Why I Love Philadelphia

Or: Fun with Mail-In Surveys

(written sometime circa 1999)

About a year into Ed Rendell's first term, Philadelphia Magazine, in one of its yearly futile attempts to increase its circulation, published the "Philadelphia Sex Survey!" -- a typical supermarket-tabloidesque, statistically void and vaguely titillating questionnaire on its readers sexual habits.

Now at the time, I was a starving college student, supporting my bad habits (like food) by whoring my 90wpm fingers to the highest-bidding temp agency. When this particular issue of Philly Mag came out, I was working in one of the more deadly boring of those assignments: full-time transcriptionist for the Radiation Oncology Department at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital. (Which is another, depressing, story in and of itself.)

Being quite starved for mental stimulation, I would, on my lunch breaks, raid the hospital newsstand for anything with printed words (if I hadn't brought a book). In addition to my usual load of newspapers, I bought a copy of Philly Mag.

Later on in the day, there were no more reports to transcribe, so I was sitting at my desk, twiddling my thumbs. As no more work seemed to be incoming, and it was yet 45 minutes until 5:00, I pulled out a pen and began idly filling in answers on the sex survey.

Most of it was the kind of deadly dull stuff that faux 'researchers' on Usenet solicit in hopes of getting juicy masturbatory tidbits about lesbianism and incest. (Or better yet, lesbian incest.) Who, how, where, how many times and so forth. I filled it all in dutifully, figuring that the unvarnished truth of my sex life, even back then, might turn a few heads in P.M.'s suburban offices, or failing that at least up the representation for polymorphously perverse polyamorous perverts in the sample.

I came, finally, upon the last question:


Without the slightest bit of hesitation, I filled in:


...ripped it out, sealed it in an envelope, and mailed it off.

So flash-forward nine months. My girlfriend of that time and I were being frighteningly domestic, and shopping for groceries. In the checkout line, I happen to spot the latest issue of Philly Mag: "The RESULTS of our fabulous SEX SURVEY!" Wondering if perhaps any of my material had been worth of comment (publicity slut that I am), I dropped it into the cart.

We get back to her apartment, and after unpacking the groceries, I start to idly leaf through the article with the survey results, and it's about as awful as one would expect. Shock! There are homosexuals in Philadelphia! Shock! We have sexual fantasies that we would never act out! Yadda yadda yadda. I toil through about five pages of this, and I'm rapidly losing hope.

Finally, I come to the very, very end of the article. Only in the last ten paragraphs did they bother to even mention the "Which famous person would you want to screw" question; I guess the results must not have been that exciting. But one thing apparently stood out.

I'm quoting from memory here, but considering how many times I've read and re-read it, it's probably pretty accurate. The emphasis added in one paragraph is by me.)

"We asked our readers which local or national public figure they would most like to have an affair with.

"Surprisingly, poltical power turned out not to be as much as an aphrodisiac as people might have expected. Most local and national politicians didn't even place, with the majority of the honors going to people like Randall Cunningham [Philadelphia Eagles quarterback] and the KYW-TV weatherman.

"Two notable exceptions to that rule were President Bill Clinton, whom a number of women reported having fantasies about, and Mayor Edward Rendell.

"In fact, one ambitious reader reported a desire to take on both Rendell and his wife (Philadelphia property attorney) Midge Rendell at the same time.

"When we called the mayor for comment, his response was: 'Sounds like a creative guy.'"

And _that_ is why I love Fast Eddie Rendell, and Philadelphia.