So, before I impart this Wednesday's Words of Wisdom, I'd like to tell you a story. You see, the other day the Goatfather got a letter in the mail telling him that he had been selected to participate in a study of Flu and the Flu vaccine by the CDC (Center for Disease Control). Well, he laid the letter aside on the table. Of course laying anything on the table is akin to sending it into a Black Hole. You may see it again, and then again, you may not. At any rate, he read it, set it aside, and didn't tell the Goatmother about it.
Well, the Goatmother, being the master cleaner, did sort of notice the letter laying there. She did happen to notice that it said something about the CDC and a survey, and to her credit, she didn't cart it off to the recycle bin. So yesterday, the Goatfather was off doing Goatfather things in the Man Cave, and the Goatmother was bopping about the house doing Goatmother things, when the phone rang. Now, you know, a person can spend a lot of time getting on the 'Do Not Call' list, and trying to convince every mail order place in the world that you really don't want to receive their catalog. Despite this fact, the catalogs still arrive and the phone still rings, usually at dinner time, and usually wanting a donation, a vote, or to let you know that this is absolutely your very last chance to receive that opportunity to raise your credit card limit. So the Goatmother dutifully picked up the phone, and when the guy said he was calling on behalf of the CDC and wished to speak to the Goatfather, the Goatmother said, 'Well, he's not available'.
The survey taker was not daunted in the least and the next question was , "Am I speaking to an adult member of this household?" The Goatmother replied, "Yes, but I'm really NOT interested." This remark stopped the survey taker in his tracks. I mean who exactly tells the Center for Disease Control they're not interested? "Can I ask why not? This is a very important survey and will really help the Center for Disease Control and will only take a few minutes." "Weeellll", said the Goatmother, "How many minutes? I'm really busy." "Fifteen ... and I'll talk really fast." "Okay", replied the Goatmother, "Let's do it."
First off, the Goatmother seemed to recall that the Goatfather had indeed gotten a letter regarding this. So, when the survey taker started firing off questions, the Goatmother made an attempt to give her answer plus the one the Goatfather would have given. Now the survey taker never once told her that he didn't need to know both answers. However, true to his word that man rattled off those questions so fast he probably could've won some sort of gold medal for World's Fastest Utterance of the English Language. "Are you White, Black, Hispanic, Asian, Non-Asian, Asian-American, Native American, Latino, of Latino descent, or are you now or have you ever been a Bovine, Equine, Caprine, Canine or Feline?" Okay, maybe that isn't exactly what he said, but it was so much and so fast that instead of answering the Goatmother just said, "Wow. That was a mouthful." The guy laughed.
More questions followed, many of which left the Goatmother wondering, 'I wonder what that has to do with the flu?' Until, the guy said, "Are you now, or have you been, since July of 2011, pregnant. Without hesitation, or even thought, the next words that came out of the Goatmother's mouth were these: "Heaven forbid." Now if anyone had thought the survey taker laughed before, this time someone likely had to pick him up off the floor after falling from his chair in hysterics. "Well, I'm fifty-nine years old, for Pete's sake."
Needless to say, the survey taker finished his survey really fast, just as he had promised. In the end, he asked the Goatmother if she had any other questions. She said, "Two. One, is this going to subject me to tons of junk mail, and two, since the letter was actually sent to the Goatfather, is he going to get another call to get a chance to give his answers?" "Nope, absolutely NO junk mail", to which the Goatmother thought, 'Yeah. We'll see." And to the second question, the guy answered, "No. One to a household. This is going to go down as one interview with a 59 year old female." "Oh.", said the Goatmother. "Well, too bad for him, I guess." This time the guy nearly busted a gut.
The moral of this story, and Wednesday's Words of Wisdom, are this: Always remember that statistics are only as good as the kinds of questions asked, the people asking those questions, and the people who answer. Heaven forbid.