Yep. Monday night was focus group night. Me and 59 total strangers squashed into a room watching a debate. There was Diet Coke. No M&M’s though. That was disappointing.
While I didn’t find the debate all that interesting, the experience was. We ranged in age from 18-80+ and it appeared that our group represented just about any category you can imagine. The whole thing was a “first-name” only deal. Being “Amy” I was first on the list, thank you very much. (I don’t know why that actually matters just a residual of growing up with a “T” last name, I guess.)
There were about 20 minutes where we were just hanging out eating (not M&M’s) snacks and making polite conversation. I got to meet an “Ian” who was about my own Ian’s age. Funny, funny guy. We had a conversation about this video. If I was a betting person, I’d bet Ian is going to vote third party.
They put us all in a room with two huge screens and a mirrored wall. I comforted myself throughout the evening thinking that if I thought the debate was boring I cannot imagine what the people behind the mirror watching us watch the debate were suffering through. All 60 of us were squashed into space designed for 35-40 people. You’d think that would warm things up but no. So glad I took Mike’s advice to grab a sweater before I left. It was fuh-reezing in the room.
We were given little controllers with a dial. All the way to left, the dial read 1. In the middle it was 50 to the far right it was 100. We were not allowed to have food or drinks in the room. We were to be touching our controllers the entire time. To the right was a favorable reaction to the speaker, to the left was unfavorable. We were also not allowed to talk to each other or ourselves throughout the debate. So glad I had the armpit whispering plan in place ahead of time.
When the debate was over, we turned over our controllers and the people in charge selected 20 people to stay to answer further questions. Near as I could tell it was every third person on the first-name only list. I was glad I wasn’t picked even though I think it would have meant extra money. Once in the hallway, again single file to sign the paper and get our cash, the guy I think of as “great-big-cowboy” (I know, it’s so original) let out a whistle and then, in a huge Texan accent, announced “Well, if that weren’t 10 pounds of shit in a 5 pound bag, I don’t know what is.”
That cracked us all up and then there was all kinds of chattering. It didn’t seem to matter which candidate you like/tolerated – everyone was disappointed with scripted answers and more of the same. There was more conversation in the parking lot. I don’t know that anything was solved but, I left feeling like people are all frustrated but they are not as full of vitriol as the media would lead us to believe. In fact, people were respectful of those with differing views. I didn’t see any eye-rolling, heard no nasty name-calling and got into my car listening to people wishing each other good luck and good night.
I don’t know that there will be a “real win” no matter who is elected but, I felt much more at peace than I have in a while knowing that most people are sane and civil. I have no reason to believe it’s any different around the country. Most of us just want to live our lives the best we can and we want the same for others. I hope I’m right.