PACKET RAT

The Rat stuffs a sock in the election and comes up green with envy

R. Fink

The Rat hates the latest phase of the new economy. It generally inspires wailing and gnashing of teeth as the ill-gotten gains from the first phase get sucked down the drain.

Faithful readers will recall that the whiskered one retreated from his highly exposed position in the tech sector just before last April's dot-com correction. He then swore off the Nasdaq composite and shuttered any notions of launching initial public offerings for any other thinly veiled pyramid schemes.

He was happy to work his day job, collect his pay and restrict his attempts at world domination to games of Monopoly in the new dot-com edition. One recent day, however, he got a call from a former associate whose IPO was strapped for cash after an expensive advertising campaign.



'We've got to pump up the advertising volume,' the former associate moaned, 'but we blew a big chunk of what we raised on Super Bowl ads, and our burn rate is about to bankrupt us.'

'Sorry,' the cyberrodent said, 'I don't invest in air.'

'How about a loan?' the supplicant cried. 'Just a couple thousand so we can make payroll next week?'


'What have you got for collateral, cat litter?' the Rat replied, about to hang up the phone.


'No, something better. We can assign our intellectual property as collateral'depending on how much you can loan us.'

And that, dear readers, is how the Rat spent $1 million on a Sock Puppet.

Yes, the Rat became the proud owner of the famous spokespuppet for Pets.com, which was recently interred in the dot-com graveyard. But several other creditors also secured loans with shares of the company's trademark tube-sock dog, only to find that they had gotten one of the many stand-ins and stunt doubles used in the company's ads.

Athletic support

So, the Rat was left picking up the lint. He mulled ways to recapture some of his cash from a white athletic sock with button eyes and felt ears.

First, the Rat tried the usual venue for anyone with a sock on his hands: variety shows. He attempted to book appearances on Letterman and Leno, but after the ugly defamation lawsuit filed by Pets.com against Triumph, the dog puppet on 'Late Night with Conan O'Brien' on NBC, the Sock Puppet seemed to be footwear non grata on the insomniac TV circuit.

Next, the Rat tried new endorsement deals. But there were no takers in the dot-com world. The ones that were still alive shunned the puppet the way the Amish shun chartreuse trousers.


Even Amazon.com's Jeff Bezos refused. 'Keep that thing away from here'it might have bad business-model cooties on it,' he told the wirebiter.

After a third consecutive night of late-night coding, the bare-tailed one had his most inspired flash of evil genius. He would use the sock puppet for the ultimate in capital gains: takeover of the free world.

With the presidency in limbo following the disputed election results, the Rat saw that he could use the natural charms of the puppet to sway the members of the Electoral College from their prior pledges to Bush or Gore. The electors would turn to the Sock Puppet, with its soothing patter and kindly nature, as the next president.

The puppet would then name the Rat as vice president. Weeks later, the puppet would perish in a tragic bleaching accident, leaving the Rat in charge.

He rushed to his sock drawer to put his plan into action, turning on the bedroom lights and waking his better half.

'What are you looking for?' groaned Mrs. Rat, peering through puffy eyes.


'The Pets.com puppet, I've got a plan for it!' the furry one foamed.

'Oh, that. I sold it on eBay last week. Would you believe someone paid a million for it?'

'Who?' the Rat queried, crestfallen.


'I can't be sure, it was a blind bid. But the screen name was Seatbelt Boy, and the shipping address was in D.C.'

'Nader!' the Rat cried in despair.

'I see we need to put you back on decaf after 2 p.m. again,' Mrs. Rat sighed as she turned off the light.

The Packet Rat once managed networks but now spends his time ferreting out bad packets in cyberspace. E-mail him at rat@gcn.com.

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