This article was originally published on Humorality, on November 10, 2008.
A shameful addiction
I have a confession to make. I’m an addict, and I need a fix. I’ve been hooked for about eight or ten weeks, although the blur of the last few months makes it difficult to truly gauge the time. And now, having been without a hit for three days, withdrawal symptoms are starting to set in. My drug: presidential tracking polls.
It’s not like I am easily tempted by controlling substances. Once, when my car broke down in front of the Greyhound bus terminal in Riverside, California, a thirteen-something punk offered to provide me with illegal drugs in exchange for money. The word “no” came out of my mouth as easily as water comes out of my leaky bathroom faucet. Whether it was a true lack of desire to use drugs, or if childhood conditioning by my parents was the reason, I was able to hold my head high, knowing that I had chosen the right path.
However, I allowed a strength in one area to mask a weakness in another. While offers of controlled substances had no effect on me, presidential opinion surveys seduced me immediately, drawing me into their deceitful web of dependence. It all started out innocently enough. I surfed over to my favorite news site to see how the presidential race was going. Then, out of the corner of my eye, like a wanton streetwalker, it called out to me. “Presidential tracking poll update…click here!” In my naïveté, I clicked, and I must admit, it felt great. I checked back again the next day. Over that weekend, I casually thought about getting back to my office Internet connection and checking up on the race. Still, I thought that I could walk away whenever I wanted.
About a week later, I stumbled onto another site that not only provided a presidential tracking poll, but it also had results on the approval ratings of each candidate. The site included graphics that were color coded. I had never known such ecstasy before. Realizing the shame I would encounter if a coworker came up at that moment, I quickly browsed over to Google. It was hard to get through that day, as the need for larger doses and increased frequency mounted.
As time went on, I found myself using expressions that gave away my addiction. To my embarrassment, verbal lapses caused by my condition popped up frequently in conversation. I would spout things such as “too close to call,” “narrowing the gap,” and “margin of error.” Whereas before I may have said to my coworkers, “We need to keep our prices in line with the competition,” I now said, “We need to maintain a pricing statistical dead heat with our competitors.” I even told my son that before he could have dessert, he must finish all of the vegetables on his plate, plus or minus four percent. Oh, the shame.
I kept moving from pusher to pusher, no longer self-conscious about the opinions of my fellow employees. My sickness reached a high point when another addict introduced me to his peddler, a site that combined all of the other tracking polls into a composite number using a careful formula, although now I see it as a formula for one’s demise. This new supplier not only gave me what I needed, but he provided quick links to all of the other sites so that I could continue to buy from them as well. I now see that they were in collusion.
Yet despite my understanding, the symptoms of withdrawal are overwhelming. The shaking, the nervous tics, the verbal gaffes all point to the painful expunging of the drug from my body. All of my suppliers have cut me off cold turkey. I have sought out cheap imitations from other sites, even lowering myself to check out user opinions of kitchen appliances on product review sites. But nothing else satisfies. The thought of having to wait four years for another hit pierces right to my heart.
I plead with all my readers, especially the young: do not be seduced by the lure of tracking polls. The downward spiral, the selling of your own life for the sole benefit of a peddler is not worth the price you will pay. And if you hear of a presidential tracking poll any time before 2012, send the site address to me. I will take the hit for you.