2010 Census–Pt 5

As the recruiting efforts producing a list of potential workers came to an end, I was called on to become a Field Operations Supervisor (FOS). This was in preparation for the major phase of the 2010 Census.

I was pleased to have been recommended for the position, and gladly accepted the offer. My hotel and meals were paid for during the training, and it was a fun time getting to know the others who would be in the same position in other districts.

Our supervisor, Emily, did the training. In our group was her former supervisor, Tom, who had been the FOS during the Address Update. Emily had been one of the Crew Leaders. Now, their roles were reversed, but both of them were professional and adapted to their new roles in good humor.

We had one more trainee than was required, so I volunteered to become the runner for all of the FOS crew. I would still have to complete the training, however.

Turns out it was a good decision.

One of the trainees had never worked any part of the census before. Therefore it became quite overwhelming for him to understand much of what was going on. There is a lot of jargon and acronyms that are tossed about, with which those who have been in for a while become familiar. He was lost.

One afternoon, it was obvious that he was close to tears. I told Emily what I saw, and she talked with him during the next break. To no avail.

The next morning, he came in and returned all his equipment. Now we were down to “just enough” people being trained. However, there was talk of redesigning the districts, so I could continue as the courier.

On the last day of training, the official day of the Census–April 1–the regional manager came in to talk to us.

He then began to pass out district assignments.

He called my name for District 8.

I went into my “I can’t do this” mode. I stuttered and stammered, and said, “I don’t know.”

Steve is a no-nonsense type of manager.

He said, “Are you sure? I’ve got to know now.”

One of the other trainees said, “Dale, you said yesterday that you had no problems with this.”

I said, “But that was yesterday. This is Today…April Fool’s Day.”

Everybody but Steve laughed.

I heard about how good that joke was for weeks afterward.

Anytime we would meet, Steve always treated me with respect. Don’t know if the joke had anything to do with it or not. I do know that not everyone was treated the same.

We were given a few days to get our bearings, become familiar with our materials, and then we had to train our Crew Leaders (CLs).

We had no say in who was assigned to us as Crew Leaders, and I am not exactly sure what the criteria was for their selection.

Each FOS had approximately eight CLs under their charge. Each of us had at least one CL who more than tried our patience.

Turns out that Emily had at least one FOS who more than tried her patience.

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2010 Census–Pt 4

During the Address Update, we used the hand-held computers (HHC) I mentioned before. It was a handy little gadget, complete with a GPS locator that would show me exactly where I was at any given time. It was not a complete GPS like we use in our cars, in that it could not give me directions.

We used the locator to place a spot on our maps to indicate the exact location of a house. I would stand 10 feet from the front door, wait for the spotter to settle down, then tap the indicator with the stylus. The computer would place a black dot on the map in that spot in relation to the road. Worked really neat.

During the actual census, these map spots had been transferred to paper maps that the census taker would use to help locate a house.

For those of you who have never been out into the farming community of your area, you may not be able to understand why we would need something like this. But, in the hills, with their twisted turning roads that become gravel to clay back to pavement without warning, these maps can be a great benefit.

In this type of area, the postal service does not go to every single house. Often, there is a row of mailboxes at the bottom of a hill on the corner of the intersection. These mailboxes can be more than a mile from the household to which they belong.

During the census, some of my people had a map with the housing spots all clumped together at the intersection!

Why?

Because some enterprising, shiftless employee who recognized an easy dollar, sat at the bottom of the hill using the HHC to map-spot the mailboxes!!

This made it extremely difficult for the census taker, because many of these houses did not have house numbers at their physical location.

Time wasted. Money wasted. Resources wasted.

But, who cares? I got mine!!

As to the houses without numbers, which has nothing to do with the census–don’t people realize the jeopardy they are putting themselves in?

Most folks who move out into the country backwoods are trying to get away from many things including government intrusion. So, the census workers were not very welcome at some of these locations.

But house numbers on the street are not put there so that Big Brother can spy on you. He does that with or without your house number. Numbering your location–in town or out-of-town–could save your dwelling in the event of fire or your life in some other disaster.

But people think they can hide with these silly little subterfuges.

