Saturday, May 15, 2010

Census Weirdness

I went out Enumerating today. I had a few houses in my book on which I have been unable to get information.

A few were obviously vacant, but I am not authorized to make that designation unless someone in the area verifies for me that, yes, that house with the tree growing into the roof is abandoned. Fortunately, on my third trip down that road, I ran into a woman who was able to sort that out for me for all of them at once.

I went back to one I'd visited a while back and caught the man at home. He stood in the doorway--well, kinda hunched in the doorway, as he was too tall to fit under the door frame--and before I could ask him any questions, he said, "I'm not going to give you any names or birth dates or social security numbers or income or anything."

"No problem," I said. "They don't make me ask about social security numbers or income, anyway. But can I ask you a few questions?"

"We don't have any illegal immigrants in here, neither."

"Yeah, really mostly all I need is a number. Can you tell me how many people were living here on April first?"


"They want me to ask names and birth dates, but we can skip that since you don't want to say. Can you tell me what race each person is?"

"We're all white. Everyone around here is white."

Well, OK, then.

Since I am also white, well, I had to wonder if he would have said it the same way, and so forcefully, if I were not. But I was not about to ask, because he pretty much looked like he was ready to slug me the whole time.

I also stopped by an odd apartment building in the woods. You would never know it was back there, but I had found them once and gotten some of the information I'm supposed to collect, but not all. I've been back a couple more times with no luck. Today was my last attempt to catch someone willing to talk to me--as per usual, a lot of cars were there but no one was answering their doors.

Leaving the property I turned right, deeper into the woods, instead of left, toward the main road.

I have no sense of direction.



Just ask anyone.

I realized it almost immediately, but since this was just a long, narrow, gravel road there wasn't much opportunity to turn around. I try to avoid using people's driveways, so I drove to the end, where the street got slightly wider, and turned back toward the main road.

As I passed one of the houses, a man flagged me down. "YOU NEED TO SLOW DOWN!" he said. I was going about 20 mph at the time, which I think is not all that fast for a straight road, even if it is a bit on the narrow side. But, hey, I am paid to count people, not to argue with them, so I said, "Yes, sir."

"You should not even be here," he said.

"Yeah, I know, I got lost so I had to turn around."

"You should not even be on this road and you are driving too fast."

At this I smiled, waved, and started to pull away, and a woman came out of the house, screaming so much her entire face was red. I am not at all sure what she was trying to say to me, but you have to imagine--I was beyond the end of her 100-yard-long driveway, politely excusing myself from her angry husband, and all I could think was, "If you two were not so busy telling me to get away from your house, I would be several miles away by now, but OK..."

I also went to a house I'd almost given up and impossible. Every time I came by, they were gone, or only their young children were there, and yet today I lucked out and caught them all at home. They invited me in.

I'm not supposed to go into people's houses, but sometimes I do, if it makes more sense. Best part of that house? The Race question.

"We're all rednecks. 100 percent, All-American Redneck. You can put THAT on your form."

And he said it with such a charming smile, while changing his baby daughter, I was tempted to write it in. We are expected to write in that sort of stuff, if they want us to. His wife, though, told me, "We're all white. Well, I'm a little Mexican, but that's it, and the kids aren't Mexican enough to count, so we're white."

I'm not about to decide how Mexican you have to be to count as Mexican Enough, so I told her that she could have me check that box for her kids if she wanted. She decided to stick with just white.

They then had a bit of an argument over how many people to include on the form. "The kids move out and they boomerang right back. They turn 18 and you think they're gone and then they come back with more."

My attitude for the whole thing is pretty much just one of gratitude for the job. I don't care what boxes you want me to check. You can identify yourself any way you like. "No skin off my nose," as my mom would say.

I do wonder, though, why we are required to fill out those forms in pencil. Our payroll forms have to be in pen, "for the scanning machines." But the Census data has to be in pencil, also ostensibly for the benefit of the scanning machines.

Well, which is it?

Conspiracy theorists can start riiiiight about there.


Jill/Twipply Skwood said...

Wow! Sounds like an interesting job! Funny on the redneck part. :-)

Sue said...

You weren't supposed to be there? Was it a secret government lab or something? hahahaha

Christine said...

Yes, definitely interesting, Jill. And yes, I loves me some rednecks, if they are friendly rednecks :)

Sue-It was a very nice house, very large, on a huge, open the woods, behind the dump. With a woman in what my grandmother used to call a House Dress. I think maybe they have a Very Profitable and Not Very Legal business establishment back there, the exact nature of which I cannot begin to determine.

Mostly because ain't no way I'm goin' back there.

Sue said...

Good idea to stay away.

ALF said...

Is it scary going up to strange doors? I'm so scardy-fraid these days. Be careful.

Christine said...

ALF-For the most part, no. Most people are very nice to me. I have had a couple nerve-wracking experiences but generally it's OK.