To riff on this past year's theme of my bizarre employment or lack thereof, I have been in training for the past week or so for my deeply glamorous and fulfilling new work gig with the the US Census. We all have preconceptions about what a bunch of idiots the census takers are, and I'm here to share with you just a few little gems from my training with the census.
Our census worker training sessions met in a temporary building, unironically referred to "The Outhouse", situated behind a union workers' meeting hall. Our outhouse sported dark faux-wood paneling and metal folding chairs which created a cozy rec-room pizza party vibe. The cool vibe almost, but not quite, cancelled out the musty veterinarian office odor wafting up from the wall to wall indoor-outdoor carpet. That carpet really tied the room together.
Here are a few bright and shining highlights from census training:
When covering a training module regarding personal safety, our instructor gave us the very reasonable guidance to avoid areas that are known to be dangerous or areas we feel could might even maybe possibly be dangerous. Don't go into apartment buildings where the hall lights are burned out, don't go into condemned buildings, don't do your work after dark, don't get yourself tangled up in the fangs of a fierce attack dog. All of these points are valid and reasonable.
One of my fellow census workers then asked, "As a census worker, can I carry my firearm?"
Two points: 1) I don't know! CAN you? It is MAY I carry my firearm, little Mr. Poor Grammar Militia Guy! 2) Really?? Are you really asking that question? Why on God's green earth would a census worker need to carry a firearm?
Seriously, we are counting people in households. We are not on the SWAT team. The gun carry question then metastasized into this fellow informing all of us at census training of our constitutional rights, his concealed carry permit, and the California law that allows all of us to carry unloaded weapons, which we all know are really really useful. This topic was workshopped for a good twenty minutes, handbooks and training manuals were checked and rechecked, phone calls to superiors were made, and the conclusion was reached that since the census training manual does not explicitly overrule our constitutional rights to keep and bear arms, then it looks like we are good to go on the weapons carrying. Good to know.
My second favourite census training moment came when we were covering the training section wherein it is explained that it is not our job, as census workers, to report illegal activity and that no negative ramifications can come to an individual as the outcome of complying with the census. The point, no matter how convoluted the presentation in training, is that all census info is confidential, census data is not used to cross reference with immigration information, no deportations will occur as a result of participating in the census, and no personal information is made public for 72 years after the gathering of said personal information. The census takers are counting how many folks are in the household, not who has a green card and who doesn't.
One of my fellow census trainees then asked, "What if you go to a door and some guy is killing some lady?"
Excellent question, to which I ask, "Do you really think if somebody is murdering somebody else they will come to the door to answer your census questions??"
Knock! Knock! "Hi, I'm Joe from the US Census! How many people are in your household?"
"Well, it was 2, but now we are down to 1."
"OK, thanks! Hmm, since you are killing that lady right now, I'm wondering how many people were in your house as of April 1, 2010?"
"Oh, I see! Since I just killed this lady today, it would be 2 total in household back on April 1, 2010."
"Thanks for your participation in the US Census! Goodbye!"
I imagine more gems will present themselves soon enough, and I"ll be sure to tell you all about them.