I knocked on one door of a lovely two-story home out in one of these areas. No one answered the door, and I heard nor saw any signs of life. It was about 9:30 in the morning.

I backed up from the door, held my HHC, and was about to pinpoint the spot when the window upstairs flew open.

“What are you doing?!?” the lady demanded. She had a phone and was in conversation with someone on the other end.

I calmly and politely identified myself, and told her what I was doing with the census and with the HHC.

She wanted to know how the HHC worked, and I told her.

She said, “I don’t want the government to know where I am.”

After I told her I wasn’t after her name or any other information, I told her that the satellites overhead could see me standing in her yard talking with her.

She screamed, “Cannot!!” And then she softly said, “Oh.”

Her daughter, on the other end of the phone conversation, confirmed what I had told her.

Fear manifests itself in weird ways.

I had been to a house in a neighborhood in the suburbs. I spoke with the gentleman, talked about different things, told him what I was doing, and then went on my way.

Somehow, I failed to gather the mapspot for his location, but didn’t realize it until I was almost done with the block.

I went down the rest of the block, and then returned to his sidewalk.

I was standing there collecting the mapspot–which I had previously described to him–when the front door flew open and he came running out demanding, “Why are you taking pictures of my house?”

I guess that could be considered a legitimate question, but the demanding tone indicated something more than simply gathering information. He was trying to intimidate me.

Number one, I am not easily intimidated. Number two, it is perfectly legal for me to take picture of any house that I can see from the street. Number three, I wasn’t taking pictures. Number four, I had just told him not more than 10 minutes prior what I was doing.

I calmly explained that I was the guy who had just been to his house, and that I had failed to get the mapspot that I had told him about.

“Oh,” he said, backing down from his posturing. “The lady across the street called me and said someone was outside my house taking pictures.”

Those of you reading this will have plenty of explanations as to why he might have been that way, but I still call it fear. He believed the negative that someone told him, rather than his own experience.

I met a lot of strange people during my time with the census, but I worked with just as many.

2010 Census–Pt.3

When the Address Update operation was over, we were done. There were other operations that were going on, but I was not involved in them, and neither was my supervisor.

I stayed in touch with Frank, just to keep up with him and his family. He told me there were people up top who were watching out for him, and that we would be getting back to work soon.

I received a phone call just before Christmas (do you want to work? are you available? will you be available for training at (specified) time? When I replied in the affirmative, I was offered a position as a Recruiting Assistant. I called Frank to tell him. He was ticked!! He hadn’t been called! (His time was coming.)

I went for training and learned nothing about recruiting. Training was completed in two days on the 28th and 29th of December. During that time I learned about the census, how to fill out an I-9 (citizenship), and how to fill out the proper paperwork to become an employee of the US Census Bureau.

We were given a few boxes of materials and sent home without ever opening those boxes.

The trainer said we were to begin recruiting people immediately when we got home. I asked if we were expected work the New Year’s Eve weekend.

“That was always the best time for recruiting for me,” he said. He had been a military recruiter in the past. As it turned out, that was his sole qualification to train me as a recruiter for the Census–his past military experience. My supervisor didn’t have a clue about life outside the military.

That fact caught up with him. I was not able to reach him with questions nor updates the following week, because he had been terminated. The manager of the regional office discovered what had passed for training, and let him go.

A Recruiting Assistant who had been on the job for a few months was offered the position, and she became my supervisor. It was a good fit. Now we could make some progress.

My job was to spread the word that the Census Bureau was hiring more than 1,000 people in our area. All they had to do was fill out an application and pass the test.

In these harsh economic times, one would think people would jump at the chance to make $11.50/hr plus $.55/mile from and to their house for a day’s work.

Nope.

Many thought the money was great, but, “You mean I have to show up and do something to get it?”

I had heard of this type of person, but had never really met one face-to-face until this time. There is a whole tribe of them out there!!

I also had to secure testing sites and administer the test.

I thoroughly enjoyed my job, even though it meant walking down the icy sidewalks of the various towns talking with people who were in a hurry to get to a warm place. I did my own share of that, too, going into friendly looking places where I thought they might be willing to have our brochures on display.

