This year the census date was on April fool’s day, no joke. In a perfect world, we would’ve started counting the population at this time. But global pandemic later…we were knocking on doors up to six months later.
If the location had residents that moved in after the census date, they were called in movers. However, as census workers, we were responsible to try to find census information on the people that moved out. As you can imagine, this was quite challenging at times. Most in movers did not even know if or who was living there before them. Sometimes the neighbors didn’t even know who lived there especially in big apartment complexes where people were always coming and going.
As you can imagine, I visited many apartment complexes. There were the ritzy high end apartments in the suburbs where residents had a doorbell for each apartment. Most were somewhere in between with a set of buzzers by the entrance that half the time no one responded to.
Then there were the lower end apartments. Those apartments didn’t have buzzers on the outer doors and weren’t locked. Some were dimly lit, most smelled like stale cigarette or pot smoke, and some proudly posted their pest spraying efforts.
I’ve been to places that had just been sprayed for roaches. I couldn’t help but feel crawly after leaving. I’ve seen broken beer bottles and garbage littering the hallway floors. Children live in those environments. I’ve heard people fighting behind closed doors that I was too nervous to knock on. I’ve heard people coughing inside. Where they smoking something or did they have something I didn’t want to catch?
I’ve seen small children playing on the streets outside of these apartments unattended. A 2 year old running free in the rain watched by someone who looked to be 6. A few days after I was in that neighborhood there was a shooting. I’ve seen trauma in the making and didn’t feel like there was anything I could do about it. I’ve had little children come up to my car to ask me for money.
It was heartbreaking at times. I felt afraid to be in neighborhoods that these children had to live in without anyone watching their backs.
I’ve been to sketchy run down apartments where the apartment space was occupied by a new BMW or Lexus.
I always had to be vigilant. I had to have thick skin but still be kind and caring towards other people even if they weren’t nice back.
Sometimes when people didn’t answer I would get sent to the same places again and again. So would other census takers. It was important to read the case notes carefully. People don’t respond well when you ring their bell over and over asking about the person they didn’t know who lived there before them. Sometimes people would come and go so quickly that it was almost as if they were never even there because no one knew them. I thought it was kind of sad unless they were in witness protection.
Some apartment managers were great, but most got irritated with us after awhile and were rude. At times it was nearly impossible to close out the cases. Then there were several times I had people track me down while I was at apartment complexes because they never got notified about the census. It was a mess.
Yet through it all, there were a lot of good people that lived in less than ideal circumstances. It was very eye opening. At times I almost felt guilty getting paid so well by the government. Then again you couldn’t pay me enough to go back to some places. Sometimes I never knew what kind of day it would be.