IT GETS TO YOU after a while; I'm not going to pretend it doesn't. Here I am, 38 years old and never been part of a sex survey or drug abuse survey or any other survey, for that matter.
Initially, I thought I had a shot at the Sleeping Habits survey.
What happened was, they called a neighbor of mine and asked whether she liked the blankets curled around her feet or tucked in at night. She had a headache and really didn't feel like talking on the phone, so I whispered: "Tell them to call me! I'll run right home!"
"Tucked in" was the obvious answer. I didn't even have to think about it. Anyway, that's what I would have told the survey people, tucked in. But they never called, and the four hours I spent waiting by the phone were pretty much wasted, if you don't count finishing that quilt.
Sure enough, I pick up the newspaper a few weeks later and there's the headline: AMERICANS PREFER BLANKETS TUCKED IN, POLL SAYS.
Well. Thank you very much. God, it eats at you, coming that close to being a statistical blip in a random survey and then having the whole thing pass you by.
It was sort of the same thing with the Environmental Disasters survey. Some ecological do-gooders called my house one night and said, OK, which of the following do you fear the most: massive oil spill, Level 4 meltdown at a nuclear power plant, 400-acre forest fire or underground toxic waste leaking into your local reservoir?
Well, quite frankly I was scared of all of them, which is what I told this one tree-hugger interviewing me on the phone. But that's not how this survey worked. You had to pick the one disaster that would really, really spoil your day.
Anyway, I was just about to tell him, OK, put me down for the Level 4 meltdown when all of a sudden the phone went dead.
I couldn't believe it. We found out later that a tractor trailer had run off the road and smacked into a couple of utility poles, so the phones were out all over. Not that it did me any good to find this out.
Well, you can probably guess the rest. A month or so later, I pick up the paper and there it is: WE'D RATHER BURN TO A CRISP THAN CROAK FROM PLUTONIUM, POLL SAYS.
The sex surveys are my favorite, not that anyone has ever asked me to participate (in a survey, I mean.)
No, check that. I had a shot at a sex survey once. This women's magazine had a table set up in front of the Safeway and they were asking passers-by: How many times a week do you have sex?
For the most part, people were saying two or three or four, although there was this one guy in a leather jumpsuit and gold chains saying 18 or 20. A couple of married women said, honey, I haven't had sex since the Nixon administration, all he does is watch football on TV.
Well, I didn't want to give the same answer as everyone else, so I said 60 times a week. They looked at me kind of funny, but I didn't care. Heck, I was on a roll.
Yeah, I said, I don't get out of bed much during the week. Tell you the truth, I'm kinda tired most of the time from all this love-making. And sore. Maybe I'll have to slow down to 50 times, heh, heh, heh.
Anyway, I thought it was a great answer, but the sex survey people started rolling their eyes the way people do when they think you're full of it.
You don't have sex 60 times a week, they said. Nobody has sex times a week. That idiot with the leather jumpsuit and gold chains, even he didn't say 60 times.
Are you calling me a liar? I said. Because if you're calling me a liar, we'll just end this thing right here. You can just take your clipboards and your No. 2 pencils and your smug holier-than-thou attitude and get out of my way and let me get a quart of milk and a loaf of bread.
Fine, they said. Go on, get out of here.
Well, this was not exactly what I had in mind. I didn't spend all this time trying to land in a survey only to see the whole thing blow up in my face.
Wait a minute, I said. Did I say 60 times a week? I meant three or four. Please, give me another chance. Can't a guy make a mistake once in a while?
But by this time it was too late; they had taken my No. 2 pencil and clipboard and moved on to the next person, who turned out to be a nun, believe it or not.
Before I left, I heard one of the survey people mutter something under her breath about my "credibility."
Which, you ask me, was their problem, not mine. It's not like I swore on a Bible.