Whenever I could talk to a crowd of people–bingo parlors, bars, senior citizen centers, civic clubs–there would be some good questions asked. But, there would always be at least one person who had applied (months or years ago), but never got called; so the whole thing was “obviously a scam.”

I tried to explain that getting called included a variety of factors–passing the test, work load, where one lived, etc. I would tell them to call the regional office to see if their name was still on file, which–if they had indeed applied and passed–would still be there.

With all the challenges that were before me, I managed to reach my quota early and was offered a new position for the upcoming census.

I was being promoted, and set up for an eye-opening ride.

2010 Census–Pt. 2

My first job with the census was in the Spring and Summer of 2009.

I saw an ad in the paper stating that the US Census was in need of more than 700 people in our area. Well, that was a no-brainer for me.

I called, got the info, and appeared for the test.

The test, which was fairly standard for all of the operations of the cnesus, was basically to see if I could read, follow directions, compute simple math, and make distinctions. I passed and was called for an interview a few weeks later.

The phone interview was simple and to the point: do you want to work? are you available? will you work weekends? are you available for training at the (specified) time?

I showed up for training with at least 20 other people. I was selected as a Crew Leader Assistant for the operation known as Address Update.

Due to the many changes as a result of the 911-emergency phone system, it was necessary that the Census Bureau have current addresses for the population.

I won’t go into the details of how it all worked, but the design of the operation was apparently efficient. We were given specified areas to work, and we were to secure the correct address for each and every house in that area.

Our areas were assigned to us via a hand-held computer (HHC). That assignment included a map of the area and all of the addresses that were available from the previous census. It also included addresses that were sent to the Bureau from County and Post Office files. Those little computers were reputed to cost more than $3,000 (yes–three thousand dollars) each. They made our work and our communications with our supervisors easy to handle in a timely manner. (I’m not sure how many thousands of employees were using these across the country.)

It was our job to identify Housing Units (HU) and to map them on our HHC. (more on that later) We were to locate HU’s, enter the correct address for the HU, and delete any duplicate information that may have shown up in the system.

For instance, on my list of addresses in an area I might have something like this: (2) Green house w/black shutters and detached garage; (14) 1547 Toggle Lane. When I found my way to 1547 Toggle Lane, and saw a green house w/black shutters and a detached garage, then I knew I had a duplicate. I would go back into my list, find the description that matched, and mark (2) as a duplicate to be deleted.

All well and good. A marvelous system–or so I thought. The information that I collected and entered into the computer was “dumped” into the main computers that were setting up for the actual census. During the census, which began April of 2010, I had forms in which the address label was–you guessed it–Green house w/black shutters and detached garage!!

Why did I do what I did? Why did the government spend all that money? I was paid $11.50/hour plus $.55/mile for that Spring/Summer job. And this was the result of my labors? I’m a producer. I want to see results of my labor. I’ve never been one who needed to back up to the pay window for shame of what I had accomplished.

Somebody dropped the ball somewhere.

 

2010 Census–Pt. 1

I worked for the U.S. Census for the 2010 census.

The Constitution mandates the taking of the census every 10 years for the purpose of allocating the correct number of representatives in the House for each state in the union. The census has been taken every 10 years since 1790.

Other uses for the census are the allocation of various federal monies, and the demographic information gained and published which businesses and researchers use.

This was probably not the first time that such an uproar was made by the populace, but this was certainly a notable one. I was living in California for the 2000 census, and remember people talking negatively about the long form that was used then. I was in a part of the country where most of the people simply discarded their forms, and then dared a government worker to come onto their property.

Because I was an employee of the Census Bureau for 2010, I was more aware of some things that were going on both within the Census and among the population.

There were a lot of stories circulating about various things–some true, some not so true, and some outright lies. I observed a strange (to me) side of humanity. I saw some things that made me wonder if there is any hope for our country to survive the downward spiral we find ourselves in. And I worked with some men and women that I am now proud to know.

I’m not sure that President Obama orchestrated the 2010 census, but I am fairly confident that the trickle-down effect of his policies had something to do with much of the inanity and insanity that I was a part of.

Finally, by reason of conscience, I was forced to resign my position.

What follows in a few days is a few articles highlighting some of the things that occurred during my stay with the U.S. Census Bureau.