6.23.2010

The Census: But... it's for planning!

Let me tell you a bit about my recent experience with the Census Bureau.  But first, some backstory:

The Census is a once-every-decade thing that was intended, when government was relatively just, to tell the House of Representatives how many such reps should come from each state, based on population.  Thus, all that was needed was the straight number of people.

Then all hell broke loose, freedom and rights were eroded, the government started telling us what we could eat, how much we could pay, what we must wear, etc., all for our own good of course, and the census became an entirely different animal.

Enter the 2010 Census.  The Ed Begley Jr. advert during the Super Bowl Census.  The Obama, government is super cool census.

I was already on high alert, just waiting for the onerous, evil American Community Survey, when this 2010 Census came up.  I received in the mail a "hey, we're wasting your money to send you an advanced notice of the survey" notice in early spring, and soon after got the actual census form.  It contained all sorts of illegitimate questions like whether I own my house outright, or have a mortgage.  What the sex and ethnic background of all inhabitants is.  All sorts of invasive questions that 1) they have no Constitutional right to ask and 2) the evil intrusive government already has answers to (I'm looking at you, IRS).

I answered what I thought was proper: 4.  There are 4 humans in this house.

A month ago we found a friendly blue form from the Census Bureau stuffed in our doorjamb.  It said, in effect, "Hi!  I'm a useless temp worker and I stopped by and would *really* love to finish up your friendly questionnaire.  You can call me or I'll stop by in a few days!  Toodles!"

I called the number hoping to tell good old whatshername to back the fuck off, but it was a voicemail and I figured nothing would come of it.  We got a few more notes on our door, and then finally a week ago I happened to be home when she came by.

I opened the door, stepped out onto the porch and closed the door behind me.  This is the universal "you're not at all welcome near my home" notice.  I immediately said, "I already sent mine in as soon as I got it" and this threw her way off track.  She became very flustered and asked if I could just give her my name so she could take it back and check her records.  I said "no."  That went around for awhile and she gave up.

Then this week we got a notice yesterday from someone new, and then today.  Then, as I was fixing a nice martini this evening, there was a knock at the door.

I looked through the glass and upon seeing her fat, hippy-in-college-a-looong-time-ago face, I knew she was a new Census bitch, and pulled the same "you're not at all welcome" door closing process.  She looked a bit worried.

"Hi," she said.  "I'm from the Census Bureau," holding up a little white plastic badge she had around her neck "and I'm hoping we could fill out your forms."

"I already sent mine in, as soon as I got it in the spring," I said.

"Oh!  Well, there were a lot of problems with forms not getting processed, and we're nearing our deadline.  So could you answer some questions to finish this up?  First, I need the names and birth dates of everyone in the house."

"No.  You couldn't possibly need that information."

She looked a bit flustered.

"I sent in the only Constitutionally required answer in the Spring, and I'll tell you now.  4.  There are 4 humans living here."

She got an "oh no" look on her face.

I said, "The Census was created to determine representation in the House, and that's its only legitimate function.  I provided the necessary information."

"Oh, but there's so much more we need!  Can't you at least tell us the sexes and ages of all the people in the house?"

"No."

"But... but... it's for planning!"

"I don't recognize that as a legitimate concern."

"But, it's for planning," she said again.  "For schools and roads and things.  We need to plan."

"No."

She started to ask again, and tiring of this line, I said, "OK, fine.  There are two adults and two minors in the house."  This was information she could have clearly deduced from the fact that my kids kept opening the door to see who the hell was on the porch making daddy so mad.  She wrote a few notes on her form.

"Well, but, um.." she stammered.  "I don't suppose I could get answers to some..."

"No way," I interrupted.  "If you're going to ask whether I have a mortgage or what ethnicities everyone is, you have zero chance of me answering that.  You could just query the IRS for other data."

CensusBitch looked defeated.  She started to put her clipboard away, and I decided to go on the offensive.

"So, are you a full time Census employee, or a temp?" I asked.

"Oh, a temp."

"Oh, good," I said.  "You're doing your part to artificially lower the unemployment rates."

Seeing she was done, I nodded curtly and turned to go inside as she shook her head and walked down the stairs.  I closed the door forcefully and locked it.  That click is the nail in the coffin to someone outside who knows they are unwelcome.

Then I proceeded to explain to my kids what had just happened, and why I did what I did.  Someday, I hope they'll live in a world where such invasive indignities don't even exist.

5 comments:

Doug Reich said...

Great story.

Doug Reich said...

by the way, isn't it amazing that McDonalds, grocery stores, etc. don't take a "census" yet somehow know how to plan their services - they seem to always have just enough food...

C. August said...

Oooh, that's a good point. How do they always get things right? It must be some sort of magic.

You know, if there was a central fast food planning board, I bet it would do better.

Adam Thompson said...

>"But, it's for planning," she said again. "For schools and roads and things. We need to plan."

Practically right out of Atlas.

Good story!

HaynesBE said...

I filled out the census form when it came and returned it the next day. I did give the birth year of each inhabitant but otherwise wrote after all the other questions- "I refuse to answer this unconstitutional question." This time I must have received a "short form" because very little information was requested. Last census, I received a much ore detailed inquiry--to which I similarly responded. I have never had anyone come to my house. Don't know if it is b/c of how I responded on the written form, but I am grateful I've not had to deal with the harassment which you received.