Wednesday, July 22, 2009



Always looking to pick up extra cash, I signed up to participate in a research study. Last night, a research assistant to the study called to prescreen me for it. (Let me not keep you in suspense: at the end of the conversation, I was eliminated for failure to meet the research parameters).

The study is being conducted at the University of Wiscosnin and it is on the genetics of smoking.

This was, to the best of my recollection, our conversation:

Hi, I see you volunteered to be in our study. (She takes time to explain that the study is on families and smoking and it requires some medical tests and one lengthy interview.) To compensate you for your time, if you participate, we will give you a $50 gift card.
To where?
Target or Walmart.
You have my full attention.
But first, we need to see if you fit our criteria. Once you answer in a way that disqualifies you, I will end the interview, okay?
So, when did you start smoking?
When I was 15.
Did you ever smoke more than five cigarettes a day, for a period of at least two months?
How old where you?
Did you smoke the first cigarette upon waking, before you did anything else?
No. [Let me insert here, for Ocean readers, that I was a light social smoker for a handful of years and that I hated every cigarette I ever smoked, so that it was not hard for me to quit entirely at the age of 22.]
Did you have a cigarette before breakfast?
Did you find you had to rush to have a cigarette even when you were very sick, so that you had to get out of bed to smoke?
I was not very sick in the years that I smoked.
Did you rush to smoke outside the building in times of work, or when you were on smoke free premises?
Let me tell you something: in those days, there were no smoke free premises.
Whaaat? (The interviewer is completely thrown off here)
People smoked inside all buildings.
Kids smoked in college classes. There were little silver ashtrays on classroom tables.
Are you serious??
People smoked on airplanes. Eventually in the back of the plane, but still, they smoked.
No, you’re joking. On airplanes??
I can’t think of a space where you could not smoke.
Well then, did you rush out to smoke outside anywhere anyway?
I did not rush out to smoke.
Oh, OK. You’re not eligible. We thank you for your time.

$50 to Target, lost, because I did not rush. Weird.