Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Working for the Census

Nobody said it'd be easy and after the first week of work, I didn't think it would be. Hell, I barely made it out of the three days of training (and let's be honest, it wasn't even three full days--about 20 hours total). It's not that the training was difficult. It was just painfully dull. No different than any other training I suppose. Everything getting slowed down by question after question that will be answered in five minutes in the Handbook or that will be readily apparent once one gets into the field. I'm sure I asked a few inane questions myself, but I tried my best to keep things moving by staying quiet.

Of course, I didn't realize that there were adults that still acted like Martin Prince (from The Simpsons for those of you who somehow missed out on one of the biggest cultural institutions of the past 25 years). There was one man (a substitute teacher, so no big surprise) who felt compelled to teach the training regardless as to whether he had the right information or not. I've never wanted to yell at an adult more in my life. It's quite remarkable, my restraint.

At least the training was paid and guaranteed time. And after the first week of work, I didn't think I'd have much free time to myself. My first day of real work, I put in about 14 hours straight trying to enumerate soup kitchens. The challenge with this particular task is that many of the people have already been questioned by Census employees at other locations and have little patience for reliving the experience, especially since they have to endure it for three days in a row (at least it's only 3 days every ten years). Then there are the people who don't trust the government and refuse to give their information. It's a procedure that one quickly says, "screw it!" and marks down a stack of anonymous people because the count is the important thing (though the numbers will no doubt be greatly inflated).

So, after this initial onslaught and some work the next week, I wound up with more than a week of no work. I don't know why the work dried up so quickly, but there it is. I'm not entirely unhappy about it. I do value my free time even if most of it is wasted, but it's hard to maintain a minimum of 20 hours a week when there's no work. Fortunately, people who aren't sending back their Census forms are ensuring I'll be employed for at least another month. Sadly, that means more soul-crushing training.

Who knows... maybe I'll be knocking on your door someday soon!

And check out how your region is tracking on returning the Census forms!