It was a strikingly average morning in January, 8:30am, when the great-tailed grackles breath-stroked in air with a timeless ease, while the rush-hour birds, erect in car windows, stood in the hands of their makers. The stars hadn’t aligned in any grand, connect-the-dot fashion. Office workers slumped in cubicle desks, grousing of headaches, the bosses who implanted them, substandard cold brew, and inevitable conspiracies that may have played an influential role in the whole lot of it.
And here she is: Margaret Ballantine. “Marg,” if you wanted to make a quick enemy. Modestly robed in a fuchsia turtleneck and high-waisted navy dress skirt, she resembles a woman you might see sauntering about in the JC Penny discount shoe rack, just to pass the time. Just for kicks. Dangling prism earrings with stones masquerading as opal gems hang like dollar store trinkets from her stretched lobes. She is not thin, but nearing the verge of plump–just the kind of plump that allows for a discriminatory awareness of size. She treads the line of mediocrity, though she would never admit such.
She holds a key operator position at Satellite Surveys, an independently-owned business in which employees conduct often politically-driven surveys over the phone to randomly-selected households. Glorified telemarketers, some might say. It’s your afternoon pain in the ass, directly following or, more accurately, interrupting that cold-cut turkey and provolone sandwich of yours. The universal you, that is. Given the time of day, surveys are most commonly administered to anyone who may be home from the hours of 9am til 5pm. Housewives. Disheveled, unemployed losers. Drug dealers. Frauds. The sick. The elderly. The occasional work-from-home professional. Telesurveyors often utilize guilt optimization methods to difficult persons on the receiving end, should they not hang up entirely in the initial five seconds.
“Good Morning/Afternoon/Evening! I’m _(insert name)_ with Satellite Surveys! We are calling you, and other people in your area, on behalf of the upcoming political race. May I have a few minutes of your time?”
“ _______.” Click
“Do I call you up for a moment of your precious time, you piece of shit telemarketer?” Click
“No, I don’t…I think I’ve… I’m actually just heading out the door right now, I’m sorry.” Click
“Please remove my number from your database. Thank you.” Click
“…I guess so. Sure. How long will this take?”
In which case:
“No more than ten minutes, ma’am! We here at Satellite Surveys heartily appreciate your participation in our phone survey this morning/afternoon/evening. We would also like to use this time to thank you for fulfilling your role as a grade-A citizen. These political polls are so very important to us, as well as to our fellow Americans.”
Satellite Surveys only added this second bit about two years ago in an attempt to further coerce participants to action. Hang up, and you fail your country. Hang up, and this one, tiny, pitiful, ten minute exercise in patriotism is dead. You’ve killed it. It was your chance, and it’s fucking dead.
This is the insinuation. One might think that any intelligent, free-thinking individual might see through this cunning gesture, an obvious exaggeration of truth, but Satellite
Surveys, through time, and persistence, and unparalleled sportsmanship, defied the odds in all colors of the IQ spectrum. And Yet: the housewives, the deadbeats, the marginalized, the fruitless; they wait, above all else, for chance. For opportunity.
And so, Margaret. One hand on the receiver, and the other hand working a blue ink pen like a baton. She is over-caffeinated, yet drowsy, oscillating between a hyper impatience and an unforgiving urge for sleep. A day of sleep. A month. A year of uninterrupted, unconscious, pitch black like a body bag, weighted, heavy sleep. She dials the next number, working with a steady perseverance down the list of households:
“Good morning, I’m Margaret with Satellite Surveys. I’m calling you today on behalf of the upcoming political race. May I have a few minutes of your time?”
“Sure, I’ve… I’ve got a few minutes here. I’m not sure that I can help you with any political race though. I’m not the best person for something like this…”
Theodora (‘Dora’) Sandoval, 1256 E Sunburst Drive. Located in the Four Forests District. Median household income: $23,000.
“Not to worry, Mrs… Ms. Sandoval. We heartily appreciate your participation in our phone survey this morning. We would also like to take this time to thank you for fulfilling your role as a grade-A citizen. These politi—”
“I’m sorry, I just think you may have the wrong person. Honestly, I don’t exactly participate in any political races, or polls. Whatever. I’m really sorry but I don’t think I can help you.”
At this point, Margaret, calculating the forlorn, undeserving, worthless nature of the participant, veers off script.
“Ms. Sandoval, please, just wait. Let me redirect here for just a moment. I am actually not calling for any political agenda or purpose, but to offer you something. I might call it chance. You might call it opportunity.”
Dora Sandoval. Daughter to Thomas and Jenny Sandoval. Sister to Phila and Gregory Sandoval. Unwed. Mother of none.
“I’m not sure that I follow you. A chance? A chance for what?”
“Have you ever thought that you might end up somewhere different, Ms. Sandoval?”
Four Forests District. Comprised of 19 city blocks. 1,467,275 square feet. 33.63 total acres.
“Somewhere… other than here?”
One Kmart. One Pizza Hut. Four coin laundromats. Three check-cashing services. One Money Man cash advance.
“Just a moment, Ms. Sandoval. Just listen. You want to hear what I have to offer you.”
Four liquor stores. Two McDonalds. Three thrift shops. One Naughty Girl adult superstore.
“Offer me? Well, I—”
“Dora. Listen to me. You have been chosen. This, right now, is your beginning.”