WHAT I *SHOULD* HAVE SAID TO THE TELEPHONE CENSUS WORKER WHO’S BEEN TELEPHONICALLY HOUNDING OUR HOUSEHOLD FOR THE LAST SEVERAL DAYS WHEN HE FINALLY CAUGHT ME AT HOME YESTERDAY: “I’m sorry, but I’m currently in the throes of some as-yet-undiagnosed anger management issues and am therefore incapable of conducting this call in anything approaching a non-sarcastic tone, at best, and which will in all likelihood grow into naked belligerence and assholitry as the call progresses. And let me be clear that the reason for my anger is due entirely to the realization of how the next half hour of my life is going to be spent–which is to say, talkin’ ta you. Now, I realize it is our civic and legal duty to conduct census interviews, even the inconvenient and time-consuming ones such as your American Community Survey– a census survey, I might add, which asks more pressing and detailed questions about our personal financial data than are even required by the IRS. And given that civic and legal duty, I would normally like to be of assistance, especially since you have now assured me that this is to be our penultimate interview in the seven, count `em, SEVEN, semi-consecutive monthly interviews for this survey. (To your credit, you did take eight months off after the first four.) However, my suspicion that, as in the previous six interviews, the same questions will be repeated on multiple occasions during this interview session (beyond just asking the same questions about me and additionally about my wife, meaning multiples of two) will cause me to become further enraged at having to participate, as will the fact that our answers have essentially remained unchanged throughout our aforementioned six previous monthly interviews. Add to this the fact that the very specific financial information you seek to gather from us is of the sort that can be quite difficult to determine off the top of one’s head if you’re a freelancer as I am (such as the fact that I don’t always know how many hours I spent working on a freelance job if I am not being paid by the hour for it; and even if I was working by the hour, I don’t have that information on my person at all times). I fear therefore that this interview will only further fuel my ire at having to conduct it in the first place. This being the case, it’s probably best for all of us that you call back on another day, preferably one when my wife is home. I’m not saying she won’t be as irritated by your interview as I am, but she is at least able to mask it more skillfully than I am currently able. Thanks so much. Buh bye.”
WHAT I *ACTUALLY* SAID WAS: “How long will this call take?”
And this is the point at which the census worker tipped the scales of assholity for me by blatantly lying in his reply of, “A couple of minutes.” For he then proceeded to put questions to me at the speed, though not the level of annunciation, of the Micro Machines guy for the next 25 minutes. This speedy delivery required me to keep interrupting him, every third question, to ask for him to repeat said question. And despite his own timetable of “a couple of minutes” he somehow seemed annoyed with me when I interrupted at seven minute intervals to point out that my stopwatch was proving his “couple of minutes” woefully more inaccurate as the seconds ticked by. I eventually suggested that he should get around to looking up the definition of the word “couple” before tossing it about so freely, as some of us actually know that definition (“two people or things of the same sort considered together”), and even by the standards of its loosest and most idiomatic meaning (“more than two but still very few”) fourteen minutes does not fall within that range. At my next stopdown, 21 minutes in, he suggested that if I hadn’t kept interrupting him so much then the interview really would have been over in a couple of minutes. He actually said that. And this was the point at which I was compelled to suggest further that he may not know how words or time work.
Should have gone with option #1.