A day in the life of a census worker

It’s been over a month since I started the job of being a census enumerator. I wanted to write a lot about my experiences but have been having a hard time finding the time because I have been working 40 hours a week. Today is the first day I’ve had availability but they didn’t have enough work for me.

Just some basic info, the United States of America started counting its people in 1790 and has done so every 10 years since then. No, this is not something new although I’m surprised how many people know little about the census. I’m not doing the census to COVID track anyone. Yes I did hear this from someone. To put things in perspective, we have been doing the census long before there were automobiles.

Here is how the process works. Every day I work, I have addresses sent to my government issued smart phone. We use an iPhone 8, same phone I have so I didn’t have to do much to learn how to use it. We don’t go door to door anymore.

I interview people using the smart phone and plug all of the info into the phone. By the end of the day, I usually put on an average of 50 miles even if I am only a couple miles from home. I am paid for my mileage and a fair wage. I did have people ask if I was a volunteer.

One of the best things is that this job is very flexible. I pick my own hours. We do get paid more for working after 6 PM and on Sundays.

I have to go up to houses when sometimes every instinct inside of me is telling me to turn around and run in the other direction. I’ve been to abandoned houses in the middle of nowhere. I’ve been to places with no trespassing signs. I’ve been to houses that say beware of dog. I’ve had Dobermans snarl and lunge at me from behind a closed door. There is no doubt they would’ve torn me up if they were left outside unattended. There have been dogs outside when no one was home. I have to decide if I’m safe or not. I have to make quick judgments because my life depends on it.

I’ve been to houses of extreme hoarders. I’ve had to maneuver around piles of garbage to get to the front door. I’ve full on walked through cobwebs. I’ve climbed staircases that I wasn’t sure would hold my weight. I’ve been to the roughest part of town where there have been shootings. I’ve been to some very remote areas. I’ve traveled on a ferry to an otherwise inaccessible island. I’ve knocked on doors during thunderstorms in the pouring rain. Not to mention the whole COVID thing.

So far I’ve met many different people of various races. I’ve met the young and old, the healthy and sick. I’ve met many who don’t speak my language. I’ve had to find a way to communicate with someone who had a severe speech impediment. I talked to someone who was blind. I never know who is going to greet me on the other side of the door. I’ve been showered with appreciation treated like a hero and I’ve had the door slammed in my face a couple times.

It’s easy to focus on the bad times. The other day I had a guy that answered not sure to every question I asked with a smirk on his face. Seriously the guy had to be around 30. I wanted to ask him if his parents were home. But I kept calm, cool, and collected. If someone treats me like crap, it’s on them not me. I’m not going to let them define me or my day.

A vast majority of people are nice. I’ve been offered food, water, beer, and a chair to sit on. This is really bringing me out of my shell. I try to connect to people and they feel like they can talk to me.

I’ve met many people who have lost a spouse, parents, or close friends and family members this year who didn’t have the heart to fill out their censuses. I’ve heard about painful divorces. I listen to them and offer my condolences. So many people are suffering this year. I try to give them hope things will get better and sometimes after I leave they remain for a short time in my thoughts and prayers.

I’ve met the mom of a friend of my son. Never in a million years would’ve I guessed I would be going up to their house wearing a mask and asking his mother her age. I never thought I would be going to the bank wearing a mask asking for money either. What other things are going to happen that we never thought of as a possibility? That really says a lot since I am an anxious over thinker as it is.

We are only allowed to ask questions to respondents age 15 and up. I did ask a couple of people if they were old enough. They were in their 20’s. My gosh am I getting old! Everyone under 30 is starting to look like a teenager to me.

If no one answers the door, I leave a notice with a specific code just for them to fill out online. I am never allowed to put the form in their mailbox. This would be a crime. I am also not allowed to open any doors even if it is a screen door to knock on an inside door. If a door is broken, census workers could be blamed for it if they open it. Most people have doorbells and dogs so I’m pretty good.

The job can be stressful because you never know what to expect. I often get lost. It’s hard on my body. I am in and out of my car all day. I spend a lot of time on my feet. I crouch down a lot to fill out forms. My hands get sore from carpal tunnel being on a phone all day. And sometimes when I am out in the middle of nowhere I really have to pee.

The job is really rewarding. I believe in the importance of what I am doing. I’ve learned a lot not only about other people but about myself as well. I’ve had to face my fears. It has really brought me out of my shell during a time where it would be really easy to have an excuse to hide in it. I’ve become more assertive.

Every day is a new adventure.

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