News from the Work Front

The weather in Iowa has been beautiful for the last four days. Unfortunately, I only got to enjoy it in small doses: the breaks and lunch during my four days of “training” for the Census Bureau. The outdoor time was splendid though. The temperatures were in the eighties with clear almost perfectly blue skies, and I did get to drive to and from the training site, which gave me a little more experience of the glorious unexpected middle of April 2010.

Today started cloudy and much cooler, as it will remain, more typically for the time of year. But the clouds are clearing, and it looks like I’m going to enjoy a bright day to get outdoors and finally mow our lawn for the first time this year. (Our neighbor to the east has already been out twice, and he might make a third time before I stir my rear from this chair.) When I mow, I will be feeling grateful to Janet’s dad. He gave us their old push mower as a potential replacement to our aged and damaged machine (although right now I’m hoping to keep both of them going — the old one had a 32-inch cut and Bing’s is 30 inches, so I may be able to avoid the ridges of grass from my mowing pattern that we’ve had to endure for years). Regardless, the plan for the middle of the day is for me to cut the grass.

The lawn looks pretty ragged and long. I really should have mowed it last weekend, but Dawn and Kevin were here (yes, faithful readers, they really did arrive only moments after I finished composing and posting my recent series of rambles intended to cover my absence from home this week), and I just wasn’t ready yet to mow. As of today, however, whether I feel ready or not, the yard has been ready for days. The span of fine weather preceded by some rainy days has made spring blossom amazingly all around. Lovely to look at but demanding my care.

I also have work time to put in, preparing to do my own training of other census workers in about ten days. Having taken my oath to defend the Constitution and protect the information gathered by the Census in utter confidentiality (for the next 72 years: I got a glimmer of a story idea about the Last, Lonely Census Worker, after Tightie Rightie terrorist-nutsos had finally fulfilled their Alaskan-bimbo Fox-fascist dreams and overthrown this country, still faithful to his/her oath and to the Constitution of the [by then defunct] United States, defending a deeply protected mainframe computer containing the sixty-five-year-old 2010 Census information and databases…), I donʼt know if I should reveal much about my training or the currently upcoming next Census Bureau operation. Suffice it to say that I have learned my lesson — being the government, after all, that I have started working for, I now have had my opportunity to get buried in paperwork (oh, the forms! oh, the acronyms! oh, the multitudes of multiplex form numbers!) and bureaucratic nitpicking. Perhaps I should maintain my own private blog/journal of my experiences…

Anyway. I have to do my own four days training others soon, in the meantime getting fully prepared to do so, learning how to take fingerprints (a requirement for government employment, so I have at long last been fingerprinted myself) and ensuring the arrangements for my own training site. Somehow I just cannot escape being a teacher, can I? The “joys” of being fully employed, even next week as a more-or-less independent operator, begin to pale. Substitute-teaching had been a pretty pleasant experience overall, but this is a real job with real expectations, and I had begun to outgrow and forget about all that.

Besides, itʼs interfering with my writing, just like being a teacher did for 35 years. During the first two days of training this past week, I still got some pages added to my current story — the Sepharad sword-and-sorcery adventure tale I am concocting with its bipolar, schizophrenic, Kabbalist local hero (Nathan? do you think that works?) and his blond Northern barbarian warrior/swordsman companion Søren thieving from an Arab-Christian Iberian sorceress. I am just about up to the climactic scene and conflict, but the Census training/work has intervened, and I havenʼt written anything new since Tuesday night. It feels just like schoolwork did — the omnipresent pressure of work stress. I find I donʼt like it much.

There is a chance, a slim one probably, that as they were training one too many persons for the job I had been hired to do, one of us would either be “released” or used only to train future enumerators during the operation (to replace earlier, departing workers). Both options sound preferable to me right now than doing what I didnʼt quite get enough training to accomplish. Even Janet, who has been pushing for me to get some real work again, has begun to wonder if all this is necessary. Tuesday night, as I muttered to myself while accomplishing real-life chores here at home, she observed that it sounded like the old teacher-man was back.

We will have to see.

I assume some of you noticed there was no post promptly after 5:00 AM this morning, and this has appeared significantly later than any in 2010. This is because I am writing it today, of course, in real time as the techno-nerds like to say, completing the textual part of the posting process (I still have to upload the document and then create whatever internal and external links seem appropriate) just at 11:30. Knowing that will let you calculate how long the nonwriting portion of any post can take, before you see this message glistening on your screens.

I have more playwriting, but also literary criticism, for the weekend. Advanced English veterans might recall what it (remembering “Naming the Ills”) is.

©2010 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.

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