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The Single Mom and the Census Guy

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As early as January I had been bombarded by census ads, the short-lived controversy, and our government touting that the 2010 census form was "the shortest form in U.S. history." Back in February, I had even written an article about the 2010 census and its $340 Million campaign, including our taxpayer-funded Census Road Tour and a 30-second, $2.5-million Super Bowl ad –– a reminder to "stand up and be counted." 

Back in early March, I received an announcement that my 2010 census form was forthcoming and later that month it arrived. Like a good citizen, I filled out my census form and thought I did a good thing. April came and I got knock on my door. Wearing the signature census necklace-type badge and sporting a clipboard, it was a census worker, a.k.a., "the census guy." I was excited to tell the census worker that I had already filled out my 2010 census form and he informed me that he knew that –– he was inquiring about my neighbor, who hadn't filled out his census form.

Since I live in a townhome complex, my place is in close proximity to three of my neighbors, one of whom I know pretty well because our daughters attend the same middle school. I politely told the census guy that I rarely see that particular neighbor and don't even know his name. I even took the time out to show the census guy the front side to my neighbor's place and that maybe he would have better luck contacting him that way. The census guy thanked me and went on his way.

A couple of weeks later, the same census guy knocked on my door, looking for my neighbor again. We had the same type of interaction; the census guy left and I went about my day. A few days later, I ran into my neighbor as he was off to play golf, and told him that the census people were looking for him. He laughed and said, "I know."

At this time, I should add an important factor to this scenario: I am a single parent –– in the most legitimate form that title implies, raising a daughter by myself. I'm not seeking sympathy here, but it is relevant to what is about to come next. It is also a testament to the fact that I am very busy, however, I am the type of person to stop whenever I see a stray animal and make sure they get home or to an animal shelter. I'm even crazy enough to stop traffic and help a mother duck get her little ducklings safely across the street.

Just last week, I was having a bad day and was quite grumpy. I had just gotten home and was unloading groceries, getting ready to prepare dinner, feed the animals, walk the dog for the second time, do some laundry, keep my daughter on task with homework, and so on. I got a knock on the door and who do you think it was? Yes, another census worker; again equipped with a badge and clipboard. This time, I wasn't so pleasant –– no patriotic, "I did my duty" attitude –– and before the census guy could get a word out I said, "You guys have already been here twice, what the heck?" He responded with, "It wasn't me, this is my first time here." I then confirmed, "Well, I already told the other guy that I don't know where my neighbor is and I am sick of you guys knocking on my door, bothering me." Prefaced with a "ma'am," the census guy kept his calm demeanor and offered a "limp" apology, yet he still wanted to know about my neighbor. So, I pointed at his clipboard and pleaded, "Can you please get my name off of your list or something? Make a note on your file there." The census guy, a little ruffled at this point, told me that he didn't know what he could do, offering no solution. I'm sure I spewed out a few unpleasantries during our brief interaction, but I ended our encounter frustratingly with, "Well, then can you call someone at the head of the Census office? Can you call the president or something?" As I slammed the door, the census guy left.

After the fact, I felt bad of course, but dang, all that for my neighbor's census form. It's June; isn't the 2010 census stuff over yet? More probing thoughts have entered my mind since; was I too hard on the census guy and will another census worker be back knocking on my door looking for my neighbor's 2010 census form?  Gee, I hope not, but then again, worse things could happen. 

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About Christine Lakatos

  • Jordan Richardson

    Life is hard, huh?

  • http://www.maskedmoviesnobs.com El Bicho

    I’m confused. When were you an Asian woman?

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/christine-lakatos/ Christine

    Oh, El are you technical about everything. It was the only graphic I could find that fit the story. Do you think the Census guy would of waited for me to take our pic?

  • Clavos

    Pedant

  • Clavos

    Careful, EB, people may start to confuse us.

  • Jamison

    As I expected the BC liberal trolls have to poke at You no matter what you write about. El bicho really makes me feel sorry for her. Something is lacking in here life. I’m glad your blogs give her an outlet

  • Clavos

    I worked the 2000 census, as an enumerator, crew chief and trainer.

    The amount of interpolating and outright guessing that goes on on the part of the enumerators and their crew chiefs is remarkable.

    It’s unfortunate that such important issues as representation are decided on the basis of census “data.”

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/christine-lakatos/ Christine

    Jamison, I am not sure I am following. Something lacking?

  • Clavos

    El Bicho is a man, Jamison,as is obvious from his handle — “El” is a masculine article in Spanish.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/christine-lakatos/ Christine

    Clavos, since you know the inside; is it normal for them to knock on everyones door when a neighbor doesn’t fill out their form?

