Sometimes it's depressing how (relatively) normal and safe my life is.
Take the other day. I get a call from this girl doing a phone survey. It's for a study of the Pennsylvania Health System. Would I mind answering some questions? Now as a general rule I try not to say no to surveys - the way I look at it, sooner or later I'm going to have to start using surveys to collect data for my research, and so it's only fair that I answer them for other people.
At any rate. At first her questions are harmless enough. You know - how many people stay in my house, do I have a phone, what's my household income, etc. But pretty soon they started giving me an inferiority complex. Here's roughly how it went:
Survey person (SP): Do you smoke?
SP: Do you do drugs?
F: No. (Dammit! I knew there was something I missed out on in college)
SP: Do you consume alcohol?
F: (Ah, finally an area I have expertise in!) Yes. Yes!
SP: (Oh ya?) In the last 30 days, how often would you say you have been out drinking: a) 1 to 2 times, b) 3 to 5 times c) 5 to 10 times d) 10 to 15 times and e) more than 15 times?
F: Errr...1 to 2 times.
SP: (I thought so) Every time you went out drinking in the last 30 days, what quantity of alcohol did you consume on each occassion: a) 1 or 2 drinks b) 3 or 4 drinks c) 5 or 6 drinks d) more than 6 drinks?
F: 1 to 2 drinks. (but that's only in the last 30 days. Otherwise I'm practically an alcoholic. Why you should have seen me that night...how long ago was it now...five years? Aaargghh!)
SP: Have you ever driven when you were drunk?
F: No. (I don't drive)
SP: Have you ever had sex with someone when you were drunk?
F: No. (Okay, this is not going well)
SP: (so much for drinking, huh) Have you ever shared needles with other people?
F: No. (Ewww!)
SP: Have you ever had sex with someone for drugs or money?
F: No. (Ya right, like anyone would pay to sleep with me)
SP: Have you at least had unprotected sex with another man? (come on, give me something to work with here)
SP: (Okay, okay, maybe it's not that you're a loser, maybe you just have some serious medical condition): Do you have asthma? Diabetes? Haemophilia? AIDS? Osteoporosis?
F: No. No. No. No. No.
SP: How old ARE you? (probably like 80, right?)
SP: (Okay that does it, you're definitely a loser) Do you have smoke detectors in every room in your house?
F: Yes (in all of the one room I have)
SP: (You would) Do you always wear seat belts when you're in a car?
SP: (figures) Do you not allow other people to smoke in your house? (why am I even bothering to ask you this, of course you don't)
F: No, not really (no one's ever asked)
SP: (congratulations, you are officially a slug. Let's see if you have the decency to be depressed about it) Do you suffer from mental depression of any kind?
F:(say yes! say yes! she has no way of checking; tell her you can't get through the day without your lithium tablets) No.
SP: (ya, you wouldn't would you? Vanilla Boy!) Would you describe yourself as being generally satisfied with your life?
F: (thoroughly ashamed of myself by now): Yes.
SP: (and a smarmy, self-satisfied slug at that. Some people, I tell you!) Right, that will be all (I need to go find somebody who's ALIVE and survey them).
F: (Sinking speechlessly into the floor).
How did this happen? How could I let it? How did I get from being the wild, hard-drinking half-suicidal poet of my dreams to this salad-eating, occassional-glass-of-wine sipping goody two-shoes? I don't want to be the Good Living Guide's Poster boy of the Month, I want to be Byronic and depraved, I want to be headed for imminent destruction, I want to be my own worst enemy, I want to be Raymond Carver. Dammit, someone come have sex with me and pay me for it now!
The thing is, it's not like she was targeting a certain population (say college students). This was one of those classic Random Digit Dialing surveys. She actually asked me how many children I had. So let's assume that the people who designed these surveys know what they're talking about. Let's assume that they're not going to design a survey where the bulk of the population is going to give them the same answers. That means that there are huge sections of society out there who are merrily swapping needles and driving around with 5+ drinks in their system. Without a seatbelt. More than 15 days a month. What have I been missing out on?
Look, it's not like I want to be James Dean or something. I don't want to live on the edge. But I do want to live an easy two hour's ride from the edge, I want to live where the edge is just a convenient day-trip away. I don't want to live so far in the hinterland that the edge is like this whole other country that I need a visa to get to. When it comes to edginess, I'm living in Idaho here. This is depressing.
Wait! Did I just say depressing? hey, what do you know, I'm depressed! Hear that, Survey Woman, I'm depressed. My overall satisfaction with my life just moved from Highly Satisfied to Somewhat Satisfied. Hell, maybe even Somewhat Dissatisfied. Put that in your pipe and give it to me and I'll smoke it. Yippeee! I'm depressed, I'm depressed. Sylvia Plath here I come.
Oh, wait. I'm not depressed any more. Darn.
Categories: Personal, Humour