What good is a blog if you can't rant on it? Hearing no reply from the cosmos except a no good at all! from inside my head, I shall rant on.
Tuesday. It's grocery shopping day. I have a hyper-organized shopping list system. It soothes my left-brain soul to get everything on the list. And usually, not to get anything not on the list (my wife takes care of impulse shopping).
I push my empty cart into the south Salem Fred Meyer. Organic bananas always are my first stop. They're behind the display of regular bananas. I angle toward them.
But a 30-something woman heads me off, even though she was slightly behind me coming into the store. The organic bananas aren't visible from the entrance, so she must be psychic. As I approach her and her cart, I see there's only a few organic bananas scattered on the shelf.
Enough for both of us -- about five each, I quickly calculated. That'd be enough to put on top of my oatmeal for the rest of the week. I try to put a longing for organic bananas look on my face as I politely stand with my cart a fair distance away, letting her do her thing.
Which is, frowning slightly as she fingers each and every banana before deciding whether to put it in her cart. Seemingly she's wondering, as I would, why these bananas are the last ones on the shelf.
They look fine to me. And, unfortunately, to her. One by one, she takes all of the remaining loose organic bananas. Then she rolls away.
I wheel over to the banana stand. I ponder the relative health benefits of (1) eating no bananas this week, vs. (2) eating non-organic bananas. It seems like the peel must have some protective properties. I toss a small bunch into my cart, figuring that they won't kill me. (If they do, the organic banana woman has some karma to work out.)
Then I get home, open up my laptop, and find an email from Starbucks inviting me to join the Starbucks Passion Panel.
To get started right now, click on the Join Now button below to complete a questionnaire so we can get an understanding of your Starbucks usage and interests. If you are chosen for our panel, we will upload $5 onto your most recently used, registered Starbucks Card in 6 to 8 weeks, and every future survey you complete qualifies you for additional opportunities to receive rewards from Starbucks.
That sounded good. Assuming I'm still alive in 6 to 8 weeks after eating those non-organic bananas. I clicked away.
I enjoyed telling Starbucks all about my coffee-drinking passions. How often. What sorts of fluids I imbibe into my body. Where I do it. The questionnaire was appealingly erotic.
Then I got to a section where I was supposed to share my feelings about Starbucks itself, responding to statements such as "I would defend Starbucks against attacks" on a strongly agree to strongly disagree scale.
The first statement was on a post-it note'y image with a green paper clip and a "1/9." To the right were rectangular boxes labeled "strongly agree," "somewhat agree," and so on. I figured that I was supposed to click inside one of the boxes, then I'd get the next question.
Except, nothing happened. I kept clicking. More nothing.
I clicked on the "next" button. I got a stern red-fonted warning saying that I hadn't answered the previous question and to try again. I did. I still couldn't figure out how to answer the last part of the freaking questionnaire. I saw my $5 going down the coffee drain.
I found a technical support link. I complained about the time I'd put into answering the previous questions, only to be stymied by an apparent programming glitch. To Starbucks' credit, I got a quick (if unhelpful) email response.
Dear Brian, we apologize for the inconvenience. If you continue to experience difficulties, please refresh the browser window. We are currently working on resolving this issue for our future studies.
Thank you for your interest.
The Starbucks Passion Panel Team
I decided to try my Firefox browser, rather than Safari. Redid the questionnaire. Got to the attitude toward Starbucks section. Held my breath and clicked in a box. Found that nothing happened once again, even after refreshing. Started to really wonder what sorts of idiots Starbucks hired to do their web site programming.
Then I discovered that they weren't idiots -- just too clever. I clicked on the first agree/disagree statement to see what might happen. And found that it moved slightly.
Whoa! It was draggable!
I was supposed to drag the statement into one of the boxes. Then a new one popped up, 2/9, and so on. Clever. Except, in all of my questionnaire-taking experience online, I'd never come across this sort of answering technique.
My annoyance with Starbucks faded some now that I'd been able to figure out the agree/disagree response puzzle. I wondered how many other Starbucks Passion Panelers had been befuddled like I was. I pressed on to finish the survey and become eligible for the five bucks.
Where I was led to the final annoyance. Not that I can blame Starbucks. Just life. And aging.
I'd noticed this before, how it takes a heck of a lot longer now to answer a "your age" question via a pull-down menu where I'm supposed to choose the year I was born. I click on it and am presented with a recent year, something in the 1990's I believe.
I scroll down. And keep scrolling.
It seems to take forever to get all of the way to 1948. As the decades roll by I think of Reagan, Nixon, Kennedy, Eisenhower, everything that has happened since I was born, party lines on the telephone, black and white TV, the Korean war.
Hey, Starbucks: how about just letting me type in my birth year, rather than reminding me of how many people were born more recently? I drink coffee to cheer myself up. This part of your questionnaire had the opposite effect.
I kept scrolling after I got to 1948 just to see how many years were left below mine. I think the final one was 1920. So what's the deal? Nobody over 89 is supposed to be signing up for the Starbucks Passion Panel?
I got to worrying -- and also hoping, in a way -- that one day I'd fill out an online questionnaire, get to the personal information section, and find that the year I was born is off the chart of the pulldown menu.
That'd be annoying. But also satisfying. Which is the point of annoyances, I guess. They're worse than pleasures, yet a heck of a lot better than being in a state of non-annoyability.
Which, however, I'm still afraid those non-organic bananas might put me in. Tomorrow I'll be living dangerously as I eat my oatmeal.