Yesterday afternoon, I was doing the same thing I do most Sunday afternoons--procrastinating doing anything of meaning as quietly as possible since M was napping. Of course, the laws of the Universe dictate that the phone will ring only when someone lays down to take a nap. On this particular occasion, I jumped over part of the couch, almost broke my wrist and tried to find the phone before the second ring. It rang a second time by the time I got to it.
In my rush to shut it off, I didn't look to see who was actually calling us. Big mistake.
"Yes, good afternoon ma'am. My name is Old Man Blah, and I'm calling from the University of California, Berkeley to conduct a survey of Iranian-Americans. Would you like to participate?"
By this time I was in the closet of our spare bedroom--which is as isolated and private as you can get in our tiny home.
"I'm sorry, who is this? And how did you get my phone number?"
Call me paranoid, but having lived in places where governments have no problems with violating personal rights, I kind of freak out when someone calls me specifically to ask my opinion based on my nationality/ethnicity.
"My name is Old Man Blah, and I'm calling from the University of California, Berkeley to conduct a survey of Iranian-Americans and their opinions. I will provide you with the name and phone number of the professor sponsoring the survey at the end of my questions. My first question is, Do you think the United States is headed in the right direction?"
And much like waving a giant red flag in front of a pissed off bull, without thinking I blurted, "No this country is not headed in the right direction!" I then realized that the man hadn't responded to my question about obtaining my phone number.
"Why do you not think the country is moving in the right direction?"
Again, I opened my mouth and responded, because I am not the kind of person who can contain myself or my opinions. "Well the so called foreign policy would be a good place to start. Wait, you never told me how you got my phone number. I'm sorry, I don't feel comfortable participating in a survey that has specifically identified me by my ethnic background."
You may wonder why I would worry about a survey conducted by someone at UC Berkeley, perhaps one of the country's most liberal universities. It's because while some people hear Berkeley and think of hippies, I hear Berkeley and think John Yoo. Yes, the same John Yoo who helped explain why torture isn't really torture and why it is acceptable for the President to use the afore mentioned non-torture when he deems it necessary. I'm not saying he's developing some kind of project to round up Iranian Americans before the US attacks Iran, I'm just saying it was weird to be called up on a lazy Sunday afternoon specifically because I am Iranian American.
Oh, and then things got a little strange.
Old Man Blah started yelling at me! "I said, this survey is being conducted for a professor at Berkeley. I will give you the professors name and contact information when you answer all of my questions. There is nothing suspicious about this!"
See, when a stranger calls your house, knows your ethnicity and wants to ask you questions--yelling that there is nothing strange going on, it kind of makes you think something strange may be going on.
"Could I at least have the name of the professor before I respond to the rest of your questions?"
"YOU CAN HAVE THE PROFESSORS NAME AND PHONE NUMBER WHEN WE'RE DONE!"
I thought a few seconds before I responded, "I'm very sorry for wasting your time, but I don't feel comfortable talking to you right now. Thank you for your time."
I hung up and sat in the closet, with what must have been an expression of complete confusion. That is how M found me a couple of minutes later. I told him what had happened and he was so confused. "Why didn't you just hang up on him?"
Leave it to the scientist to over simplify complex socio-political issues.