90 million people can dull a cutting edge

The man at the door assured me there was nothing to worry about.

"I'm not here to sell you anything," he said quietly, as if concerned that someone might be eavesdropping. "I'm simply conducting field research. Are you familiar with the concept of No Child Left Behind?"

"I've heard of that law," I said. "It's somewhat controversial."

"No need to discuss any details," he replied. "I work for a highly respected marketing and consulting organization. We believe there may be large numbers of American adults who have also been left behind. It's a potential voting bloc that could be very important for candidates to know about in future elections."

"And you think I'm part of this new demographic phenomenon?" I asked.

"Very likely," he said. "One of our clients is a large grocery chain. A security camera in one of their stores observed you in the cookie aisle during the Super Bowl halftime show."

"Thank goodness for small favors," I said, nodding. "I missed Janet Jackson's clothing- removal experiment."

"Exactly," he agreed. "About 90 million Americans shared that moment of TV history, and you weren't one of them. Based on that fact, we decided to contact a firm that monitors online music libraries and found out that you've never downloaded any songs onto your home computer."

"True again," I confirmed. "I'm not a downloader. No file swapping, either. Never been in a chat room. No desire to play 'Grand Theft Auto' or any other video games. And I don't own a Palm Pilot."

"Doesn't this failure to integrate the advances of modern technology into your personal schedule leave you feeling marginalized or alienated from the rest of society?" he wondered.

"Not really," I said. "I've happily stayed home while the rest of society was out bungee jumping, riding mechanical bulls, or swing dancing."

"We also checked with your cable-TV provider," he added. "You don't subscribe to HBO, which means that you've never watched 'The Sopranos,' 'Sex and the City,' or 'Six Feet Under.' Doesn't it bother you to miss those cutting-edge shows?"

"Some of us prefer the trailing edge," I said. "It's a safer place to hang out on the giant blade of everyday life. And when you talk about getting left behind, I'd suggest people like me are on the right track. A lot of trendsetters are burning themselves out running a race nobody can win."

"That's an interesting worldview," he said, scribbling in a small notebook. "Your appearance isn't what I expected either, based on our data."

"Did you think I'd be wearing a burlap apron and have grass growing between my teeth?" I asked, grinning.

He looked slightly chagrined. "I should get going," he said. "Got a lot more of these interviews to do."

"Pace yourself," I said. "My personal motto is 'Walk - Don't Run.' That was a hit song for The Ventures."

"Never heard of them," he said. "I'll download their stuff when I get home tonight. And I thought I knew all the hot groups. You rock, man!"

"Glad you said that," I told him. "I was thinking exactly the same thing."

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