  • Clavos

    Well, they are supposed to make all possible efforts to garner whatever info they can, so yes.

    My problem with the census is a result of my experience with it, and all the faking of data that I saw go on. The faking happens because of pressure: Congress puts pressure on the Census Bureau to get the data collected as rapidly as possible (and supposedly, as accurately as possible), and then the shit rolls downhill, until it reaches the bottom of the ladder, the enumerator who’s been bugging you. When he can’t get the necessary info, in the end he’ll fudge it, and at least here in Miami, I saw that kind of thing go on in entire high rise buildings (because the census takes place in the summer, when the snowbirds have gone back home, leaving empty condos here) and even entire neighborhoods.

    Census enumerators are temps, they’re only hired for a few weeks or months, and thus have little to no stake in ensuring the accuracy of the data gathered, but they do have a lot of pressure to produce the data.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/christine-lakatos/ Christine

    Clavos: thanks for the interesting info.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/christine-lakatos/ Christine

    Next time I will answer the door holding a frying pan.

  • http://marksaleski.com Mark Saleski

    we’ve had a similar situation where i am. we live the town’s historic district, with our house directly behind the old grange hall, which sits right near the road. so in two buildings we have numbers 17-21…poor kid keeps coming back to check on the upper floor apartment of the grange hall, which is currently unoccupied.

  • http://www.maskedmoviesnobs.com El Bicho

    Jamison, I am not clear about something. Is the ignorant, narrow-mindedness you frequently display here an act for your blog-radio show or is that how you actually function in life?

    Here’s a stubborn fact for you: Christine has been known to tease me in comments on my articles, so I thought I’d playfully return the favor. I don’t remember you ever jumping to my defense, so you are also a hypocrite. Is that because you think less of liberal women?

    It’s amusing to see Clavos give you a Spanish lesson because your grasp of English doesn’t appear to be much better.

  • http://www.maskedmoviesnobs.com El Bicho

    Christine, considering how often he was over and your resourcefulness, I thought anything was possible ;)

    Clavos, I am guessing we’ve each been called worse.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/christine-lakatos/ Christine

    Well, El:

    I know I’ve been called worse names on BC! However, at least the BC peeps do it to my face (thread) and not like backstabbing, judgmental, gossipy, and jealous women (the worst) I’ve known throughout my life. That is why I prefer to have guy friends (even if in cyberspace) like you, Jamison and Clavos and all the rest!

  • Clavos

    @#16:

    Fer sure, EB.

    On occasion, by each other. :-)

  • http://notesfromnancy.blogspot.com Nancy

    So if the overhead apartment is unoccupied, doesn’t the fact people fill out a change of address form indicate a NOBODY LIVES at the old one?
    As for Christine’s neighbor, seems to me a letter threatening legal action (Census to him) might be a bit more effective.

  • http://handyfilm.blogspot.com handyguy

    I think they kept coming back because you were nice the first couple of times. My guess is they won’t be back again. Could be wrong.

    A couple of years ago, I was ‘lucky’ enough to be chosen at random to fill out one of the much longer and more intrusive forms the census uses for their ongoing data gathering [separate from the decennial count].

    I found the questions offensive and decided not to answer. The census worker in charge of my neighborhood was unbelievably persistent, calling or coming by every day for a couple of weeks until I finally relented.

    And I’m a lefty! I can imagine how this might have upset someone less inclined to view any government action favorably.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/christine-lakatos/ Christine

    Hey all; thanks for the input; and Handy I filled out my form and government has its place; however, limited in my opinion. But you may be right…the CW won’t be back until 2020!

    You should see how I treat the Jehovah Witness people; not mean. I tell them I’m already “saved” and pull out all my bibles (I have about 20; Hebrew, Greek, King James, New Living Translation, Vines Dictionary, Wycliff Commentary, etc.) ready to debate. It’s quite a “hoot”!

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/christine-lakatos/ Christine
  • Clavos

    And they are counting them more than once.

    They learned that trick counting the populace…

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/christine-lakatos/ Christine

    Well, I’ll be darned.

  • James

    Another option you have is this: Tell him that you are not legally required to make sure your neighbor fills out the census forms; that the only thing you’re required to do is fill out your forms. Then ask him to leave. If he persists, tell him to leave or you’ll have him arrested for trespassing. I would bet that he would probably leave after that. If not, then you can call the police. After all, YOU already filled out and sent in your forms and have done everything you’re legally required to do; you’re not legally required to be your neighbor’s keeper. You are no more obligated to answer his questions about that than you are to answer a salesman’s questions about why your neighbor won’t buy his products.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/christine-lakatos/ Christine

    Thank James.