In college I had a temp job as a survey taker, calling people at random and bothering them with questions. In those days people always answered the phone, even if they were standing at the stove with a baby on one hip putting out a grease fire. Everyone picked up my call; few took the survey.
Oh, once in a while a tremulous voice would say “sure,” and you got the sense that you were the only human contact the person had that day, or decade, and even if they answered yes-or-no questions with phrases like “monkeys are clever but the meat’s tough” you kept going, just to fill the quota.
So when someone calls me with a survey, I remember those dark days and play along. I got a five-minute customer satisfaction survey the other day from a pet store, drilling down to the most elemental level about my emotional state after the trip. The people who stuck a needle in my arm and pulled out my wisdom teeth never did a follow-up, but buy four cans of slaughterhouse goop for a canine and you get fussed over like you’d blown ten grand at Tiffany’s.
Yes, that’s why I play along. Because I’m just a great guy who remembers what it was like. But then you find yourself filling out an online survey, and think: no, I’m just middle-aged, using this survey to compensate for feelings of insignificance, hoping to win a gift card.
I think I spent 20 minutes on a burrito-chain survey, answering questions like “how likely would you be to recommend the Fire-Roast TM Diablo Salsa Con Queso to a friend? Very likely? Somewhat likely? Kick down his door and wake him up from a sound sleep to insist we gotta drive there now because it’s INCREDIBLE?”
Trust me. I do a lot of these. It’s pathetic, but it’s made me something of a connoisseur of the online survey, and that’s why I was keen to take the one offered by the city of Minneapolis to fine-tune the Creative City Road Map, which the city website says will help us “think more strategically about how its arts and creative assets can best contribute to the local and regional economy and improve Minneapolis’ quality of life.” It’s … a bit obtuse.
Question #10: “Do you find information about arts and cultural offerings in Minneapolis to be accessible in the following mediums?” Print media, broadcast media, tourism literature, and the Internet.
I had to read that a few times, feeling stupid, and lingered over the options, which included “Neither Accessible Nor Inaccessible.” Try to imagine a situation where someone decides that information about arts and culture in Minneapolis is neither accessible nor inaccessible in the newspaper. That would describe the following situations:
1. The paper has lots of information, but it landed on the roof today.
2. The paper is on the kitchen table, but I really don’t want to open it up because then it gets messy and I have to spend half an hour reassembling it and ironing the pages before I put it back on my neighbor’s stoop.
3. I think Satan glued the pages together.
Inaccessible? A doorway on the third floor of a building is inaccessible.
#12 “If you don’t attend arts and cultural events as frequently as you’d like, what are some of the reasons you don’t attend more frequently?” Lack of time, cost, too far to drive, hard to get to are some options. “Beatles broke up” is not one of them.
“No one to attend with” is listed, which makes you sad. But if no one wants to go to Orchestra Hall with you because you bring tomatoes to throw at the soloists and snore during the quiet parts of the symphony, finding you a friend does not fall under the duties and obligations of our government.
#23 “What resources would you like the most help with as an artist, designer, or creative practitioner?” The list might as well say: “1. Money 2. Some money 3. Hey, got any money? 4. You know what would be nice? Money.” And so on. Money actually is the first option, in the form of “low-interest loans.”
This is sticky. The city would either have to loan money to anyone who says they’re An Artist, or make judgments about what is and is not art. So, what do you want to do with the loan?
“I want to spend a year interviewing the marginalized population that is forced by issues of chemical dependency to be outside in harsh climates.” Sounds important. OK, here’s your loan. And the artist leaves, chuckling, thinking “they just loaned me five grand to take smoke breaks at work and talk to co-workers.”
This might work if the loan had a crippling balloon payment due at the end, dependent on whether the artwork was aesthetically successful. The city’s Artistic Loan Adjuster would make a critical judgment. “Well, under most circumstances I would extend your loan for another year, but I think the play falls apart in the third act when the brother’s motivation is revealed. It’s too neat. Too convenient. If you want to rewrite him to explain how he got the million dollars that saved the farm, we can refinance.”
#28 “Have you ever participated in a public planning process before participating in this survey?” Yes / No / I don’t know.
How can you not know? Well, one morning I woke up outside of City Hall with a headache, and the last thing I remember was a fella at a whiteboard saying something about “stakeholders.” It’s all a blur after that.
I’ll get back to you when the survey results are announced.
Unless they’re inaccessible.