Cassandra Devine was not yet thirty, but she was already tired.
Media training, they called it. Shed been doing it for years, but it still had the ring of potty training.
Todays media trainee was the chief executive officer of a company that administered hospitals, twenty-eight of them throughout the southeastern United States. In the previous year, it had lost $285 million and one-third of its stock market value. During that same period, the client had been paid $3.8 million in salary, plus a $1.4 million performance bonus.
Corporate Crime Scene, the prime-time investigative television program, was doing an exposé and had requested an interview. In her negotiations with the shows producers, Cass had learned that they had footage of him boarding the company jet ($35 mil) wearing a spectacularly loud Hawaiian shirt and clenching a torpedo-shapedindeed, torpedo-sizecigar in his teeth while hefting a bag of expensively gleaming golf clubs. Unfortunate as it was, this footage was only the appetizer. The main cinematic course was video of the companys recent annual executive retreat at a Bahamas resort of dubious taste. It showed the client, todays trainee, along with his fellow executive retreatantsdoubtless exhausted after a hard day of budget cutting and crunching numbersdrinking rum punch dispensed from the breasts of anatomically correct female ice sculptures, to the accompaniment of a steel drum band, a limbo bar, and scantily clad waitresses dressed asoh dearmermaids. It would all make for a spirited discussion on the upcoming episode of CCS, especially when juxtaposed against the footage they were also running of patients parked like cars in an L.A. traffic jam in litter-strewn corridors, moaning for attention, some of them duct-taped to the wheelchairs.
So they dont fall out, the client explained.
Cass took a sip from her seventh or eighth Red Bull of the day and suppressed a sigh, along with the urge to plunge her ballpoint pen into the clients heart. Assuming he had one.
That last one was a lot better, she said. Theyd done four practice interviews so far, with Cass pretending to be the interviewer from the television program. If you have the energy, Id like to do just one more. This time, Id like you to concentrate on smiling and looking straight into the camera. Also, could you please not do that sideways thing with your eyes? It makes you look . . . Like a sleazebag. It works against the overall tone of you know . . .transparency. The man was as transparent as a bucket of tar.
I really dont know why were even agreeing to the interview. He sounded peeved, as though hed been frivolously talked into attending a performance of The Marriage of Figaro when hed much rather be at the office, helping humanity, devising new and more cost-effective methods of duct-taping terminal patients to their wheelchairs so they could be parked in corridors all day.
Terry feels that this is the way to go. In cases like this . . . The client shot her an I dare you to call me a criminal glance of defiance. That is, where the other side has a strong, uh, visual presentation, that its best to meet them in the center of the ring, so to speak. Were looking to project an image of total . . .up-frontness.
The client snorted.
That no one is more upset at theshe glanced at her notes to see what artful term of mendacity they were using at the moment?revenue downtick. And that you and management areshe looked down at her notes again, this time just to avoid eye contactworking around the clock to make the, uh, difficult decisions. Like where to hold next years executive retreat. Vegas? Macao? Sodom?
Copyright © 2007 by Christopher Taylor Buckley
Blood at the Root
"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
- PW Starred Review
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