The other day this research company calls and says they’re asking people in my area their opinions and would I have a few minute to answer a few questions.
About what? I ask.
It will be obvious once we get a few questions in, the guy replies.
I must have been temporarily insane or unreasonably curious because I agree to participate. It isn’t but a few sentences later when I remember exactly why I HATE surveys. Of all kinds. Each and every one of them. (This will relate to writing in just a sec, I swear.)
So this is obviously a public opinion poll on social and political issues. Ugh. The reason I hate surveys is because my answers, and hence I guess my opinions, never fit into their neat narrow categories.
It went something like this: The guy says, Answering either Strongly agree, Mostly agree, Neither agree nor disagree, Mostly disagree, Strongly disagree, Should Stephen Harper return to wearing sweater vests?
What!? How should I know? What’s the weather like when he might be wearing them? Where is he going when he wears them? Are they plaid or tartan or plain? How much do they cost? What does he think of them? And of course by now I’ve forgotten the categories so I have to ask what they are again.
Well, I don’t know, I say in exasperation.
Um, I can’t put that down as an answer, the guy says.
So I have to select Neither agree nor disagree. But that’s not entirely accurate. I would have an opinion if I had more information or if there was some context.
Or how about this one? Answering either Highly favourable, Mostly favourable, Mostly unfavourable or Highly unfavourable, What is your opinion of Canada Geese?
Uh, anything else to go on there? Are they eating my grass and creating huge lumps of green fecal residue on the lawn? Are they a fluid V flying overhead on a crisp fall afternoon? Are they honking melodiously from the nearby marsh on a warm spring evening? Are they hissing at me as I walk through the park? What!?
Uh, that’s all that’s written for the question, the guy says.
Sheesh. Guess I don’t know then. Oh, sorry, that would be the secret No Opinion category the guy says he can put my answer in.
But it’s not like I don’t have an opinion, it just depends!!!
It probably took me twice as long to do the survey because my reaction to pretty nearly every question was like this. Obviously those weren’t the real questions, but same idea. Is this a writer’s curse to make up all these scenarios? Do we all make a seemingly simple question into a philosophical exercise? Well, whatever. It was more fun than the boring answers they provided. I say here’s to enjoying the creation of nuances, grey areas, complex characters and rich back stories.
And the next time some guy asks if me if I have a few minutes to answer a few questions, I should just answer, well, that depends. Just exactly how much time have YOU got?