Dangerous addresses, part 1

It didn’t take long to get assignments in the roughest neighborhoods. If the children were outside playing, I felt like it was safe for almost anyone to walk the streets. That usually wasn’t the case on a late Friday or Saturday afternoon.

I learned really quick that I needed to strategically park my car. I couldn’t leave my car running in the driveway in that neighborhood. I would park my car and walk. If the weather was beautiful, and one address lead to another address a few houses away, at times I found myself a couple of blocks away from my car. If I needed somewhere safe to go this was problematic because my car was a couple blocks away.

I worked 10 hours that Saturday. I knocked on a door and a man answered in a wheelchair in his underwear upset because I woke him up in the middle of the day. Not a lot of people answered although a lot were nicer than that man.

Many of the houses had half addresses such as 123 1/2 Main St. I had to search in the back of people’s houses for rentals. I climbed up rickety outer staircases and at times was told to go into the middle door in the back of the house up the stairs. I always felt uncomfortable, especially when the back door was by a dark alley.

Many times I felt like I was poking around where I didn’t belong. On that particular evening, I saw four older teenage youth strutting the streets. They all wore red clothing. Were they gang members? Or did they all work at McDonald’s? I looked down at the red shirt I was wearing which gave me a little consolation that I was safe. I tried to avoid them.

There was a man on the street corner outside of his apartment yelling the lyrics of an explicit song that was playing. I tried ignoring him too. I was afraid but tried to appear calm. Thankfully I was a lot older than the man so maybe I wouldn’t catch his eye.

As I was heading towards a house on my case list, I saw a car with a bunch of teen males in it pull up to the curb. A teenage girl came out of the house. One of the guys got out of the car and started quarreling loudly with the girl. I could hear the obscenities half a block away. It was time to skip that house and turn down another street the whole time acting like I belonged there instead of being shocked by everything.

In the meantime, I interviewed people with young children huddled inside their house. It was hot and they had no A/C, but I couldn’t blame them for wanting to stay inside.

By the time I made it back to the street of the altercation, no one answered the door at that house or the houses nearby. I walked back towards my car to call it a night.

On my way I saw another census employee. We talked briefly and she wondered if we were sent to similar places around the same time to ensure the safety of other census employees in rough neighborhoods. I wondered that as well. I always felt more confident when there were others like me in neighborhoods I didn’t feel safe in.

Gratitude week 46

  1. I’m grateful that I am halfway through my detox diet. It is getting harder now. I’m not feeling as good as I did before. I lost 7 lbs. in the last 2 weeks. Perhaps after this I will never eat vegetables again.
  2. I’m grateful I was able to find a new car. As the kids are getting older, my cars are getting smaller. I bought a compact car, a Kia Forte. It is a couple years old with very low mileage in my price range. It has some nice features like heated and cooled seats. I really like it.
  3. Clean sheets.
  4. Quality time with the family swimming and playing games.
  5. Having pajama day on a lazy Saturday since my plans were cancelled due to COVID.
  6. I’m grateful this week for our veterans and the sacrifices they made to serve our country.
  7. I’m grateful to the service people who came out this week. It helped us put the finishing steps on getting ready for winter. Today it is very breezy and cool with no sunlight in sight. We finished winterizing just in time.
  8. I’m grateful to be able to learn new things by reading books and watching intelligent shows.
  9. I’m grateful for the stories I wrote and the ones I will write. It’s also wonderful to read about other people’s lives just by reaching for my phone in my own house.
  10. I’m grateful for friends who stepped up and supported us through these trying times.

An extreme outlier

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.

Calling all neighborhood gossips

So, tell me about your neighbors…

I always felt like the neighborhood gossip when I had to ask neighbors to fill out the census questionnaire as proxies for neighbors. It was especially uncomfortable when their neighbors were home.

It wasn’t out of the norm to have people not answer their doors when they saw me pull up bedecked in my census apparel. I decided to not take it personally when people didn’t answer. Suppose (which isn’t hard to do) that they might have COVID. I didn’t want them to answer their door if they did.

I once went up to a door that had caution tape and signs that said beware. I think it would be a great idea to mark your house if you are under quarantine. Since it wasn’t close to Halloween, I thought the people inside either had COVID or were murdered. I didn’t want anything to do with that.

However, sometimes I would be prompted to find a proxy to fill out the census on behalf of the person sitting inside of their house not answering their door. On one occasion, this happened to me while I was visiting a duplex. When I was nearing the end of the interview with the proxy, the person who I was supposed to be interviewing came outside and asked me to move my car.

