The Script

Greet each respondent with the following text. Feel free to make minor adjustments, depending on the circumstances, but do not deviate from the text for more than three consecutive words, and for no more than 5% of the text overall. Emphasize the word "conversation" rather than "survey." Remember that for the duration of the conversation, you are a guest in the respondent's home. Be polite, listen, and offer to help with the dishes afterward. Do not raise your voice to a respondent at any time, unless they are having difficulty hearing you, or unless they are asking for it. When each call concludes, there will be a moment's pause while the system dials the next number. Use that time to check yourself in the mirror attached to your monitor. Are you smiling? Not smiling is grounds for termination. If the line rings more than three times, disconnect and move on to the next number — we are not interested in the opinions of sloths, and besides, we do not have all day. Please refrain from making plans to meet respondents face-to-face, but if they sound cute and have a job, who are we to judge?

Q1. Hello, I hope you are having a pleasant day. Would you be willing to have a conversation about your opinions and feelings on life and the world around us? • Yes. (Proceed to Q2) • No. (Proceed to Q10) • Who is this? (Proceed to Q10)

First Section: The Past

Q2. Splendid. First, let us get to know a bit about you. How would you describe your upbringing? Please select one: • A poor home, barely scraping by but held together with strong bonds of family and faith. • A middle-class home, built upon secrets and bitterness. • An upper-class home, where sex was currency and currency was an aphrodisiac. • The transient life of gypsies/con-men/migrant workers/circus performers/contract killers/other.

Q3. Do you consider yourself someone who feels terrible pangs of regret? • Yes. (Proceed to Q4a) • No. (Proceed to Q4b)

Q4a. What is your single greatest regret? Please select one: • Not getting on that plane. • Drinking away all my potential. • Quitting the band. • That whole situation with Morris. • Eating the entire bag. Q4b. Oh, come on. Really? • What is that supposed to mean? (Proceed to Q10) • Well, I ... (sigh) but that was a long time ago. • I've made mistakes, but I've lived life. • Oh, wait — yeah, there was the Morris thing. That sucked. • (Sudden, uncontrollable sobbing)

Second Section: The Present

Q5. Which of the following best describes you? Please select one: • A driven, career-oriented professional who expects a certain level of excellence in all things. • A well-intentioned mess who can't seem to catch a break in this world. • A carcass, trapped forever in a nightmare of cubicles — a nightmare that has no end but death or crime. • A gypsy/con-man/migrant worker/circus performer/contract killer/other. • A person with a kayak in my basement.

Q6. Look around you. Deep down, is this where you thought you would be? • Maybe not every aspect of it, but the basic core isn't too far from what I had envisioned. • I had no idea where I thought I would be, none at all. • Are you implying that there's something wrong with where I am? (Proceed to Q10) • You know, in a kind of fucked up way, yes. This is exactly where I thought I would be. This is exactly where I knew I would be. Hell, I think I've known my whole life. My God, this is ... I'm sorry, this is all dawning on me right now. On the phone. On the phone with you, a total stranger. It's just ... yeah. Wow. (Proceed to Conclusion #1) • I always assumed I'd be a game show host by now.

Third Section: The Future

Q7. What are your plans for the remainder of the day? Please select one: • Working late. Stumbling home to a take-out dinner, hopefully in time for the 11:00 news. Passing out on the couch. • Switching from beer to tequila just before closing time. Leaving a voice mail for the ex. Passing out on the couch. • Helping the kids with their homework. Forgetting to fold the laundry. Complaining about "Lost." Passing out on the couch. • Being a part of something creative, an act of art that touches us and makes us think, if only for a moment. • Dealing with the kayak in my basement.

Q8. How do you feel about where things are headed? • Trepidation mixed with angst. (Proceed to Q9a) • Anger tinged with sadness. (Proceed to Q9a) • Nausea spiked with an adrenaline rush. (Proceed to Q9a) • Religious fervor coated with boredom. (Proceed to Q9a) • Doom. (Proceed to Q9b)

Q9a. Are you sure you are not feeling doom? • Moderately sure. • Not sure at all. • Pretty sure? I guess? • Hang on, repeat the original question. (Return to Q8) • If you know something I don't, hurry up and spit it out. Q9b. Describe your feeling of doom. • Cripping, crushing. • Horrifying, a wake-up-screaming sort of thing. • Endless and pitiless. • The end of all things draws near, and I cannot stop it. • Doom. Doom, doom, doom. Just pure, uncut doom.

Denouement

(If previously directed to Q10, ask it now, otherwise proceed to Conclusion #1)

Q10. What is your problem? Please select one: • What's my problem? What's your problem? (Proceed to Conclusion #2) • I was expecting a call from my oncologist, and instead I got you. (Proceed to Conclusion #1) • Put me through to your supervisor, immediately. (Proceed to Conclusion #2) • I'm on the "Do Not Call" registry and I'm reporting your ass, genius. (Proceed to Conclusion #2) • There is a kayak in my basement. (Proceed to Conclusion #1)

Conclusion #1: Thank you for your time. Conclusion #2: All that you are is abhorrent to me. I wish you ill, and hope one day to witness your anguish, your misery, your keening wails of hate as you throw yourself upon the broken bodies of everyone you hold dear. Thank you for your time.

(End call)