Focus, Group!

Being a home theater enthusiast can be a richly rewarding pursuit, but it’s not without its pitfalls. Nearly electrocuting yourself while you try to install surround speakers in bare feet on what turns out to be a damp basement floor is the most common—but let’s not dwell on my past. Another less-talked-about danger is that of becoming too insular as a group, of only speaking to those who already share our passions and opinions, either in person or more likely on Internet forums while wearing a bathrobe. That’s why every so often, I like to go out into the wider world and hold informal focus groups in order to take the pulse of the average Joe or Josephine and see what they think about this hobby of ours.

For this particular survey, I started from a pool that included the three other members of my household, none of whom share my singular enthusiasm. I eliminated two due to scheduling conflicts (school, don’t you know) and culled the field down to one female participant. A transcript of our conversation follows.

“So, Subject X, as I stated earlier, I am going to be asking you a series of questions regarding—”

“Please, call me [name redacted].”

“No names, please. This is an anonymous focus group.”

“Right. Sorry. I, [name redacted], apologize.”

“Great. Now before I get specific, I’d like to ask you to give me your general feelings about home theater technology.”

“Well, I feel about home theater roughly like I do about avocado farmers.”

“Avocado farmers? Could you elaborate on that a little?”

“Well, like avocado farmers, I have a generally favorable opinion of the product produced by home theater technology, but I have no particular desire to get to know it any better.”

“Have you ever considered the possibility that getting to know an avocado farmer may prove to be the most deep and richly rewarding experience of your life?”

“I have not considered that possibility, no.”

“Well it could be.” [Looks wistfully out the window, perhaps to some distant, unseen avocado farm.] “Oh yes.... it could be.” 

“Is there anything you want to tell—”

“So, to sum up what you’ve said so far, you hate avocado farmers.”

“I never—”

“Let’s move on.

Now, despite your loathing of home theater, a loathing that rivals your unconscionable anti-avocado-farmer bigotry, you do use home theater?”

“Yes.”

“And what would you say are your favorite and least favorite pieces of gear?”

“It’s literally not possible for me to care less. Literally. Truly nothing you name, no matter how trivial, will be of less interest to me than that. Go ahead, name something.”

“Um, page 793 of the Uniform Commercial Code?”

“Nope. I care more about that. Try something else.”

“The dew point on August 12, 1937 in Jackson Hole, Wyoming?”

“Nope, I care vastly more about that.”

“Uh, whether or not there will ever be a Deputy Dawg movie?”

“Actually I’m deeply interested in that. Who’s playing Muskie Muskrat?”

“Look, this is getting us nowhere. Assuming you had to choose a favorite piece of gear, which would it be?”

“I had to?”

“Right.”

“Under what circumstance?”

“Let’s say a very eccentric and powerful alien was pointing a death ray and threatening to blow up the earth unless you chose.”

“Hmm, I’d better choose then. He does know I couldn’t care less, though, right?”

“Yes, he was fully briefed.”

“Umm.” [pointing] “That one.”

“Which one? This one? The receiver?”

“No, not that one. That one.”

“The Blu-ray player?”

“Um, sure. That one.”

“OK, good. And least favorite?”

“That one.”

“You just pointed at the same one.”

“Well, he’s just going to have to destroy the world with his death ray, I guess.”

“Let’s move on. You made the leap to Blu-ray; are you going to do the same with the new Blu-ray 3D format?”

“Oh, of course.”

“We can?! I mean, you are? What was the decisive factor?”

“Well, I just felt like my current garbage disposal works, you know, but it’s a little noisy. Oh, I’m sorry, you did say ‘garbage disposal,’ right?”

“I said Blu-ray 3D. How could you possibly misconstrue—and, wait, you’re upgrading your perfectly serviceable garbage disposal before getting 3D?!”

“No.”

“Good, because I nearly shrieked a very offensive obscenity at the top of my lungs.”

“What I mean is that the list of things I’ll get before 3D is long indeed and includes a new dryer belt, some contact paper, a giant 10-pack of floss—”

[Shrieked obscenity redacted]

“Well, this has been very helpful. If I could just—son of [a string of shrieked obscenities]. OK, I think I’m OK now.”

“You’re sure? When you were thrashing around swearing, it looked like you hit your hand on the counter pretty hard.”

“Yes, I’m fine. I’m pretty sure I broke something, but I put duct tape on it, so we’re good for now. Ahem. So in conclusion, is there any area where you feel—seriously, contact paper?! Anything else you’re going to buy first? I mean, socks? Cotton balls? Some sort of porcelain figurine from Spain that couldn’t cost more than a buck-fifty to make but costs hundreds? Surely we need more of those than we do an eye-popping new technology, right?”

At that point, my focus group became uncooperative. In the future, I don’t think I’ll waste time talking with people who don’t have the correct attitudes and opinions about my hobbies.

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