Out of the blue, Nielsen Media Research called to ask if I would like to fill out a week-long survey questionnaire reporting my viewing.
"I don't mind doing it at all, but I really don't watch much TV," I said.
"That's okay," the woman from Nielsen told me. "We ask several households so we get a cross-section."
Good deal. I don't mind being the 2% margin of error.
In winter I will drool in front of the box a bit more, but in summer I watch the morning news and the evening Simpsons reruns and that's about it.
The survey started last Thursday. I duly reported the morning news and the evening Simpsons. We've also been spot-checking the various summer talent shows and Top Chef.
Last night, I was home alone. I was watching the Simpsons. It was the medical marijuana episode.
The phone rang at about 7:15. It was a woman from Nielsen. I thought it might be my wife phoning in. I was also thinking about several deadlines for drawings coming up, as I watched the television.
"Hi, this is (missed name) from the Nielsen company. I just wanted to see if you got your survey packet and if you had any questions."
Do you mind? I'm trying to watch TV. I didn't say it, but I thought it. Damn it, I should have said it. I should have said, "I know you're just trying to do your job here, but so am I. How am I supposed to get my TV watched if you keep calling me up asking questions?"
In my distracted state, trying to watch the cartoon and stay in contact with my other preoccupations, I sounded completely stoned. It made her laugh. That made me laugh, because I knew I sounded like an utter bake-head. I'm not, but let's just say the sensation is not entirely unfamiliar. And there was Homer, doing the usual excellent job of lampooning that state of mind.
It all had a curious unity. There's a wacky, stonerish humor to the idea of the Nielsen company keeping one of their test subjects from watching TV, especially one who draws an almost continuous line down the "TV Off" column of the survey booklet as it is.
Tonight I'm not watching at all. The Simpsons reruns go Monday through Friday and I got home too late for the evening news.