There are some things I am rather hesitant to write about. Then I find this struggle within myself to describe things as they really are to give you an accurate recording of what the experience was like for me.
There was a downpour that evening as I was about to end my shift as a census enumerator. I found myself at a house in the middle of nowhere at the end of a long gravel driveway. There was a man hanging out in his garage drinking. He had a full bar out there complete with bar stools and a couch. Several guns were on display on the wall behind him.
As I approached he told me I should take off my mask because they didn’t believe in wearing masks. I hesitated. The census told us if we did not wear a mask on the job we would be fired. It wasn’t as if the guy would be calling me in to report me though. I honestly didn’t even know how I felt about having to wear a mask. I just did it because I had to. I admit that I am a big time rule follower, something I both love and hate about myself.
All these thoughts were whirling around my mind as I hesitated. I was not afraid. But I didn’t know this man. I was at his house. He had been drinking and was very blunt as I stepped out of my car into the pouring rain. Things could go very bad and I was alone with him out in the middle of nowhere.
I felt like I was being tested. If I failed the test, I would need to take it again or they would send someone else back. The guy asked me if I was some sort of liberal or something. I told him I was not and took off my mask. I tried to find the common ground between us to reach him.
I noticed the man had a puppy that was very well behaved. I asked him a few questions and complimented him about his dog. I finally passed the test. He invited me inside to sit down, but not on the couch because that was the dog’s bed. He said I could if I wanted to but I would get full of fur. He completed the questionnaire and bid me a good evening.
Thankfully with this job I worked with my people from my culture. I knew how to handle the situation whereas an outsider might have freaked out by the outliers. I don’t feel like I compromised my beliefs in any way. But I did break the rules to complete a case.
It was never as easy as walking up to a stranger’s door and having them give me their personal information. You really had to think quick on your feet and be prepared for anything. But most importantly, they needed to feel like they could connect with and trust me.
2 thoughts on “An extreme outlier”
…and yet your home state had more new cases this week than in the first 5 months of this pandemic. As you well know, it has nothing to do with being “some kind of liberal.” Nor do I think it has anything to do with whether you “compromised (your) beliefs”. In the moment you had to make a decision and you made the one that made sense to you in that moment. I (think I) would have decided differently. It would have nothing to do with my beliefs and everything to do with my experience (seeing people struggle to breathe, seeing people shorty before they died of this disease) and knowledge. I would not have gone into that garage. I would not have gotten within 10 feet of him. If we couldn’t do it that way, I’d have walked away. There are other ways to complete the census. Then again, I wasn’t there. Do any of us really know what we would do in a novel situation?
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I can tell you that if I was high risk or really worried about getting the virus, I wouldn’t have taken the census job. Although I wore a mask, 99%of the people I interviewed didn’t. I tried to stay outside and social distance but that was not always possible due to bad weather or needing to go into apartment complexes etc. I really struggled with the elderly, they could not hear me with my mask on if I socially distanced if their hearing was compromised. I did the best I could to complete the task I was given but yes it did involve a lot of risk for me. I also had family members refuse to see me while I was working because I was deemed high risk. Thanks for commenting, I would like to address this in a future post.