“If you have just a few minutes, I’d like to ask your opinion about some important issues facing all Americans.”
What was I supposed to say? According to the woman on the phone, all of America needed me. Surely I could postpone dinner by just a few minutes. I lowered the heat under the skillet and turned my attention to the phone. “OK, shoot.”
“Do I hear some dishes in the background there?” the woman asked.
“I was cooking dinner, but I’ve stopped now.”
“What are you cooking?”
Her question threw me a little. I had no idea America was in crisis over my dining decisions. But if she wanted to be chatty, I’d play along. Schlepping via phone, whether selling ideas or insurance, is probably a thankless position.
“I’m sautéing zucchini.”
“Gross. My mom used to make me eat that.”
So much for friendliness. “You had some questions?” I prompted.
“Oh. Yeah.” She cleared her throat and started reading off of her prepared script. “Thank you for your time. I will now say two statements. Please indicate which one you most agree with. If you do not agree with either one, indicate which one most closely resembles your own opinion.”
“Even if I don’t agree with either one?”
“I can’t just say ‘neither’?”
“No. You have to choose between the two statements.”
Amazing. We hadn’t gotten to the question yet, and already this call was demonstrating an important issue facing all Americans.
I listened to the woman read her two statements. I don’t really want to go into them here. Let’s just say that they were the equivalent of “America is dependent on sandwiches, so we should steal sandwiches from (A) old defenseless great-grandparents or (2) young defenseless school children.” I asked her to repeat the statements, just to make certain I understood them. Sure enough, I thought they were both as appealing as pig spit. But if her system didn’t offer a “neither” option, I figured “pig spit” was completely out .
“You have to choose,” the woman said in a huffy voice. “You have two options. You say which one most resembles your idea.”
My mounting ire longed for a vent. I wanted to tell this woman that she was fostering the problem, not solving it. I wanted to point out that her poll results would be bogus and misleading at best—that the whole purpose of her futile question was to craft a numeric weapon bullies could continue to justify their actions, claiming they were stealing sandwiches on my behalf when in fact I am sick of their sandwiches. I don’t want to be in the pocket of Big Sandwich anymore.
“No,” I said.
“No is not an option,” she said angrily.
“Yes it is,” I said. I turned off the phone and got back to making a non-sandwich meal for my family.
# # #
Angela Dove is an award-winning columnist and author of the true crime memoir, No Room for Doubt: A True Story of the Reverberations of Murder (Penguin/Berkley 2009). She welcomes feedback at www.AngelaDove.com.