You talkin' to me?

Hell hath no fury like a talk-backer scorned.

ben gurion security 224 88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
ben gurion security 224 88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
My weekly appointment with the shrink on Friday is quite a traumatic one. I'm sunk in a large couch opposite her, glancing nervously out the window, picking at my finger nails in a distracted manner. Our meetings have become ever more frequent since I arrived in this country. "They hate me," I say flatly. We have discussed their attitude at several of our previous sessions. In my first few months here they were apathetic: Only six or seven of them even acknowledged my existence. The kinder responses were generally sympathetic. Platitudes such as "You've still got a lot to learn" weren't uncommon. Others were more callous, refusing to address me as anything other than "the trainee." But generally I was just met with a wall of silence. For someone in such a craven, attention-seeking profession as my own I was embarrassed, not to say down-heartened, at the lack of an impression I was making on these people. After all, they are my life-blood. Like a gladiator in the Coliseum, my existence depends on their approval. "Each down-turned thumb is a dagger through my heart," I confess. "So, I was desperate and I did something stupid. I decided to take on the crowd's favorite." MY SHRINK grows exasperated with me. She has 10 more patients to see that afternoon; no time for classical euphemisms. She curtly reminds me that I was not born in the time of Vespasian, and that as the situation stands I look too terrified to let go of the leather upholstering on her coach, let alone step out into the Coliseum. "You're right," I say, closing my eyes as I funnel as much air as I can through my nostrils. "But you don't understand. They're after me... they smell blood!" "The talk-backers?" she queries, a hint of amusement curling the side of her lip. "Who else?" The bloody talk-backers have been at the center of my paranoia and insecurities ever since I took up this job - or, more truthfully (as they are so quick to remind me) - this internship at The Jerusalem Post. "Look," I tell her, "I jotted down a few of their replies to my last op-ed, "They roll out the 'unwelcome' mat for me at border control" (August 2), about the Israeli customs authorities. Take Ephraim. I thought he liked me at first. The title of his post was "You are 100% right Jorg." I opened it with hope in my heart - it was going to be the first positive feedback of the day - but, alas, my hopes were dashed. This country is not an open country, he asserted. This people are not a friendly people. If I ever meet you (here or in the UK) I'll show you how unfriendly we can be. You have not seen anything yet. THE SHRINK crosses her legs and nods gently, doing her best to seem concerned. "Does Ephraim scare you?" she asks. "What do you think?" I reply tersely. "The fiercest talk-backer could destroy half of Gaza City with the weight of his sarcasm - what chance does my feeble body stand?" But Ephraim is the least of my worries. There are others who reveal an almost surgical insight into my inner psyche. "I think they've discovered my dirty secret. They've read in between the lines and elucidated a Greater Truth about me. According to Raphael, You would sell Israel for a penny if you could. You are not some foreigner - you are a self-declared enemy. Then there's Steve, who noticed that I called this country the Zionist state, pointing out that this is Israel Son! Your comments smell of anti-S...M, heaven forbid. Then Dr. Zechariah advised that We don't want you and our Jew-hating ilk in our country. I got the feeling that all these posts had my best interests at heart (I mean one of them's a doctor, for Chrissake). But I was really moved by this post by an anonymous kabbalist. It wouldn't be that Mr. Luvken's (sic) hidden (metaphysical) anti-Jewish Illuminati created, fostered and nurtured illusory "Christ killer" - sentiments [that] are being detected and manifested in his experiences at the borders of Israel? he ponders. This depressed me, and I'm not kidding when I say it sent me into a long period of self-reflection. I remembered the secret pleasure I garnered from buying a pack of bacon in a Tel Aviv supermarket. I pictured the Arafat-style keffiyeh hidden, like a dirty secret, in a drawer in my bedroom... "Does all this mean I'm an anti-Semite?" I ask. "That's a question only you can answer," is the shrink's $50-an-hour reply. But even if I am an anti-Semite, I could still be a successful journalist, I mean there are plenty of anti-Semites who've made a career out of it. It's just that I'm beginning to believe the readers don't think much of my writing abilities either. One of them advised my editor to give me a job cleaning the Post's toilets. Still, I'm not giving up yet. A big man in the opinion business once gave me a valuable piece of advice: "The masses," he said, "are asses." I could not agree more; they seem like a fickle bunch to me. The premise for "ConsultDoc's" attack on me was that I look like a dropout from the 1960's. So I have a plan. I think a new op-ed shot could swing the public's opinion. I'm envisioning it right now. I'll wear aviator sunglasses and have a Cheshire-cat grin on my face. Then I'll give my column an edgy title like "Through the Luyken glass." Hell, if that doesn't work I can always take up the offer of a one-way ticket home that one of the talk-backers so kindly made. The writer, a Jerusalem Post intern, is a glutton for punishment.