I just hung up on a rude, abrasive U.S. Census temp worker. I don’t even hang-up on the tele-marketers at suppertime. During the worst stretch of my divorce of more than a decade ago I think I only hung up on my former wife once.
I warned this increasingly arrogant member of Obama’s Counting Army three different times that he was pushing my buttons and soon likely to end his “follow up interview” early if he didn’t find a sudden transfusion of civility. He didn’t, and we didn’t finish the interview.
We are spending $14 billion to count, enumerate, label and sub-divide our nation into neat demographic categories of race, class, gender, etc. For purposes of comparison, the budget for the entire state of Georgia for the coming fiscal year is just over $17 billion.
I received three pieces of “reminder mail” prior to my actual U.S. Census form, which I filled out and returned the same week I received it. My paperwork was back with Uncle Sam and the folks at the White House now overseeing this census well before the actual “Census Day” of April 1, 2010.
But back to Mr. Young and Rude from Census Central, after reading me a brief couple of graphs of legalese, and reminding me of my legal responsibility to respond to this call and assist the Census Bureau in their mandated count, Mr. YnR asked if I were in fact me. Having no way to prove this by phone, I answered that yes, I am me, the sole resident of this property, and its sole resident on April 1, 2010. I have two daughters, who both live with their mothers. They live here part of the time, but this is not their permanent or legal residence, and so they were not “counted here” and are part of the survey forms in their other respective residences.
Mr. YnR then asked, “Which of the following names/individuals do you recognize as residing at this address? Charles William Crane or Charles William Crane?” I chuckled and said, “Well, I thought we had already established this, however, I am Charles William Crane, the only resident of this address.” He then asked if I didn’t recognize the other name, Charles William Crane. I told him that if it meant DeKalb County or Scottdale might be getting twice the federal funds, he could count me twice, but there was/is only one of me—and I had filled out the form in that manner—though I did not have a copy handy when he interrupted my Sunday afternoon.
“Mr. Crane, humor or non-response is not helpful,” cooed Mr. YnR.
He then went on to read roughly a dozen questions, all variations on the premise, “Was anyone else living here on April 1, 2010?” He started with infants, then children, then family, friends, the homeless, etc. I repeatedly stated, “No, I am the only resident of this property/residence, on April 1 or any other day so far this entire year.”
His tone grew increasingly indignant. Mr. YnR then asked if I had stayed or “lived” anywhere else during March or April of 2010. As I travel frequently in my work, I answered that I had stayed overnight at multiple locations during those two months (as I assume millions of other Americans did), but that my home and residence were unchanged and unaffected by that travel. He then asked for addresses of those locations, and seemed incredulous that I didn’t have the list handy.
“Could you give me one of those addresses?” asked Mr. YnR through clenched teeth.
Since May, when the 635,000 temporary Census Bureau counters began making “follow up house and phone calls” the bureau has tallied 379 incidents of assault or threat against these fine temporary “counter helpers.” Ignoring “do not trespass” and “no soliciting” signs and warnings, census workers have knocked, trudged and waved their I.D. badges, and as a result some have been shot with pellet guns, hit by baseball bats and confronted with pickaxes, crossbows and hammers. A few have been chased by power lawn mowers and one had a metal patio table thrown her way.
And as it reportedly costs the Census Bureau more than $150 bucks to count each non-responsive home, I think the entire census should be put out for bid. I’m pretty sure I could handle this for around $20 a house, and I wouldn’t forget to say “please” and “thank you.” But then again, we haven’t yet forgotten our manners down here in the South. Does that count for anything anymore?
Bill Crane is a DeKalb County native and business owner, living in Scottdale, Georgia. He also serves as chief political analyst and commentator for 11Alive News and WSB Radio, News/Talk 750. Contact Bill Crane at Bill@dekalbchamp.com.