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    Tedious Questionnaire

    by , 08-10-2014 at 03:46 PM (509 Views)
    I came in from the outdoors, where I was doing something I can't recall now, and joined a group of other people in a room. It was like a big classroom, there were two or three dozen of us, and, we were each given papers relating to a long questionnaire with instructions for how to fill it out. There was a white sheet, a green sheet, maybe even a blue sheet with the actual questions, and a portion to be answered by computer, and the instructions were very confusing. The white sheets were all pre-marked with answers from various previous respondents -- different for every sheet -- which made things even more confusing. "So are we supposed to put our answers on the green sheet only, the computer only, or duplicate them on both?" After asking a lot of questions along these lines I went to a smaller room and got started. There was a middle-aged Asian guy sitting in a chair who had already gotten through a few questions.

    The first question asked me about the window curtains in the room, and a display of copper figures set up on the window ledge. I was to axamine these first, then return and answer some questions about them. I examined them and was able to ascertain that they portrayed the flight of Helen and Paris to Troy, the event that led to the Trojan war. While I was studying, them, the aministrator of the questionnaire (a middle-aged white guy with a stern military bearing but remarkable patience for my constant questions and expressions of disgust at the confusing protocols) came into the room to see how we were doing. He gave us further advice not to answer the questions in such a way that we would incriminate ourselves, The Chinese guy nodded ruefully as though he had already made that mistake. "I haven't even finished the first question yet!" I exclaimed, frustration in my voice. Even the first question was so complex it was taking forever. "I'm supposed to examine this tapestry first!" I was tempted to point out that I would probably be here until late at night, well after the others had all left, which I assumed meant that the administrator wouldn't be able to go home either, but figured it was too early to say for sure. So instead I just complained, "And why does it start with question 'B'"? Indeed the very first question was labeled "B". I was afraid my tone be too irritable and anger the administrator, but he just nodded sympathetically and left.

    I turned to the text of the actual question. It said that the copper figures on the windowsill had been made in the 13th century by an artisan named "Jason" something. I wondered why such old pieces had been gathered here, in this unremarkable building, instead of in a museum somewhere. Then the question went on to suggest that the identification of some of the figures had changed over the years, and asked which ones I thought they were. I had noticed that some of the figures had small white sticky labels with the names of the characters handwritten on them, so I concluded that these must be the ones that needed special identification, likely because they had previously been understood differently. So I wrote something to that effect on the green sheet, trying to keep my answer concise because the form only provided a single line to write on.

    Then I moved to the second question. It was more abstract. It was something along the lines of, "If you are in a building and instructed to find room 190B, where would you look?" (I'm not sure of the exact number; it was a 3-digit number followed by the letter 'B'.) I had a brief vision of an exit that led directly outside, thus evidently on the ground floor. I was starting to wonder if these were all trick questions. Feeling sarcastic and and annoyed, I wrote: "Is this a Google application?" (I've heard that Google tests potential applicants with puzzles, though we had been told the questionnaire was just a standard performance measure.) I thought the vision of the ground floor might be deliberately misleading, and remembered how the numbering of soom buildings got confusing because they were built on a slope so the ground level was different on either side, and wrote next, "Is the building on a hill?" I reckoned then that the "B" might be significant and provide the easiest answer to the question, which didn't ask which floor the room was on, after all, only where to find it. The number itself might be a red herring. So I concluded my response with "Is there a 190A?" I wondered if it would be acceptable to answer the question with three questions of my own, but given how irritating this questionnaire was, I decided that I would not restrain myself from responding sarcastically when the question was vague.

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