Over the holidays, I was stranded by my wife in a Starbucks inside a large grocery store in Jackson, Wyoming. I ran out of reading material and had to scramble for some diversion. A stream of normal people flowed by—some perhaps toying with the idea of a coffee—and I got to wondering what was going on behind their faces.
I started with a middle-aged woman, interrupting her quiet contemplation of a cappuccino.
“What’s on your mind?” I asked
She gave me a strange look.
At that moment it was about −8 °F, warmer than the previous two days. (The average that week was −7 °F.)
I didn’t believe she was just sitting there thinking about the weather, so I asked another question.
“Besides the weather, what bothers you most today?”
“What’s the matter with you,” she said. “Why do you care?”
I said that I was a disguised pollster, and explained that my company wanted to know what people in various parts of the country really think about.
She thought for a moment and then replied. “What would you think if I said it was none of your business?”
“That’s fine,” I said, “you are not the only person in the store for me to talk to.”
“Well in that case I will tell you,” she said. “The whole damn world is fucked up! I don’t know what to do other than to put my head in the sand the way camels do when waiting for a sandstorm to stop.”
“Well, if everybody did that,” I replied, “what chance is there that, whatever the problems are, they will ever get addressed, much less solved?”
“People like me are powerless to have any effect,” she said. “It is a waste of my time and adds to my aggravation.” She thought a moment before continuing.
“I told a telephone pollster that I liked Trump when I have no intention of voting for him. I hoped that saying something like that would send a message for change.”
I considered her response carefully.
“Are you aware that you may be contributing to the possibility that something you don’t want will come to pass?”
“I’ll take my chances!”
That seemed like the end of our conversation.
My next target was a young man with a baby.
“What’s on your mind?”
“I came for cereal,” he told me, “but I am thinking about that babe there.” He pointed to a nearby semi-nude poster. “I wonder what she would be like in my bed!”
I guess that is what I get for asking strangers stupid questions!
But, if the people out there all over the country are as turned off as this little story suggests, we may be in for real trouble.