I can’t tell you how uncomfortable it was to ask questions about the guy and have him show up. His door was right next to his neighbor’s door. I felt like I was talking crap about somebody and didn’t realize the person I was talking about was behind me.

I guess I really didn’t care too much because the guy was rude. I felt sorry for the person who lived next door to him though. When he found out I was asking about him and his family, he said he didn’t believe in all of that census sh!t. Now could I get my car out of his driveway. I had to stop the interview rather abruptly.

I thanked the proxy and gladly was on my way. You should’ve seen my case notes for that visit. I’ll have to say that working for the census was never boring.

It was strange because some people were very reluctant to say anything about their neighbors. Then there were other people that filled me in on a lot more than I asked.

The people I didn’t meet

I think God was watching out for me while I was working the census more than once or twice. If I had gone to the house a week earlier, I would’ve met the tenants. A man answered the door when I arrived. He stated the tenants were evicted the week before. He was hired to clean up the mess they left behind. From what little I could see behind the door, I knew I was lucky to not have met them. They tore up the floors and down the walls.

I asked the neighbors about the people that lived there. A lady said that people were coming and going at all hours of the day and night. There were little kids that lived there. She didn’t know them though.

I always feared I would have to knock on the door of a drug trafficking house or other disreputable location. What if I saw someone commit a crime? What if there were children involved? Nah, I’m sure they were responsible enough to fill out their census.

One day I drove out to a house a ways back from the road. The house looked haunted. Several windows were smashed. I thought maybe someone lived there because there was a trash bin on the side of the road for garbage day. There was something eerie about the place which made me feel fearful. I wanted to get out of there as fast as I could. As I was knocking on the door, a truck pulled into the driveway behind my car rather quickly. I felt rather terrified.

Thankfully, the person who got out of the truck was the owner of the house. He said he had to evict the renter because she was on drugs and almost overdosed several times. It was a really bad situation. When she got evicted she smashed the windows and trashed the place.

I just lucked out that it was garbage day. The owner was slowly starting to fix the place up again. I was able to close out the file on my first visit to that house.

Sometimes I felt thankful for the people I didn’t meet.

The in movers

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.

Gratitude week 45

  1. As you might remember from last time I posted, last week I got in a car accident and my car was totaled. I’m grateful that no one was injured in the accident. I just got my first official looking letter from a personal injury lawyer today.
  2. Car shopping can be kind of fun. I haven’t found a new vehicle yet, but I did test drive a Jeep with huge mud running wheels. I decided against that one because I knew if I brought it home I might as well just give it to my son. I’m starting to figure out what I want. I don’t think I want to lease a vehicle either because I would be paranoid about every little dent and scratch. I would never feel comfortable letting my kids drive that either if they were in a pinch.
  3. I had my annual physical this past week and it looks like I have a lot more miles to put on. I’m grateful to feel healthy both mentally and physically. It’s been a long time, if ever, that I have felt this good.
  4. I’m grateful that my detox diet is going well. I think I already did all the hard work with my health a couple months back. I was feeling sick then to not feel sick now. It hasn’t been as hard to drink tons of water as I thought it would be. I don’t even really miss coffee or real food. However, I don’t think I ever want to eat spinach again.
  5. I’m grateful to be in relatively good spirits with all the crap that happened this week.
  6. My brother Luke tested positive for COVID and is feeling pretty sick. I’m grateful that he is starting to feel better and the rest of his family is healthy.
  7. This week I also heard about the cancer diagnoses of three people. My uncle has melanoma which is genetic. The first in our large extended family. I’m grateful they caught it very early in the process. But I am not happy about anything else. Plus my other uncle is getting divorced. All happened this week. Crazy! Not to mention all the election stress!
  8. Our elderly friend Vince also is one of the people who I just found out has cancer. He stopped in for a visit this weekend and I am grateful that he is doing well despite everything going on.
  9. I’m grateful my daughter Arabella’s school is going back to in person classes. The online school is crap.
  10. I’m grateful for the record breaking warm temperatures we’ve had over the past several days. I’ve been able to take the dog out for a walk, have some friends over for a campfire, have the windows open, hang out laundry, and just relax as much as I can outside. I even saw someone in the water at a beach I drove by. Tomorrow it is all going to come to an end, but as for today…..

A weak start of the week

Is this week over yet??

It’s not just waiting impatiently for the election results.

On Monday after I picked up my daughter from the psychiatric hospital we got in a car accident that totaled my car. How crazy is that? Not only that, but my daughter’s pet frog died the day she got home.

