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Is there anyone ELSE up there we can talk to? - Diary of a Necromancer
Excuse me, I'm making perfect sense, you're just not keeping up
Is there anyone ELSE up there we can talk to?
Census gig may have just ended in a confused whimper of "...so let me get this straight, the problem is the Gummint being too efficient?!?"; having hired more people than originally planned, they are now more or less out of stuff for that many people to productively occupy themselves at already, and whilst I could theoretically have spent the weekend putting in an hour or so each day trying to track down the same handful of stubborn cases I've been chasing after since day two of the fieldwork part of this, it makes more sense to hand those cases off to another pair of hands while I'm Out Of Town (hey, Rosemont's out of the city limits...) and see where they may or may not have got with them by the time I'm available again. So... yeah, my sense of things is that I'm probably closing out here at a final score of $1k, a satchel, a hat and a t-shirt. Which is okay by me in the respect that my primary thought going into the census test was, ironically, "it would be nice to have $1k before the damn computer breaks again", so as far as having dealt with the perennial issue in my adult life that having one thousand dollars all together at the same time represents goes, I'm good. It's just all that other pending crap that would have been nice to catch up to...

Some observations regarding the process:

  • Single most helpful thing that the census bureau could have done to make my life easier: "brown" as an option for race. Srsly, this was the question that at least half of my cases got hung up on. Most common solution was to list a nationality instead, which isn't quite what we were after. And for the record, I did suggest "human" when people seemed particularly stymied, although nobody took me up on it.

  • Laugh-line question, that really shouldn't have been: "Is (NAME) Male or Female... choose one or the other". It was a good icebreaker, having to explain that we had to ask, but I only ran into one person who grasped the potential Issue here, and quite a bit of oh, right, you crazy Americans might not know, I've heard about this place from more recent immigrants. Official!Transphobia!fail, FTW, somebody's actually managed to make LiveJournal look good...

  • Language And/Or National Origin Bingo Tally (partial): Gujarati, Russian, Turkish, Thai, something I couldn't begin to guess at that might have been to do with the Balkan war, Korean, Pakistani, Cambodian, Japanese, Filipino, miscellaneous other Indian subcontinent, and lots and lots and lots of Spanish, including Mexico, Ecuador, Guatemala, some names that had to be conversos, and actually-from-Spain. Considering that I was only dealing with about 45 cases across three blocks, one may begin to get an image of the diversity of my neighborhood. I was actually kind of surprised on the one or two occasions when a white yuppie answered the door thinking I was the cable guy.

  • The foreclosure crisis meant I was "interviewing" a lot of condo-neighbors over building intercoms to discover that the unit I was trying to find out about had been vacant on the first of April. Saved time when I could find someone who knew, but very depressing.

  • Worst "Fetchez la vache!" moment: calling a realty company to try to get information about a unit in a building with a "flat for rent" sign on. Got voicemail the first time, and when I connected with someone at the second try, they accused me of wasting a business's time with "all these calls", asked if the census would pay them for wasting their time with me, kept repeating "people live there, go talk to them", and finally hung up on me. The irony here being that if they'd calmed down enough to answer my questions rationally they wouldn't even have been on the phone with me that long, as when I finally did get hold of a guy next door to the unit it took about two minutes to determine it wouldn't be resolvable because the people had cleared off. I suspect the realty company has a number of apartments in the area with issues and they're not realizing that they're getting calls from six different census workers, but, dude.

  • I have bigger balls than I would have suspected so far as dealing with strangers goes as long as I can hide behind the official cover of a clipboard. This may be an actual clipboard or binder, or it may be a horribly suggestive bratwurst, but apparently the principle holds.

And now, some fun with statistics about the statistics:

  • Census-enumerators'-households enumerated: two. One of whom initially told us we smelt of elderberries. Hilarity Ensued when their enumerator got home, I gather.

  • Places I was sent to that didn't actually exist: two.

  • Places I was sent to where the mailman had screwed up putting the forms in the boxes: also two, not the same two unless you count a nonexistent flat as having borked some numbering.

  • Places I was sent to where someone had mailed the form and the census hadn't gotten it: at least four, one of which turned up while I was trying to catch up with the unit in question so I was okay with that.

  • Places I was sent to where someone had filled out the form and they handed it to me when I got there: one, the procedure for which is to make them fill it out again with you there to verify that they match. It was a big family, too.

  • Places I was sent to where someone had filled in the form as if they were living somewhere else: one. There is an equally confused enumerator wandering around in another state trying to find these people.

  • Places I was sent to where I couldn't complete my business because somebody had just died: one or six, depending on how you want to count trying to sort out a multi-unit building where I hit that roadblock trying to get information from its management.

  • Doors slammed in face altogether: one.

So, um, other than that how was the play, Mrs Lincoln? It was kind of fun, actually, a break in my usual routine that I was getting paid for, and while getting glimpses of other people's sordid little lives is enough to turn the more sensitive viewer into a raving Marxist regarding how we expect anyone to live like this, I'd say the census gig is something that every citizen of wherever should have a go at at least once in their lives, if only for the sense of Civic Participation and all and not the allconsuming nosiness. And I still have my fingers crossed they can scrape up a few more hours for me at it, 'cos I'm still down an iPod...

feeling: blah blah

4 responses | moved to respond?
51stcenturyfox From: 51stcenturyfox Date: May 13th, 2010 07:38 pm (UTC) (permalink this entry)
Wow, this is interesting!

You got to meet the people in your neighborhood, at least. And $1,000! That's a pretty awesome chunk of cash at once.
robling_t From: robling_t Date: May 13th, 2010 07:45 pm (UTC) (permalink this entry)
I keep trying to focus on the thought that most of the time my needing $1k for something might as well be asking for a ticket to the moon (at least the smaller annoyances are stuff that can conceivably be saved up for and taken care of before something else explodes messily and wipes out whatever I've managed to squirrel away) so at least I've got the big thing resolved...
ashnistrike From: ashnistrike Date: May 13th, 2010 08:17 pm (UTC) (permalink this entry)
Sounds like fun, for definitions of fun that involve an official excuse to be nosy! And money is always good, too.
ljgeoff From: ljgeoff Date: May 13th, 2010 11:30 pm (UTC) (permalink this entry)
$1k FTW! Also, job experience, hey? But more importantly, there are a couple of short stories in there, I'm pretty damn sure.
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