The woman held a clipboard against her chest like a shield. A stream of pedestrians in Trafalgar St parted around her, with more clues than me.
She identified her target.
"Excuse me, sir. Would you have a few minutes to take part in a survey?"
"Me? Yes," I replied eagerly. "Thank you for choosing me. People don't choose me."
"Your feedback is important to us," she smiled. "Although you do realise that any specific comments you make will not be responded to."
I pulled a device from the pouch on my hip. "And, I'm sure you wouldn't mind answering a few questions about my responsiveness to your survey?"
The "e-clipboard" tablet glowed into life.
"I want to hear about the overall experience you had in approaching me, because it will help me to react better in future."
She moved away.
"You could go in the draw to win an iPad." The woman paused, then gave a curt nod.
"Thank you," I said. "Your feedback is important to me. So, did I seem gullible? Lonely? Distracted? Or Other."
"Um ... I've got a quota to fill by lunchtime, and, well, you looked like a quick turnaround."
I tapped the Other box.
"I'm going to ask you about a few other parts of our engagement. Did I make good eye contact when we first met?"
"I can't ... ah, sure." She clutched the clipboard tightly.
"Did I make you feel valued?"
"I suppose so," she said, easing away.
"Was my manner genuinely caring?" She nodded.
"Was I sensitive to the needs of interviewers from different cultures and backgrounds."
"I'm from Wellington."
I tapped the Other box again.
"On a scale of one to 10, one being semi-comatose and 10 euphoric, how would you rate my enthusiasm for taking part in yet another spurious, facile survey?"
"Five I guess. No, six."
"Which is it?"
"Thanks. Sorry to push you. We're almost done. Your feedback is important to me. Now, from the moment you first sighted me, to the verbal engagement, would you describe my body language as Antagonistic, Alluring, Arthritic, or All of the Above?"
"What D – they're all As."
"A, then. A."
I tapped four times. "Am I positive and can-do in the face of relentless inquisition? Do I make things happen and get surveys done?"
The young woman mumbled in the affirmative as she tried to catch the eye of a passerby.
"Now, we've heard about me. I'd like to hear a little about you. Are you Male, Female or Other?
"How old? 10 to 19? 20 to 29, 30 to ...
"That one. Listen, I have to go."
She pulled out her cellphone. "Ah yes, see, they've found a suitable kidney for me ..."
"Kiwi of European descent?"
"I really need to go." She was becoming agitated.
"Please tell me how much you are paid to conduct surveys like this?"
"I'm sorry, I cannot understand your answer."
"Not enough," she yelled. "Oh, this is stupid ..."
She brushed past me.
"iPad," I said clinically. "The 3 model 64Gig, wifi."
She turned back. "With Retina Display?"
"Pictures are so crisp ..."
"And fingerprint-resistant oleophobic coating?"
"The oleos have never been more phobic," I declared.
Her shoulders fell with a sigh.
"Thank you," I continued. "Your feedback is the only reason I get up in the morning. OK, home straight. Did you enjoy this survey of the survey? Please indicate whether it was
Still pretty enjoyable
She reached forward and stabbed a finger into the e-clipboard screen.
"Are you happy to participate in future research?
Not at the moment, but I may change my mind so please contact me.
"And finally, are you happy for me to use your responses and personal information to help me be a more pliable consumer, open to remorseless interrogation via the internet, the telephone or in person?
Yes, happy for responses to be used
Just kidding. Yes, happy for responses to be used.
"We're done. Thanks for completing the survey. As I said, your name will go in the draw for the iPad. If you do have a specific issue or concern you wish to raise personally, I can pretend to give a damn if you wish."
She burst into tears, spinning on her heels.
"Travel safely," I called after her. "And once again, your feedback, well, you know ..."
I chewed my forefinger to stifle a sob of my own.
She scampered off, throwing her clipboard into a rubbish bin.
Another scalp. Another bounty – $50 for every pollster "disengaged", as we say in the trade.
I hate the weepers. That's the second today. It's a dirty business, but then war is a dirty business.
They show no mercy towards us.
Harden up. I've got bills to pay like everyone else. I slipped "The Peacemaker" back into its holster, summoned up my "gormless" expression and resumed patrol.