A Simple Case of Cognitive Dissonance



Berkel and Me

Conversations with a psycho-neurotic cat

By Jon Frangipane

It’s seven-fifteen in the evening. I’m really whipped and in desperate need of peace and quiet.

Berkel greets me at the door. “Hey Jon, it’s so good to have you home. Did you have a pleasant day?

I smell a rat, or in this case a cat. Why is he buttering me up?, I thought. Since I picked up this sly and slippery creature from the animal shelter, he rarely meets me at the door.

“What do I owe for this unusual and magnanimous greeting, Berkel, my friend?”

“It’s our relationship. I think it’s gone to the dogs. No pun intended,” replied Berkel.

“No life is perfect,” I answered. “Even the King of England can have differences with the Queen.”

Berkel gave a long stretch across the carpet. “For your information, England hasn’t had a king since 1952 when King George VI died.”

I kept forgetting that this is the only cat that plays Trivial Pursuit online, and now is a virtual well of worthless information.

“I was simply trying to say that persons at every level of the socio-economic ladder can have differences,” I answered, convincingly.

Berkel looked at me straight in the eye and said, “But would the Queen of England, hypothetically speaking, of course, feed the King of England CHICKEN every single day of his life?”

I tried not to look stunned at his comment.

“No,” I countered, “But I’m not the Queen of England and you’re not the king, so it’s a moot point, my friend.”

“Moot point!” Berkel shouted. Why, you call me those lovey-dovey names like “Berky Baby,” “Berky Puss,” “Berky Boobala,” and then you have the unmitigated gall to feed me dry chicken-flavored mini-turds twice a day?”

Blood surged to my head. Is this cat doing me in? I thought as I picked up a bag of cat food off the kitchen counter.

“Look right here,” I pointed, “You can read. See, it says, ‘Your cat will just love the taste of Gaggle, designed to please the tastes of even the most discriminating felines.”

Berkel’s face became contorted and his tail shot up as usual and quivered like a hula dancer on ice.

“Hey bozo,” he screamed, “I can feel a huge, uncontrollable surge coming over me. I feel this incredible vortex of cognitive dissonance gushing forth, thereby creating an impenetrable wall between us.”

“Cognitive dissonance?” I yodeled. “Have you been watching Doctor Phil, again?

“Chill out, dummy. Let me lay it out for you in very simple terms: ‘Cognitive’ is a word pertaining to the mental processes of perception, memory, judgment and reasoning. Follow me, so far?”

“Of course I do,” I lied.

“And the word ‘dissonance’ means discordant, inharmonious, or cacophonous. Do you get it?” Berkel bellowed.

“Of course I do,” I lied again. “Oh, so you’re saying…”

Berkel was on a roll and wouldn’t let me finish.

“I’m not asking, blockhead, I’m telling you that I want real food. Real chicken. Real sirloin. And you either agree to my terms, or face the consequences.”

At that moment, for some inexplicable reason, I thought about my guitar and wondered what part of a cat they used for cat gut strings. The thought soon passed and tried to make small talk to relieve the tension.

“I was just thinking if maybe you would like to have a new, little playmate. You know, like another sweet, long-haired tabby like you.”

I thought Berkel would go for the bait. I was wrong.

“You get me a playmate, and then I’m supposed to watch you fondle and drool and talk dumb baby talk, until I’m out of my mind.”

“But Berkel. a nice little baby pussycat would be something to satisfy both our needs for love and affection. Something we can both cuddle with.”

“Have you seen my litter box, lately? What am I thinking? No, of course you haven’t. It’s been two days now that I’ve had to tip toe around in that dangerously loaded mine field of a litter box, my friend. And do you really think you can possibly keep a litter box clean for two cats?

I thought I had the answer. “I’ll just purchase one of those mechanical poop-scoopers. No fuss, no muss, no mess.”

Berkel fell to the floor, rolled around in convulsive laughter, and then said, “You’re telling me that you’d lay out three-hundred dollars for a mechanical poop-scooper, when all I ask for is a decent meal twice a day?

A brilliant idea suddenly popped into my head. “I know what. Suppose I treat you a couple of times a week to a nice, juicy Big Mac, or you can have it your way at Burger King! How does that grab you?”

I could tell by the expression on Berkel’s face that he was about to finally concede. But I was mistaken.

“Hey dimwit, Berkel declared, “I am already on a fast food diet. It seems that the cognitive dissonance I spoke about earlier is now distorting your whole perspective on life. Are you aware that you’re a snollygoster of the first order. I demand that I get real food. Case closed!”

I was beside myself. I hadn’t realized I was a snollygoster. I didn’t even know what a snollygoster was. And the simple fact was that the case was closed, and Berkel is now ordering his Omaha steaks online. I’ll allow this for a while, you understand, until I can come up with a better idea. But I have to go now… Berkel just screamed that his steak was too rare.