Sometimes when I'm sitting at my computer, waiting for Doc to pick me up for happy hour, I pass the time by taking online surveys. I can't divulge what the companies are surveying, but I can say that I've given opinions on a wide variety of subjects over the last few weeks, and I've earned a whopping $22 for it.
Many times, I don't make it past the screening portion of the survey. They don't say why, but there are times that it's fairly obvious that they're looking for someone other than a 41-year-old separated childless healthy white woman with good bladder control. Sometimes, more often than not now that I've been doing this a while, I can suss out what they're looking for during the screening process, and this is where things get sticky.
Because this is where I have to decide whether or not to lie.
The potential for lying spans a wide range. There are reasonable fibs. "'How soon do you plan to buy a new car?' Well, I don't know. What if something happened to my car tomorrow? Then I'd plan to buy one next week. Really, who can predict even the near future? Six months ago, did I think I'd be on the road to being divorced? No, I did not. I'll put '1 to 6 months.'"
"'Do you own a cat?' I did live with a cat for many years, so I feel qualified to answer questions as a cat...owner? Owner is such a messed-up term for what Buddy and I had. He was my housemate and companion, not a piece of furniture. If the wording is going to be that offensive, then I don't feel bad about jumping into this survey."
It's a slippery slope.
For the most part, I am truthful. Early on in my survey-taking hobby, I settled on a few constants that don't have any wiggle room. The number of people in my household is one (1). I don't count the dogs as children, and I don't count Accountant Boy, even though this is still legally his home. We haven't officially filed any paperwork, so we're still married, but I put 'separated' in my marital status. The truth trumps technicalities. I mark my income accurately, never lower to get into a bargain-hunting bracket, and not higher, even though it might get me into fancier surveys where they'd, I don't know, send me samples of caviar and ask me to rate private air travel.
I am unfailingly honest about ethnicity. I'm Basque, Spanish Basque on my grandmother's side, so I feel that claiming Spanish ancestry is valid. Some surveys ask in those terms. I am not Hispanic, Chicana or Latina - they aren't interchangeable with each other or with Spanish - so I don't ever check the box if those are the only options. Even this gets me into murky water. I do get surveys entirely in Spanish, which I would be able to read and answer, but I opt out of them. I know they're not intended for me.
So, ninety-nine percent of the time, I am honest to a fault when taking surveys. I can tell you, though, that I debate whether or not to stretch believability every time. Every single time. And the one percent of the time that my better angel loses to the devil on my other shoulder?
That's why there's a bag of cat litter in my garage. And why I'm going to buy a bottle of ammonia so that I can test its efficacy tomorrow. I haven't decided what to name my imaginary cat yet. Maybe Fong.