When the Gallup Poll Lady Called Me

Whenever I see the results of a Gallup poll published, and especially when I disagree with the results, I wonder “who are these people who answer these questions? Nobody I know was ever asked.” And then the other day, I became one “these people” whom the polling company calls and gets to ask questions. Lots of questions.

A nice enough lady called me at home, and without taking any breaths between the sentences, introduced herself: she was working for Gallup, they were conducting a general poll, and she wondered if I had time for a couple of questions. In the end after 20 questions, it was obvious that at Gallup they have re-defined “couple”. Her questions were all over the map. She sounded concerned about my health, she wanted to know my height and weight. She asked when was  the last time I went to the dentist, if I suffer from anything, if I take any medicine, if I eat well and excercise enough. She also had questions about my financial situation, and about my job: if I’m happy with it and if my boss is a jerk or not (I’m paraphrasing here). She also asked general questions, how I feel about the overall state of the nation, if economically things are going to get better, if we are on the right path. A series of fine questions to gauge our collective optimism. Or pessimism.

But the question that striked me the most was the first question she asked: imagine a staircase in front of you with steps 1 to 10. Say the first step 1 is the worst and step 10 is the best, how would you rate your current situation, how satisfied are you? My current situation about what, I asked. Your general overall situation, she said and then repeated the question. I was asked to visualize a staircase and see myself on it. Now that was profound. Initially the question made me feel uneasy: you ask me to evaluate my life and put the results on a scale? But she got me thinking about my life. Where am I at? What step am I on? I quickly thought about my personal and professional life. All things considered pretty good. My middle class sensibilities blurted out “7”, which I thought was accurate enough. I was half expecting a come-back question, something like “Really? Why not an 8 or a 9? What’s the problem?”

But I was clearly dealing with a professional, so she went on asking me to visualize the staircase once again and what step I see myself being on in 5 years from now.  Right away I wanted to tell her that this reminded me that hollow standard job interview question “where do you see yourself in 5 years” and the answer I always wanted to give “not sure, but certainly not here”.  Anyway, where am I going to be at in 5 years? I tried to imagine myself in the future, I quickly saw kids, a promotion, then went back and scratched the kids out but kept the promotion, I saw a posh house.  I dared to think myself in another country but then rejected it as too ambitious. I thought and thought and thought, and in the end I said “8”. It meant that things were going to be better, but not too much better. My rational mind, my modest middle class ambitions reflected in one numbered step. I waited for her to ask “why only 8? what’s the problem?” In vain it turned out: she was a professional till the very end.

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First Swim Of the Season

This is about the first time of the season you dive into the ocean and swim. It’s about that summer day that is too hot and humid, when regardless of how much you love the city, you want to go away. You want to go to the beach. You have to go to the beach. You want to sit in the sand, you want to feel the cool breeze, the salty air. This is about the first plunge of the season, when the water is still cool and refreshing. And it’s the right kind of water, seawater.

For me it is a ritual. Back home the first time you go swimming is usually around the end of May, as the Mediterranean tends to warm up faster than the Atlantic. This year I took the first plunge mid July in Crane Beach, in Ipswich. The first-time ritual stays the same regardless of location. I always wear an older bathing suit the first time I go swimming. Reasons unknown, I don’t even remember how this started. I sit in the sand for a long time, I want to feel my skin burning hot while I look at the water. I run my fingers through the sand, I dig in with my toes. It is warm. No, it is hot. I have to reach that tipping point when there is no other option, but to go in. Slowly at first. The feet go in, getting slightly numb from the 60F-degree water. But I persist, and I get used to it. I go deeper and deeper. The water comes up to my thighs. Oh, cold water. I stand there and look around. I touch the water, I feel it in my hands. Cold water it is. But I won’t leave.

A couple of minutes later the right moment comes, the perfect moment when I know it is the right time to go in. This is it. Head first I dive. It is an awkward move, because it’s been almost a year since I last did it.  The body gets submerged and a million sensations drive my brain wild. The body awakens, it is alive. I feel something that is unlike anything else. Surrounded by water, I feel so free and so happy I want to scream. Stupid underwater smile won’t get off my face. I come up for a breath, I float, I swim. And for that minute there I feel happy. Happy that I live close to the sea, happy that I get to swim, and happy that this is only the start of the swimming season. B l i s s.

 

Photo of the Day, July 19, 2010 on Bostonist.com

A photo I took during ArtBeat, the funky arts festival in Davis Square in Somerville was chosen Photo of the Day for Monday July 19, 2010 on Bostonist.com. I took the photo on Saturday, which was a pretty hot and humid day, that is not as refreshing as water, this year’s ArtBeat theme. The water in the inflatable pool looked inviting, the bubbles not so. When I tried to picture myself in the bubble,  I could only think of depleted oxygen supply and suffocation. Yes, you can call me party pooper. But kids, that’s what they like, walking on the water in gigantic bubbles. And it looked like they were having lots os fun.

I decided to do some post production treatment on the original image, using the Photoshop application for iPhone. I kinda like the dreamy hue of the end result. The blue of the inflatable pool is strong and reminds me that I can’t wait for the day I’m going on vacation.