I Was An Enumerator For The Census, and I walk the main line… No one can hear me, fortunately, but I am singing at the top of my voice.
Enumerators don’t walk the main line, either. That would probably be The Strip in Las Vegas and the only people down there lately, are…I don’t even know who’s down there lately.There hasn’t been a flight in and out of Vegas for six months.
That isn’t strictly true, I’m aware. No need to write to the editor explaining how you flew in two weeks ago and didn’t call me.
Back in March, I applied for the enumerator job and expected to be doing it in spring weather. No such luck. Someone, standing in a crowd far across the seas and mountains and plains, coughed indiscriminately, and like that butterfly flapping his stupid wings, it changed the world.
The job didn’t start until the heat index here was 120 in the shade, a fact that is directly attributable to Trump, or so the Democrats have stated recently. Fortunately, not too many people in Nevada live in Death Valley, because if they do, not only are they literal toast, but I hope no one counts them. What a stupid place to live. A fifty-ish couple from Vegas went out there once for a day’s drive and like the S.S. Minnow and its passengers, they never returned.
Well, the wife did, but it was two weeks before she was found in their car at the side of the road. They ran out of gas, and the hubby died of diabetic complications in a week.
Back to more cheerful topics like counting heads. I have been enumeratin’ all over my immediate neighborhood and points about a mile away. This saves Uncle Sam on paying mileage. Never mind the fuel we pay to fly certain people down to Mar-a-Lago. God forbid I should get paid for 5 or 10 miles. I rack up all of 2, generally.
The Census enumerator job entails knocking on people’s doors, ‘natch. We don’t just sit on our porch and count people as they walk past.
“Wait, didn’t he walk by going the other direction about twenty minutes ago? I don’t remember. The sun’s in my eyes and this is my third daiquiri. Invite him over and we’ll quiz him.”
Nor do we try to remember how many kids the neighbors have, or ask the other people in line at the grocery store what their names are and when they were born. Although, some people try this loophole, I’m sure. Except there’s a chip in the phone, and it knows where we are better than we do.
My first day out, the temperature was hovering near 118 degrees. I was around the corner from where we live (this makes it inconvenient, although not impossible, for anti-government folk who like to hang Census workers and then stick them in the freezer in the basement to get away with it), and I almost passed out on the street within the first 30 minutes. I was wearing a fabric mask and couldn’t breathe. I quit and went home for the rest of the day.
Now I only wear the paper mask. I wear clothes too, although it would be cooler if I didn’t have to. Not cool for those who like public decency, but at least I’m not a rioter. Though I might make the livestock restive should I leave the house that way. I’ve heard a rooster crow nearby, and they are terrific at leading charges up San Juan hill. He was crowing at 2pm. Do roosters not wear watches? I thought they crowed at dawn.
At any rate, I wear a minimum of clothing under a loose dress and then try not to get hit by a bus. (Come to think of it, not wearing any underwear makes Mom’s adjuration to wear clean panties in case you get hit by a bus, moot.)
I’m still pushing a rollator for greater ease in walking and the second story of apartment complexes finally caught up with me. I did every ground level house and apartment I could first. One complex fooled me last night. I weaseled my way in the gate beneath the corner apartment with the screaming argument on the balcony raging above me, and discovered that not only did I not want to be there by myself, but I needed help with the stairs. All the units I had on my case list were up one story.
My son told me that was where the Ice Cream Hooker lived. The complex is right by a 7-11, and every time he walked down to the store, a woman standing in front of that complex would offer him sexual favors if he’d buy her an ice cream. That seems reasonable. A few years back, a young woman came into the shop on Fremont St and asked if he would fill her empty liter bottle with water. He filled it under the tap, and took it out to her. She complained that it wasn’t filled all the way, and he explained that he couldn’t fit it under the faucet.
She came back and stood at the counter again and asked for his attention. He stood up, put his palm on the counter and said, “What,” in that way that says someone has lost patience with you. She told him to watch her, and she walked outside to the sidewalk and stood in front of the plate glass window. Then she held the bottle over her head and poured the water on herself. We have far more adventures in our neighborhood than happen in a rich neighborhood.
The other night a man walked past our car, stuck his hand in his pants to check things out, pulled it out, and sniffed it. I mean, where else can you find class like that?
