It happened again yesterday evening. The phone rang just as we sat down to supper.
Our friends and family members are seldom so thoughtless as to call at that particular time. So, when the phone rings during mealtime we never know whether the call is due to an emergency or only another interruption from some fundraising group or a fast-talking salesman, trying to convince us of a deal we just can't pass up.
But yesterday's call seemed different. At least, the lead-in was more interesting than usual.
The young lady on the other end said she simply wanted to hear "how things are going for your family these days." The question convinced me to participate in this unexpected conversation.
But, within a minute or two, I realized the curious young lady I spoke with in the beginning was no longer on the line. Instead, I was now talking to a computer, programmed to take over the survey.
The monotone female voice said, "If you are 18 or over, please press one. If not, press two."
After I pressed one, the voice asked "Are things going better for your family this year than last?" If so, press one. If not, press two.
Then came the real reason for this interruptive call. The voice instructed, "If you are a registered Democrat, press one. If a Republican, press two."
By now, my interest had decreased, my irritation had increased and my supper had gotten cold. I hung up the phone.
Now to be honest, I have to admit that under most circumstances I'll happily give my opinion to anyone. In fact, I often volunteer what's on my mind without being asked. But I resent carrying on a one-way conversation with a computer set up with the sole purpose of swaying my vote in the upcoming election.
We all know that by now, each party has mobilized an army of dedicated volunteers bent on persuading folks that their chosen candidate has the answers to what ails our country. Each party promises to "listen to the people," "create millions of jobs" and "restore the nation for our grandchildren."
So in coming weeks, we'll be bombarded by television, on the radio and in print with elaborate presentations, funded by the well-stocked coffers of the two parties. And, if what we've seen so far in this race is any indication, these advertisements will continue to be filled with accusations and half-truths and will, without a doubt, become even more negative as election day nears. Between now and that first Tuesday in November, there will be countless surveys and polls, paid for by the candidates, trying to gauge the "pulse of the people."
Get ready to carry on some one-sided conversations with computers, programmed to learn your intentions in the voting booth. And don't be surprised if some of your meals get cold.