It was a peaceful Saturday morning. All the cartoons I cared about watching were over and I was getting ready to visit one of my good friends. We were single guys with free time and a Saturday ahead of us. Before I could leave the house, though, the phone rang.
My mood being what it was, I took a chance and answered. On the other end of the line, rather than a caller I knew, I found myself chatting with a telemarketer asking me if I'd like to take a survey. I was feeling generous or perhaps just mildly adventurous, so I told him to bring it on. He sounded surprised and maybe a little excited about not being rejected. As I said, I had free time. And he was going to send me five dollars and a bag of Fritos. I was in.
The caller proceeded to ask me if I had cable television service. I did. With that confirmed, he told me to tune to a special leased channel so he could show me a commercial. Just for me? Cool! Plus, I just learned what those strange extra channel spots were being used for.
The private show began and I was treated to two slick commercial spots for a new chewing gum. The ads had clearly seen the touch of computer wizardry as well as creativity. After watching them, the survey began. I was asked about my impressions of the commercials. Had the appropriate messages about the virtues of the new gum been conveyed to me? Going through that, he asked me the deal-closer: Would the commercial make someone like me buy their gum?
Answering honestly, I told him, "No."
I think I actually heard his crest fall. "Oh? Why not?"
"Because I don't chew gum," I said, "so I would assume that someone like me wouldn't either, so..." There it was. We had a few seconds of silence as, I imagine, he realized the time he could've saved if a question covering that one basic thing had been added to the front end of the process. We were already several minutes into the whole mess, though, so he pressed on like a trooper.
I'd seen this sort of mentality before, in Congress of all places. The Department of Defense had this project they were developing called the Sergeant York. It was an anti-tank weapon that, even after having had over a hundred million dollars thrown at it, literally couldn't hit the broad side of a barn. That's no hyperbole. I saw the video footage. The decision was made to continue throwing money into development because they had already invested so much at that point. You may sigh now.
The survey droned on with the two of us slogging through a staggering list of questions that all seemed to end with the exchange--> Me: Not likely at all. Him: Why not? Me: Because I don't chew gum.
I kept smiling and refrained from laughing. In return, every few questions, he muttered an apology. Hey, we were both getting paid for it, so we did our jobs.
We finally wrapped up the awkard call, put the survey behind us and got on with our lives. When I finally made it to my friend's, I got as far into the story as starting the survey when he looked at me with puzzlement and that cocked head thing that people do.
"I don't think I've ever seen you chew gum," he said, shaking his head. "You don't chew gum, do you?"
There it was! Like I said, cover those crucial basics early.
Now, I'm going to imagine that there are some life lessons in all this somewhere, but I'm going to leave it to you to pull them out this time. I've got to go recover from that mind-numbing survey all over again.