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focus group follies

Every once in a while I get phone calls from a research comany in Bethesda Md. for focus-group research. I've been called about Metro slogans, i've been called about cat food....and on monday i was called for greeting cards.

Having just been out with A&C and purchased a bunch of crap to make cards, i said "hooo boy, am i your girl".

they were clearly looking for pop-culture folks. they asked what i wore ('tell us if you agree with the following: i like to wear a variety of bright colors, but also black t-shirts with my favorite band on it. i also wear pigtails to complete the look') (that's almost a verbatim quote) they asked where i shopped, what music i like (i wish i could have captured the befuddled expression when i mentioned 'the new pornographers' and 'clap your hands say yeah')

So they said come wednesday night, two and a half hours of talking about cards and giftwrap and we'll give you $125.


oh wait, there's homework.

they wanted us to make a collage of holiday stuff we like or respond to, or how we'll spend the holidays. i glued some wrapping paper from last season to a board, hotglued a gold tinsel boarder, made some snowflakes and covered them with opalescent glitter, tied a few c-7 type lightbulbs to ribbon and punched the ribbon through the board. it didn't take more than 35 minutes and i did it at work. AND they reimbursed me for reciepts so what the hay.

I get to schugoll research early and i'm shown into the waiting room. "help yourself to the refreshments" which were (and i'm not exaggerating) a plate of cookies with 5 nutter butters, 5 chips ahoy-ish chippy cookies, 5 pecan sandies looking cookies (hey, i know cookies, okay?) and 5 something else...probably peanut butter.

i noticed 5 because i wondered "how did they come up with this number and assortment?"

the next person to arrive was hippie. hippie enters the room, glances at the cookies and drops her shoulders and disdainfully says "laaaaaast time, they had saaaaaandwiches" and leaves.

I guess she foraged around for a sandwich somewhere because the comes back 10 minutes later and proceeds to eat it with her mouth open.

In her absence, the first of the blond coven arrives. we'll call her britney, because that's her name. you could also call her "white eyeliner" because that's what she's wearing.

chippy #1 of shugoll's staff enters and asks us the same questions we answered on the phone; agree or disagree with the following: although i was raised with an organized religion, i find that alternate religions appeal more to me now....i'm a free spirit who has many jobs and i don't care about money.....being liked isn't a priority to me....i identify with the following people : madonna, missy elliott, kelly osbourne, mae west ( i said, what if i hate kelly osbourne, but like the rest?)

they ask what i did, what movies i liked, what actors i liked...

another chippy is interviewing bridget of the bloven and she says she's "a professional actress" and works at some place called john powers. i get the feeling it's one of those places that tells you how talented you are as it's slipping the $500 bill for headshots under your pen and tells you about auditions for extras for the O.C. while it's signing you up for $1,200 worth of classes probably taught by bridget and her white-eyeliner-ness.

Hippie tells her chippy that she likes to climb and hike andshe likes jam bands. Particularly the band Phish. And she laughs knowingly as she has to spell phish.

As if it's the chippy's fault that she somehow was spared ever having to hear the term "jam band". which, by the way, is an expression that strikes fear at my very soul.

so, it's me, hippy and bridget, bloven member #2 walks in. she's 19 going on 36. seiously. she's just out of highschool and so orange from spray tans and leathered from tanning beds, my jaw hit the floor when i found out how old she was.

bloven member #3 walks in. she's a sophomore at townsen u. near baltimore and says she does stuff like this all the time to make money. she was an extra in a disney movie last week. her eyeliner-ness asks her if it was "music high" because she saw casting notices for that all over the place. but she wouldn't do it. you know, because she's a PROFESSIONAL actress.

I look at her, and i'm thinking, i've worked with about 80% of the theatres in this town and i don't know you....
a token african- american woman who has apparently traveled the globe 4 times comes in. i begin to rethink this whole no money equal little traveling path my life has taken me.
there's yet one more blonde girl wearing flipflops who has a voice stolen from scarlett johansen who is really into dave mathews and hates shoes and socks.
lastly, in walks lip ring. lipring is wearing black. messy black hair. lip ring. she's who they're looking for on the surface, i think. she sits next to me.

the interviewers choose me, bridget, bloven member #2, hippie, and lip ring and we're taken to a room where i can smell coffee but can't see any. we talk about our collages (mine is TOTALLY the best...lipring's isn't bad. it's very personal. white-liner is extremely boring, and has a plate and a napkin glued to it with two silver balls and some candy. she said she spent 35 dollars which is ridiculous. she must have bought HUGE bags of candy and enough plates and napkins to outfit her entire family for the holidays because of the reimbursement).
so we talk, and talk and then they reveal 5 stations with a variety of cards.
one is all "to mom, to dad, to grandma..." one is very nice and calm and all silvers and blues, one is LOUD! and there's a santa pez dispenser, and a bill keane looking kid, and an ann taintor card, and just general fun things, one is craftsy looking cards and some are really really nice and well done, and one board is all gold and red and i said "whomever buys these cards shops at talbots".
infact i assigned a store to each. CVS, target, archie mcPhee/ pulp, west elm/ now and then, talbots.
i, of course, think i did a very good job of assessing the boards.
white liner and i get into it at one point because she calls the board i like "joke christmas" and says it looks like stuff you would find at spencers.
now....colorful....yes. loud yes....spencers, no. there were no half naked firemen named "todd" dressed in santa hats. these were genuinely funny cards.
but white-liner has no sense of humour.
i wish i had written down some of the things that she said but if i had my entire notepad would be filled with "boyfriend". "my boyfriend" "my jewish boyfriend".
also, her voice was very nasal. she sounds like she shops at talbots.
she, incidentally, chose the target board.
so lipring is actually more conservative than i thought although we both like a lot of the same things.
so, the whole thing ends, it's about 10:45 i have my check and i leave. all i want to do is get in my car and begin the long drive back home when UH-OH!
the garage i parked my car in is closed for the night.
it closed 15 minutes ago.
what. the. fuck.
i'm freaking out in the dark and the cold and the aloneness and i'm going "oh god no oh god no oh god no" because the approximate distance from bethesda to annacostia is halfway around the world. add the fact that it's 11 pm at this point and you double the miles.
there's a police station across the st. and i ask them if there's a way into that garage i don't know about and the guy says no, it's locked until morning. i run back to the garage frantically pulling on every door i see (oh, did i mention i don't have my cell phone on me? triple the miles and go back three steps. do not pass go)cold, tired, talked out, i run back around the corner to the building where the focus group session was and i find a security guard. after another 7 minutes of trying to explain to him where i parked he thinks i'm parked in the garage which is connected to the building we're in so he tells me to take the elevator to p1.
i get out on p1 and i press my car lock button to see if i hear it beep and I DO and it is THE most glorious sound i've ever heard in my life. i run to my car repeating "thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you" and get in and i've never felt such relief.
it wouldn't have been impossible to have gotten home, it just would probably have taken me at least an hour and a half by that point of night and then i would have had to re-bus and metro out there this morning to get my car.
so i leave the parking garage (the door opens when a car drives out from the inside) and drive home. i think i repeated the directionless 'thank you's for a good 5 minutes.
also good- i didn't have to pay for parking. so i also saved $5.
although i would have gladly paid 5 to have not had the heartattack at 11 pm in bethesda.
i'd still totally do it again. esp. now that i know about the free parking....

6:57 p.m. - 2005-12-01


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