With the election over, thank God, I thought pesky telephone polls would subside. But if anything, they’ve increased. Not the “Who has your vote?” polls, or what I call “Slur Polls” — questions designed not to collect answers but to deliver attacks; polls that start out normal and then slide into insinuation: “On a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being most disgusted, and 1 being not as disgusted as you ought to be, how revolted were you to learn of the secret slush fund of Rep. Peckinsniff …”)
I try not to give much time to phone solicitors. I’ve learned to quickly set the receiver back down if the person on the other end doesn’t immediately reply to my tentative “Hello?” because that means it’s some automatic dialer in Mumbai that calls 10 numbers at a time and then connects with the first to answer. That takes 1.5 seconds, and by then I’ve hung up.
But with phone surveys, I play along in a kind of information judo, using callers’ momentum against them. While they try to pry information out of me, I learn from them.
For instance. Bank of America called this week. I am a preferred customer, which means I leave too much money sitting in accounts, drawing 0.03 percent interest, money that Bank of America then loans out at 3 percent. (That’s not “3 percent interest” they give, by the by. That’s three-hundredths of a percent. You wonder why anyone bothers at that point; the interest they pay hardly seems worth the paperwork to tally it).
So, the Bank of America phone pollster wants to know: Have I used their Northbrook branch bank in the past 30 days? Why yes, I have! Just the other day. Working at home, at lunchtime, I took a break to do “errands”— my excuse to stand up and step outside. I stroll to the library and the post office, the hardware store, the grocery store and the bank. While most suburbanites don’t visit their neighbors without getting in a car, I like that we live cheek-by-jowl to downtown, or to what passes for a downtown in Northbrook, and can walk everywhere.