Thankfully we didn’t get hurt in the car accident. I got rear ended and it totaled my car. I can’t believe it. My first car accident. The other person’s car was totally fine. I liked my car. Now I have to find another one. This certainly wasn’t in the plan for this year. As if any of this was in my plans for this year.

Is this month over yet?

I started my 30 day detox diet on November 1st. It’s been going a lot better than I planned. But I can only practically eat vegetables. I can’t make big scrumptious meals for my family that I cannot eat. That is something I can’t seem to do which is making everyone around here irritated with me.

I don’t think we will even be celebrating Thanksgiving this year with everything going on with COVID.

Is this year almost over because I am done with it.

Gratitude week 44

  1. It’s been a stressful week. My daughter Arabella is currently in the hospital for depression. I’m grateful that as of right now, she is safe. I’m grateful that the doctor listened to the concerns I have and is willing to do extra testing.
  2. I’m grateful for a warm fire in the fireplace on a blustery November day. BTW, how did it get to be November already???
  3. I’m grateful that we have two more days left until election day. I am literally going insane with all the texts and phone calls from both parties. If anything, I am so annoyed I don’t even want to vote. I’m sick of the ads. I’m sick of fights and people unfriending other people because of politics. Enough already! I think most of us will be grateful when this is over.
  4. My daughter Angel’s boyfriend Dan is learning to be an electrician. I’m grateful that he was able to fix the doorbell that has been broken since we moved in a couple years back.
  5. I met with my therapist this week. She jokingly said on the way out that my life certainly wasn’t boring. I’m not sure if I should be grateful for that or not, but I am.
  6. I decided to start the 30 day detox diet today as planned. My wellness nurse wanted me to start it when I am not under a lot of stress. The way things are going that probably won’t happen until I’m 6 feet under. I’ve been waiting to start this diet since January. So far I’m grateful I feel just fine. The hardest part is drinking half my weight in ounces of water. If it weren’t for all the damn pills I take I’d be totally dehydrated as it is on a normal day. I also gave up coffee and switched to green tea. I hope I continue to feel good.
  7. I decided to stay home and have a pajama day today. The pastor is having a sermon series on a blessed family. It was painful for my husband and I to go to church last weekend. Our kids are grown up now and have no interest in going to church with us anymore. Plus with all the struggles we are having with Arabella I felt upset. We tried to do the right things yet why is this happening? Honestly, I also thought I’d be feeling worse with the diet than I actually do.
  8. I’m grateful we bought a self-cleaning vacuum for our pool for both the bottom and the sides. It will save us a lot of time and work. It’s kind of cool to watch like when they came out with washers and dryers you could see work.
  9. Last night Paul and I finally were able to get together with our friends for supper. They are kind of mentors to us. It’s hard to find healthy older couples out there. I’m grateful for them and the other people who stepped into our lives and in return others we have helped.
  10. Today I finally opened my own YouTube account. Yeah, I know, I’m old. I’m grateful that I found another avenue to explore.

Gratitude week 43

  1. I had a really good appointment with my wellness nurse this past week. I am ready to start the 30 day detox diet next week.
  2. This year my husband started a seasonal business that I helped him out with on a very limited basis. He had a successful first season.
  3. This week my husband started a new job doing something he has always wanted to do with finance and spreadsheets. I’m not sure where this is going to lead yet, but I am grateful he found something to do that he loves.
  4. My daughter Angel outside of working a full-time job started babysitting for her best friend’s baby and also babysits occasionally for a pre-teen girl. It’s been great having a baby and young kids in the house. I’m grateful for the joy of having a baby in the house and that her parents chose life after an unplanned pregnancy.
  5. I’m grateful to have a vacation planned again. Not only do I want to visit all the continents, I want to visit all of the United States. In January we will be visiting Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama. We will be spending at least one night in each state.
  6. We have been having a really hard time with our youngest child. Friday night Paul decided to take us out to eat for hibachi. We went with Angel and her boyfriend Dan and our son Alex. I’ve been really grateful for the support of our adult children and close friends during this time. It was nice to have an evening away to get our mind off of things.
  7. I’m grateful for a warm fire in the fireplace while I write this as the first snow of the season is starting to fall.
  8. Sadly yesterday our dinner plans got cancelled. But I’m grateful for a quiet evening at home where we watched a YouTube show about personality and faith.
  9. I cleaned the oven, refrigerator, microwave, counters, and sink this week. It’s nice to have the time to get the house the way I want it.
  10. I completed my resume this week. I decided against the seasonal driver job. They have a no bumper sticker policy and I have a carful. I really want time to focus on my writing and my book. I’m looking for a job that would be a good fit for me. I’m grateful I can be selective.