In honor of Sunday Scribblings' prompt this week, I give you one of my fantasies. [No, not that type of fantasy. Those fantasies I'll keep to myself and my significant other, thank you. Which doesn't mean you're not significant, mind you, just that you're not, um, him.]
I've moderated hundreds of focus groups over the course of the last 15 years or so. Yes, I'm one of those people who gets paid to pay ordinary folks, such as you significant people, to talk at length on a particular subject. Mostly, I've done sessions talking about newspapers. That's what you get when you work for a newspaper for 10 years. I've also managed to do quite a few about utility companies, state agencies and non-profits.
I nearly always enjoyed doing them. And, while false modesty prevents me from singing my praises too loudly, I must confess to being quite artful at the craft. I feigned interest in what people had to say. I pretended to listen to them. I made myself appear to care what their opinions were.
Let's talk in round figures and say I moderated or observed and reported on 400 of the suckers. And let's talk in further round figures and say each group had 10 people in it. That means I've put up with 4,000 focus group participants. 3,990 of them were fine, upstanding folks. Ten were the worst folks to have to be subjected to, even if for only two hours.
I always wanted to put together a focus group with these 10 people. Put them all in a room and extract some bizarre vengeance for their behavior. I'm not talking about the 100 or so blowhards, mind you. They were a relative piece of cake.
No, I'm talking about the people like the following:
-- The woman who, when told the water she was taste-testing came from a good old Department of Water and Power tap, proceeded to spit it out on me.
-- The junkie in another DWP group, this one with customers who didn't pay their bills, who fell asleep sitting next to me, drooling along the way.
-- The man in a group for the Department of Health and Human Services who excused himself to go to the bathroom, but failed to mention he was going to smoke his crack pipe in there. Twice.
-- The belligerent "gentleman" who got so out of control he had to be escorted off the premises.
At the time, of course, you have to maintain self-control and control of the group. In my fantasy focus group, though, there is no paying client. It's just me. And those sandwiches they're going to be fed? Still in my fantasy, 'k? Botulism or salmonella.
Now there's an invitation no one wants to receive.
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