FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Can the Census Count to Ten?

by LAWRENCE REICHARD

If you can count to ten or watch television, you probably know that it’s a Census year.  And if you can count to ten, you should go work for the Census – they could use you.

I’m a little worried here.  The Census Bureau is charged with counting 300 million-plus Americans, and from where I sit, I think they’re gonna have trouble counting their own fingers and toes.

In early 2009 I applied for a job with the Census.  At the time I was living in Rockland, Maine.  I completed and submitted my Census employment application, and I scored what I thought was a reasonably decent 98 on the pre-employment test.  A few weeks after all that I moved from Rockland to Bangor, and I called the Census and informed the Bureau of my new address and phone number.  No problem, I was told, it will be taken care of.  Like a fool I believed this.

Months went by and I didn’t hear from the Census, so I decided to give them a call to make sure my address change had been duly and properly recorded.  It hadn’t.  So I tried again, and made a note in my calendar to call back a week later to make sure I had succeeded with this second attempt to change my address of record.  And so it went, week after week.  I ended up calling a total of ten times.  Seriously.

I spoke with Kim in the Bangor office – she was very nice.  I spoke with Donavon in the Augusta, Maine office – he too was very nice.  I spoke with Don in the Bangor office – great guy, very helpful.  Or seemingly so.  I spoke with a guy in the Augusta office who said he had my file in his hand  right then, as we were speaking.  He said he would send it on that very day.  He didn’t.  Nor did he the next day.  Nor the day after that.

Bangor told me to call Augusta.  They gave me a phone number for Augusta.  How helpful!  The phone number was no longer in service.  Seriously.  The next time I spoke to the Bangor office I told them the Augusta number they were giving out didn’t work.

I was then told that in order for them to send my file from Augusta to Bangor they had to first send it to Boston.  But of course!  I always go from Augusta to Bangor via Boston.

Finally they called me for a job interview.  After having possession of  my application for more than a year, they called to interview me at 5:10 p.m. on a Friday.

For months  I had been trying to recruit two people for a pinochle trio in my new home of Bangor, and I had finally succeeded.  We were ten minutes into the first meeting of the brand spanking new Bangor Pinochle Club at Paddy Murphy’s wonderful Irish pub and eatery in beautiful downtown Bangor, and I was three quarters of the way through a pint of Geary’s Hampshire Special Ale, the best beer brewed in the great state of Maine, when my cursed cell phone rang.  Normally I wouldn’t even have that infernal contraption turned on after 5 p.m., but I had forgotten to turn it off.

The Census wanted to do a job interview right then and there, by phone.  You mustn’t delay, the woman warned, or she would simply go to the next person on the list.  Now there’s some enlightened personnel management.  Keep ’em hungry and pliant!  But I managed to convince  my would-be interrogator to call me back at my home, on my landline, at 7:30 p.m.

So the pinochle club’s first meeting was a little rushed – I lost, Paula won – and I scurried home to receive my phone call.  But the Bureau didn’t call.

The next morning I went for a 14-mile walk along the bony, bonny banks of the Kenduskeag Stream, and I forgot to bring my cell phone.  Naturally the Census called while I was out walking, on a Saturday.  A return number was left on my voicemail.  The number looked familiar.  I called it.  It was out of service.

Later in the day the Bureau called again, this time to interview me for the lesser job of enumerator – the crewleader positions had all been filled by this time.  But it was not the Bangor office calling.  It was Augusta, and they wanted me to work out of Rockland – they were unaware of my move to Bangor.  The caller said he would give his supervisor  my new contact information, but he sounded decidedly uninterested in the project, and mostly he wanted to get me off the line so he could call the next schmuck.  “I don’t know if I’m in a good position to get this done,” the guy said.  “I don’t know whether God himself is in a good position to get this done,” I responded, but I don’t think he got my humor.

The next day I got another voicemail from the Census.  This was from Don, a supervisor in the Bangor office with whom I had spoken previously.  In his message Don said that Augusta had fedexed my file to Boston six days before, but that I still wasn’t in Bangor’s system.  Good thing they fedexed it.

