A few months ago, I spent 20 minutes doing a survey about television preferences and celebrities. The fact that I haven't watched TV in more than two years (except for the announcement of Ratzinger's elevation and an occasional snippet at my folks house or a hotel room or walking through one of the break rooms at my office) made the whole thing amusing to both me and the interviewer. When she mentioned a reality show about "Swapping Wives" or something like that, I stopped the interview and had her explain the concept to me. It wasn't like The Ice Storm, I found out. Ten or fifteen minutes of repeating "never heard of it" was a hoot, and I did my part in making it clear to the data-sifters that they don't have everyone hooked.
Just a few minutes ago, I finished a telephone survey sponsored by GQ magazine:
- There were some questions about religion ("Would you exaggerate your religious observance to impress a date?" No. I'd probably need to downplay it. "Do you think it's important to practice a specific religion?" Yes. "How often do you attend religious services?" No choice for "more than weekly")
- A couple of questions about adultery and fornication (Do I think monogamy is important? Yes. Which celebrities (from a list of women I'd mostly never heard of) would I sleep with? None of the above. I could get away with it, would I sleep with a friend, a wife's friend, a stranger? None of the above. If your wife cheated on you would it be ok to cheat on her? No.)
- Questions about various other sins of impurity (Where do I download my pornography? Nowhere. When was the last time I looked at pornography? That depends on whether the Hall's department store billboard down the street last fall counted as porn. )
- Questions about who should be in jail, including Michael Jackson and Bernie Evers and some guy named L'il Kim that I'd never heard of. I let them all go free. I wouldn't want any of them decide whether I ought to be in stripes merely because of what they might have seen about me on TV. The Golden Rule principle at work here.
- Questions about gambling and getting high. I said smoking a doobie wasn't as back as cheating on your wife or falsifying an expense report. When asked about why I have gambled, one of the choices was not "because my Grandmother likes to go," so I had to say "none of the above"
- There were a couple of questions of "Would you lead a monastic life if . . . " followed by some very un-monastic choices, most of which involved noteworthy exceptions to the vows of poverty or chastity. Fortunately, one of the choices was " if you could still have alcohol," which of course is something that you CAN do in a monastery from time to time. Therefore, I didn't have to pass on that one. Like the long-gone Capuchin Brother Epp on the back of the Free State Brewery T-Shirt everyone in KC has, I thought "Without beer, things do not seem to go as well."
So the question is, what will they do with my data? Should I have participated in an awful magazine's little game? I don't know, but I wish I'd had a speakerphone for my wife so she could have listened, too, because it was the most amusing thing that happened today.