I assume I must be one of the last people on the continent who will answer the phone when it’s an unknown number, which is why the Harris Decima phone banker with the heavily accented English was so joyful when he got a live body.
As someone who works in media and who lives with someone who works in media, I’m not supposed to be allowed to do polls. But I love finding out what they’re asking and I’ve always been a rule-breaker so what the heck … ask away, I told him. (A small consolation for not having been asked to fill out the long census form.)
Little did I realize that, being I was one of the few people they could get hold of, they had a LOT to ask me. I’m used to relatively short polls, the kind I used to get when I was home during the day 25 years ago. This time, I must have been on the phone for at least 20 minutes.
We covered everything. First, what major stores I had shopped at recently. Then, more specifically, why I hadn’t shopped at Zeller’s. What would make me go there? (Hmm, being on welfare. A gun.) From there, we moved on to politics. Who would I vote for federally today? Who would I vote for provincially? Who’s the best leader? What’s the top issue in the election? Which is the best party to deal with that issue? Do I think the tough economy means that sustainability should have to take a back seat? Does the tough economy improve the environment? Which is scarier and makes me wet my pants — a bad economy or a dying planet? Which would win at at mixed-martial arts competition: the economy or the environment?
After that, it was on to education and research. I wish I had a faithful rendition of one of their questions. It was so loaded that I could have used it as a sample in the polling class I teach. Something like: The Canadian government has cut $100 million from Canadian universities and colleges for research, saying money should go to blah blah instead. In the U.S., Barack Obama has put $1 billion into research, saying it’s what’s needed to develop the economy of the future. Which statement do you agree with? (Um, I’m a troglodyte and very uncool, so I’ll say A.)
After that, a bunch of impossible questions about how should universities save money, by a) cutting research b) raising tuition c) selling drugs on campus and do I think that everyone deserves a free education because basically you’re a loser if you don’t have a BA these days, so it’s practically mandatory and therefore should be free, or is this a dog-eat-dog world and people should have to pay through the nose for an education.
Tired yet? I sure was. As this point, exhausted from thinking about whether I very much agreed, somewhat agreed, somewhat disagreed or very much disagreeed on something or another, I asked how many more questions. Oh, we’re about 60 per cent through, he said.
So we went on to whether I thought Earth Day was worthwhile or had it passed its prime. (What’s Earth Day?) Did I think any the worse of Alberta because they’re now running a huge deficit after years of hauling in the oil money? (No, I always thought it was the most depressing province in Canada, cutting this and that while wallowing in its surpluses and acting those it was a financial genius. Nothing’s changed.) Who did I think would win the NHL playoffs? I have no idea, I kept telling the guy over and over again, while he kept asking me about which team I preferred and other related questions. I don’t even know which teams are in the playoffs.
I think there were a few more topics but by then I was so dazed, I’d stopped taking notes. I realized I’d also gotten to the point where I was giving completely contradictory answers and, at points, saying anything just to move on to the next one.
Something for all of you to think about the next time you see some headline screaming: “Carole James the best choice to lead Canucks to playoffs on Earth Day, say pollsters” It could be what 47 per cent of B.C.ers said, 19 times out of 20. Or it could be that they were in the twilight zone by the time those questions came around.