Photo by Gabriel (cod_gabriel; Flickr CC)
There I was, minding my own business, quietly wanking, as Clive from Derek and Clive would say. I say wanking, but in fact I was updating my new LinkedIn and XING profiles. The next best thing.
Once I'd fiddled with my "professional goals" segment so often that I feared I might go blind, I suddenly got an email. Ping.
It was from Amanda Carrara, a researcher in a company called "TMC partnership" in the UK. And the subject box insouciantly blabbered about a "North Caucasus survey." This looks promising, I thought. Can't be spam. Who would spam someone with a North Caucasus survey? South Caucasus, maybe. But not North. Then came the killer first line: "Dear Konrad, I am contacting you because of your professional reputation and expertise regarding international politics and economic development."
Yes! Finally, an email with this opening line! So someone does apparently read this blog after all. Finally, my talents have been appreciated. All those hours I spent studying the intricate warp and weft of North Caucasian politics have paid off. (Notice the personal "I" in that first line by the way – lovely touch).
"We are preparing a research paper on tourism perspectives in the Northern Caucasus region," continued Amanda, getting down to business. Efficient. I like that. "And I would very much appreciate your participation in the research. I would be grateful if you would fill in a short online questionnaire:"
I'd love to, Mandy. (Can I call you Mandy?) I clicked on the link in an anticipatory rush. Here's the first question:
"Russia has announced a major development plan for the North Caucasus, including developing mountain tourism with $15 billion for new ski resorts. A special economic zone will be created with tax breaks and a special customs regime to boost private capital inflow. What do you consider the main strength(s) and weakness(es) of the plan?"
Rarely have I been more depressed by the first question on a questionnaire. I don't think my professional reputation and expertise regarding international politics and economic development has ever felt so small and shrivelled. Suddenly I was in the showers in PE in school again, with everyone laughing at my acorn-like expertise. $15 billion? Skiing? Special zone? Russia? Is that what's happening in Russia these days? People developing ski resorts left, right and centre. I don't read the newspapers enough.
Whatever else this survey went on to say, I never saw it. That shouldn't be the first question. You're a cruel woman, Mandy. You build a man up then knock him down. I'm just flesh and blood, you know.