Survey at a local café, by Donna Phillips

Marketing Researcher pays random woman $100 to answer questions for a human research study.  

Man and Woman sit across from each other at a two-person table beside the window facing a busy street.

“What was your first thought this morning,” the man asks.

“You mean when I woke up? Coffee. It’s always coffee.”

“No, no, no,” he shakes his head. “What’s your greatest strength and weakness?”

“What does that have to do with my first thought?”

“It doesn’t. Different question. Just answer it.”

“Every weakness has a strength and vice versa.”

“Your avoiding the question.”

“The answer’s rhetorical.”

He puffs out a breath. “Would you rather be ugly and live forever? Or attractive and die in ten years?”

“Are you serious? What the hell kind of–”

“Just answer.”

“Be ugly and live forever.”

“If you could be any age for a week, what age would that be?”

“Why one week?”

“I don’t know,” he flips through the pages. “It’s part of the study.”

“Choosing one specific age for one week has no impact on anyone who can already vote and drink. Stupid question. Pass.”

“You can’t pass.”

“I just did.”

“What quality in people do you find the most annoying?”


“Give me an example.”

“Someone who drives a BMW or Benz thinks they have the right to take up two parking spaces.”

“Anything else?”

“Someone in a major rush behind the wheel cuts me off and I have to slam on my breaks just so I don’t crash into them or someone else. It’s as if they think their life’s more important than mine. It’s infuriating.”

“I know the feeling,” he says. “What about in your home?”

“What’s the question?”

“What annoys you inside your home?”

“I can never eye just the right amount of ketchup for my french-fries. I always seem to overestimate and then it goes to waste. I’m working on it.”

“Who annoys you?”

“Didn’t you already ask me that?”

“Not in the same form. Go. Off the top of your head, who comes up?”

“Jim Gaffigan.”

“Why him?”

“Cause we get it Jim; you like food. Join the club. You don’t have to beat the us over the head with it.”

“If you had all the money in the world how would you spend your time?”

“Enough money that I wouldn’t have to work?”


“I’d volunteer at a hospital or something else children related. Travel. See the world.”

“No designer purses, trips to the hair salon or lavish jewelry?”

I eye his gold watch. “No.”

“And what would you do with these children?”

“Roller-skate, doodle on walls, play hide and seek. Read books. Write stories. Fun stuff like that.”

“Have you ever lost someone close to you?”

“Of course.”

“How did it make you feel?” He scratches his nose.


“About what?”

“The meaning of their life.”

“Have you figured it out?”

“Not particularly.”

“Do you believe in second chances?”

“Wow, you really bounce around?”

He taps his finger on the yellow pad.

“Two chances. Never three,” I say.

“No matter who it is?”

“My family can have as many chances as they want.”

He nods and reads the next line. “What is the craziest thing you’ve ever done?”

“Live in the wilderness for two months.”

“Really in the woods? What was that like.”


“Would you do it again?”

“In a heartbeat.”

“What holds you back?”


“What do you think about when you’re alone?” he asks.

 “I don’t know,” I say. “I mostly pick up around the house, play music, read or watch a movie.”

“Yeah, but what do you think about?”

I sigh and rub my chin. “Different things.”

“What mostly?”

“The future.”

“What have you always wanted? Did you get it?”

“No yet.”

“What it is?”

“Next question,” I say.

He lowers his brows and squints. “Okay,” he says and flips a page in his notebook. “Last one. But you have to answer it. No passes.” He stares at me a second seeming to make sure I understand the terms.  

I stare back at him and wait. 

 “If you can choose just one thing to change about the world, what would it be?”

 “That’s tough,” I say. “I can only choose one?”

“Yeah, what would it be?”
I take a moment to sort through my thoughts.

“Come on quick, off the top of your head.”

“Fine,” I say. “I’d change people’s limitations.”


“Yeah, I’d make is so everyone is capable of communicating and understanding one another’s point of view.”

“Hmm. Interesting,” he says and jots down my answer.

“Is that it?” I ask.

“Yeah.” He reaches into his pocket and hands me the hundred-dollar bill.

Author wanted to remain anonymous.