The MOTH (man of the house) and the SOTH (son of the house), have been carrying the rollator up and down stairs for me. Last night, my son fell halfway down a flight of stairs and landed in a heap on the landing. He wears a size 17 and the heel caught under the lip of the stair. Only his elbow was cut, thank goodness. If I’d been walking down in front of him, I don’t know what would have happened. Actually, he’d probably have been unhurt, but I’d have been smushed. One less to put on the Census ledger, Uncle Sam.
This is the same complex where a little girl pushed him down the steps when he was one and he landed on his head on concrete. Tis a cursed complex. If I had to live in apartments like that again, I’d take my bug out bag and head for the hills. Join our hermit In the Beyond on Frenchman’s Mtn. I used to hike up there and would see the hermit’s status updates written on a cardboard sign and tacked to a branch of a scrub brush. I knew more about him than about some of my friends.
At least four residents at the complex told me to be careful, that it was a bad, bad place. Twice security has shown up there in an SUV, the guard packing heat, wearing finger-less gloves and other accoutrements of the wannabe cop. It must be warranted; at least four units were boarded up. There’s probably a wild party every weekend.
I have discovered that my self-vaunted compassion is just an illusion, because I’m confident that if some of these people needed CPR while I was talking to them, that I would not only hesitate, but decline to give aid. I’m a terrible person. Who said only clean, healthy people are entitled to bystander CPR?
I like doing houses better, but they’re no picnic. The challenges of a disability are glaring when you try to wend your way through five cars, no space between them, or a yard filled with debris, a gate, a screen, and steps up to a porch with no railing nearby to grab. One yard had a mini cliff inside the gate and a hill of dirt to climb. With a rollator.
Most people are accommodating, and some tell me they did the Census on the internet, or sent back the paper copy, but the Census phone keeps insisting they do it again anyway. This is where our tax dollars are going, people. On the other hand, they might be lying. It’s possible people lie.
The nicest occupants are Hispanics, which in our neighborhood, generally means Mexican. The first generation parents aren’t sure about things and their English is still rusty, so they’re happy to answer the questions, especially after I tell them “It’s the law,” while whipping out my old Pan Am fold over ID wallet and flashing them a picture of me with my employee number from 40 years ago, and the words Pan Am at the top.
Just kidding, people. I don’t do that.
Some houses are clearly occupied at the time I knock on the door. I can hear music and conversation, but the second I knock, all noise inside ceases. What are they afraid of? Are they not the REAL occupants and I might be the rightful homeowner standing on my own doorstep, waiting to demand an explanation the minute the door is opened?
I can think of a few reasons people might cease talking and shut off the radio as soon as they hear a knock. They are afraid that:
The Feds are at the door. The GI men and women can hear as well as I can, but don’t always wait for an invitation to enter premises, so you may as well open up. Or an assassin is standing outside, who also has good hearing. Assassins don’t generally knock though, do they? Maybe they do; I’m unclear on assassin etiquette. Or, their mom is at the door, in which case SHE has better hearing than a Doberman, and a spare key. The jig is up, answer her knock. And learn when her birthday is. I met two young men who had no clue how old their mom is.
I also met a young, blonde, fair-skinned, “full blooded Native American.” I am almost certain that isn’t possible, but I’ll let Ancestry.com sort it out.
I can’t get some people to spill at all, and others, who start out reluctantly, I can’t get to shut up. One house had a mannequin sitting in a chair on the porch dressed in motorcycle leathers and a helmet. It was holding a sign that said Trespassers Will Be Shot and Survivors Shot Again. That’s pretty strong talk for a plastic person. So I tucked the Notice of Visit in its plastic mannequin hands, and left, bullets flying over my head.
A man answered the door at another house and told me he didn’t live there. The head of household was hanging back out of sight, and from around the corner she said she had done the Census already. So I left the man the Notice of Visit and an information sheet, which he requested so that he could do his own.
The head of household then chose to show up and state her position as such, and demanded an information sheet, too. I gave her one, but then she saw the Notice of Visit and told me after an unsuccessful scuffle for her guest’s Notice of Visit, “He has more papers than me.” I should have just given her one, but they have a number/letter combo we write on them, copied from the phone. I left, but all the way back to the car I could hear them bickering.
There is only a few weeks left for the Census, and they are bugging me to work a full 20 hours. We’ll see about that.