seen the cat in the tree yet.

And there he was, perched contentedly on a spacious wooden shelf at about my shoulder level, under the leafy branches of a medium sized tree (by local standards). He seemed to have everything up there, shelter, various little toys hanging from a metal frame, food. ‘He never comes down, you know’, the younger sister of our Moshavnik co-worker explained, seeing I was looking at him. ‘What do you mean he never comes down?’ I asked. She explained that the dogs would tear him to bits, so he just stays up on his shelf. She said that they suspect he comes down in the middle of the night, when the dogs are asleep, but that no one has ever actually seen this happen.

I must admit I was appalled at this self-imposed imprisonment. I thought of Shoosha, a house cat that never goes out, having a more interesting life than this cat, even though he has in his close vicinity a cat’s paradise of endless fields and abundant prey. And then the thought dawned on me. I am not unlike this cat.

I sometimes find my job stifling and unsatisfying; once in a while a boss may come along who behaves in a way that upsets and offends me; because I am busy at work I don’t get the opportunity to fully explore other talents and capabilities.

But it’s all so comfortable. I just sit there on my tree and get my monthly salary on time, no matter how hard I worked that particular month. It’s always the same salary and not very big, but it always arrives. And I am safe. I know what is expected of me, and what I have to do to survive. It is a minimum danger situation.

I know I have the option to make a run for it. I can get past those dogs and make it to the excitements of the big wild world, but do I dare venture into the dangerous, unsure, insecure unknown? Can I handle jungle life? How do I know if I can survive out there?

I think I’ll just stay here, up in my safe, familiar little tree, thank you very much.