Fun with the Census


I don't mean to be an ass - I just can't help myself sometimes. I know the census is important - it's important to know how many of us there are and where we live - I get that. I'm all for it. I even liked the TV ads with Ed Begley Jr. and Jennifer Coolidge.

Then I got the first postcard telling me I'd soon receive my census form and how important it was that I send it back right away. After the nonstop media blitz on TV and radio, they also spent money to mail a postcard about mailing the form?

Then I got the second postcard telling me I'd soon receive my census form and how important it was that I send it back right away. So, now they've spent money to mail two postcards in addition to the form... Riiight.

Then the form arrived and I gave it a thorough review. It asks how many people live here, what our names are, our birth dates AND how old we are - noodle on that - if anyone else lives here, if we live somewhere else part of the year, and curiously, do we rent or own our residence. Why in the world does our government need to know that information?

And why in the world does the government want to know if I'm Hispanic, Latina or Spanish? Portuguese doesn't rate? What are we, chopped linguiça?

I was annoyed by all the questions that seem irrelevant to the purpose of the census, which is simply to count the citizens of the country. Enumerate. Not inventory, catalog, sort, or otherwise classify - just count. Can you count, gubment? Never mind - we know the answer to that question.

So instead of answering the rest of the questions on the form, I wrote only "02 Adults" and enclosed a print out of the Constitution's section about enumeration and Merriam-Webster's definition of enumeration, mailed it back (right away!), and waited to see what would happen...

As I suspected... my less-than-compliant response garnered a visit from a lovely woman bearing a clipboard and a binder, ready to take down all the information I didn't supply on the form. However, she claimed that "the office" never received my form, which I find hard to believe. The US Postal Service still works remarkably well.

I politely told her I'd mailed back my form right away with the critical information she needed - "02." She wasn't appeased. She continued to press and I politely continued to refuse to answer any other questions. Frustrated, she finally left.

Then she came back the next day! You have to admire the tenacity. We replayed the same exchange we'd had the day before and once again, she left with only a big fat zero two. On her way off the porch she asked if there might be a better time to come back and I cheerfully said Nope - my answers won't be any different any other time.

That was about a week ago and yesterday a different census worker paid us a visit - this woman was younger, not as easygoing, with a stern expression and a no-nonsense bun in her hair. She had her clipboard out, ready to drill me with questions when I stopped her and gave her the same answer I've given, officially, three times now: 02.

She also claimed that "the office" hadn't received my form (bullshit!) and to ensure they would have an accurate count, she had to have our names. I asked her how that works.

If I sent in the form that says "02" and I told the other woman two people live here and now I'm telling her that two adults live here, what other possible count could she have for this address? Are they *adding* the numbers instead of comparing them?

If I told her my name was Ernie and the other person who lives here is called Bert, does that eliminate the confusion? Ernie is resident 01 and Bert is resident 02 - done.

At this point, it's fascinating to me how much time & money they've wasted trying to get information about me and my "house mate" when they could go online and in five minutes, without leaving the comfort of an Aeron chair and for a fraction of what they're paying census workers, find out way more than the census is asking.

Then today, as if they already know way more about me than they're letting on, I was visited by yet another census worker - at a house I don't even live in!

I was photographing a vacant house for a real estate agent when I heard a knock at the door. Lo and behold, there was the familiar clipboard and binder held by a lovely woman with a friendly smile, asking me if she could get my answers to the US Census.

This is what I told her:
  • Alexis Carrington
  • Age 21
  • Squatter
  • Living with 6 husbands and mothers-in-law
  • Husbands: Don Draper, David Starsky, Tommy Gavin, Marky Mark, Jack Donaghy, and Ferris Bueller
  • Spanish negro
  • and 5 months out of the year I live at the Betty Ford Clinic.