A Texas lawyer inadvertently appeared at a Zoom court filing as a kitten because of a filter on the laptop he was using. Within hours, the video went viral. What could have been an upsetting embarrassment turned into a lesson for every leader in grace under pressure and the value of not taking yourself too seriously.
A court filing in a civil forfeiture case is usually a pretty boring affair, unless one of the lawyers appears disguised as a kitten. That's what happened to Texas attorney Rod Ponton who appeared looking like a fluffy and adorable white and gray kitten for the first 42 seconds of the Zoom proceeding. "Mr. Ponton, I believe you have a filter turned on in the video settings," Judge Roy Ferguson (off camera), tells Ponton in the video.
"Argh!" Ponton says. He was apparently attempting to speak at the same time as the judge, but couldn't be heard because audio on Zoom is only one-way. "Can you hear me judge?" he says a moment later. "I can hear you," says Ferguson. "I think it's a filter."
"I'm not a cat."
"It is," the kitten nods. "I don't know how to remove it. I've got my assistant here, she's trying to, but...." And then, committed to doing his job no matter what, he says, "I'm prepared to go forward with it. I'm here live, I'm not a cat."
Jerry L. Phillips, another lawyer on the call appeared to be reading and not really paying attention. But the phrase, "I'm not a cat," isn't often heard in court proceedings and it's enough to make him look up at the screen and then chuckle at what he sees. Meantime, Ferguson, ever calm, starts giving Ponton instructions for removing the filter right before the YouTube video ends, presumably because Ponton figured out how to look like himself again. Ferguson later tweeted the video, saying it was being released "for educational purposes."
Unless you've watched, it's hard to explain why it's so funny. You just have to see how the sad little kitten rolls its eyes in despair toward the bottom of the screen for yourself.
It's a safe bet that Ponton didn't wake up Tuesday morning expecting to become instantly famous for showing up in court as a feline. It wasn't even his mistake--he had borrowed his assistant's laptop. Lawyers aren't generally known for their ability to laugh at themselves, but Ponton is handling his new celebrity-kitten status with good humor. "If I can make the country chuckle for a moment in these difficult times they're going through, I'm happy to let them do that at my expense," he told the New York Times.
It's a valuable lesson: If people are laughing at you, your wisest and best response may be to join them. And whoever created that kitten filter? Really nice work.