In other words, on March 16 Augusta finally told Boston I had moved out of its area.  Then three days later Augusta called me to interview me for a job, in its area.  And the day after that Augusta again called me to interview me for a job, in its area.

And these people are going to count 300 million Americans with anything faintly resembling accuracy?

LAWRENCE REICHARD can be reached at lreichard@gmail.com

 

WORDS THAT STICK

Lawrence Reichard lives in Belfast, Maine, and can be reached at lreichard@gmail.com.

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

Weekend Edition
August 26, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Louisa Willcox
The Unbearable Killing of Yellowstone’s Grizzlies: 2015 Shatters Records for Bear Deaths
Paul Buhle
In the Shadow of the CIA: Liberalism’s Big Embarrassing Moment
Rob Urie
Crisis and Opportunity
Charles Pierson
Wedding Crashers Who Kill
Richard Moser
What is the Inside/Outside Strategy?
Dirk Bezemer – Michael Hudson
Finance is Not the Economy
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Bernie’s Used Cars
Margaret Kimberley
Hillary and Colin: the War Criminal Charade
Patrick Cockburn
Turkey’s Foray into Syria: a Gamble in a Very Dangerous Game
Ishmael Reed
Birther Tries to Flim Flam Blacks  
Brian Terrell
What Makes a Hate Group?
Andrew Levine
How Donald Trump Can Still be a Hero: Force the Guardians of the Duopoly to Open Up the Debates
Howard Lisnoff
Trouble in Political Paradise
Terry Tempest Williams
Will Our National Parks Survive the Next 100 Years?
Ben Debney
The Swimsuit that Overthrew the State
Ashley Smith
Anti-imperialism and the Syrian Revolution
Andrew Stewart
Did Gore Throw the 2000 Election?
Vincent Navarro
Is the Nation State and Its Welfare State Dead? a Critique of Varoufakis
John Wight
Syria’s Kurds and the Wages of Treachery
Lawrence Davidson
The New Anti-Semitism: the Case of Joy Karega
Mateo Pimentel
The Affordable Care Act: A Litmus Test for American Capitalism?
Roger Annis
In Northern Syria, Turkey Opens New Front in its War Against the Kurds
David Swanson
ABC Shifts Blame from US Wars to Doctors Without Borders
Norman Pollack
American Exceptionalism: A Pernicious Doctrine
Ralph Nader
Readers Think, Thinkers Read
Julia Morris
The Mythologies of the Nauruan Refugee Nation
George Wuerthner
Caving to Ranchers: the Misguided Decision to Kill the Profanity Wolf Pack
Ann Garrison
Unworthy Victims: Houthis and Hutus
Julian Vigo
Britain’s Slavery Legacy
John Stanton
Brzezinski Vision for a Power Sharing World Stymied by Ignorant Americans Leaders, Citizens
Philip Doe
Colorado: 300 Days of Sunshine Annually, Yet There’s No Sunny Side of the Street
Joseph White
Homage to EP Thompson
Dan Bacher
The Big Corporate Money Behind Jerry Brown
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
DNC Playing Dirty Tricks on WikiLeaks
Ron Jacobs
Education for Liberation
Jim Smith
Socialism Revived: In Spite of Bernie, Donald and Hillary
David Macaray
Organized Labor’s Inferiority Complex
David Cortright
Alternatives to Military Intervention in Syria
Binoy Kampmark
The Terrors of Free Speech: Australia’s Racial Discrimination Act
Cesar Chelala
Guantánamo’s Quagmire
Nyla Ali Khan
Hoping Against Hope in Kashmir
William Hughes
From Sam Spade to the Red Scare: Dashiell Hammett’s War Against Rightwing Creeps
Raouf Halaby
Dear Barack Obama, Please Keep it at 3 for 3
Charles R. Larson
Review: Paulina Chiziane’s “The First Wife: a Tale of Polygamy”
David Yearsley
The Widow Bach: Anna Magdalena Rediscovered
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail