Getting a Job

I was writing my brother Stephen this morning (that would mean yesterday/Tuesday), and I realized in telling him about a few things that Iʼve never really discussed my adventures not quite a year ago with Census 2010. Of course, having taken the sacred federal oath “to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States” and Title 13ʼs utter Census secrecy about all gathered information for 72 years, I canʼt talk about any of the actual work of enumeration. But I can talk some about how I got my job.

Last March, Janet was getting concerned about my lack of extra income during retirement, above and beyond my monthly IPERS stipend (me in those days not receiving all that many substitute jobs from Andrew, maybe merely a couple each month), and I was just about getting guilted enough to head over to the Maquoketa Community Schools and volunteer to start subbing for them (something I still have not yet done, but probably need to). About that same time, Janet noticed in the local paper an article about qualifying for Census 2010 work. All I needed to do was call a phone number and make preliminary arrangements to show up for a scheduled test in a few days. Doing something completely different and making some money both sounded interesting (although Iʼm not sure if “interesting” really fits with making some money), so I made the call. The bureaucrat who answered was completely surprised that someone was volunteering to take the test this late in the process and really really curious how I knew about the test (he evidently had nothing to do with the article in our local paper). Now, after my experiences with the Census, I am assuming he was one of my over-bosses in the Regional Office in Cedar Rapids, although which one I really couldnʼt tell you. He did get my name on the list, and early on the Wednesday morning following I walked over to the local community college building newly built beside the high school. If nothing else I would get the chance to check out this new building.

To prepare for the test, potential Census workers could go online and attempt a practice version. I had done so and missed four or maybe five questions, which didnʼt seem very good to me (it wasnʼt). On two of those wrong answers I would have been correct if I had taken the test somewhat slower, but I had freaked out at the timing aspect (itʼd been a couple of lifetimes since Iʼd last taken a timed test, regardless how many times I had supervised the tedious and lengthy ITEDs). For the real test I tried to be more relaxed, and in the end I only missed two, which still didnʼt seem very good to me (I had found out on Facebook that a former student had gotten a job with the Census having earned 100% on his test). However, when my test supervisor was processing the exams later in the day (I was amazed, and you may be too, at just how primitively pre-digital — paper-driven — the Census Bureau still operated this last time), she noted that I had in my personal profile listed “leadership qualities.” She called to ask me what those were, merely teaching experience and directing plays, but that more than my, to me, mediocre score got me a job as a crew leader, and I was to go to training which began in about ten days in Eldridge, just north of Davenport.

We all received bags exactly like this, to contain our materials, and a badge identifying us as Census 2010 workers.

A brief series of phone calls got me confirmed for training, although governmental ineptitude appeared, as I should have predicted, when my name was not on the list of permitted trainees as I arrived, passport in hand, to get taught about my newly acquired job. However, a few more calls from the training site sort of clarified my status, and I was permitted to stay and learn. About thirty of us were at this site, under the tutelage of two people, a young woman and a man about my age, who it would turn out would be the supervisors/bosses for us (half with the woman and half with the man).

Training wasnʼt exactly what I imagined, being mostly these two immediate superiors reading verbatim training materials to us. And most of the lessons covered the training for the people I was supposed to supervise, enumerators. The days were long and pretty boring, and I discovered at the end that I hadnʼt paid enough attention to the right stuff when we took a concluding test (but I did just fine on that anyway). On the first day I got fingerprinted for the first time in my life (and I would get my opportunity to fingerprint others when I trained my crew later) so I could pass an FBI scrutiny for some level of minimal clearance, I guess. The training lasted four days, as apparently most Census trainings of various kinds do.

My most vivid recollections now are of the gloomy cellar-like, concrete-block community center/bowling alley (we didnʼt get into the bowling part, only the large meeting room in the community center half) where we first met. The Census does not pay for facilities, so all meeting rooms and training centers have to be arranged as freebies, which was a problem for our training, since no one place was available for consecutive days. We ended up in the Fellowship Hall and also the tiny Sunday School classroom at a church down the way from the community center for our final two days. We were released on our own for lunch for an hour at about noon each day, and as I brought my own sack lunch, and the warmth of spring was just bringing new growth and comfortable days, I remember wandering around parking lots and later around residential neighborhoods beyond that church, studying shoots of leaves and little crocus and other plants just starting to sprout and spread. (Those memories feel like heaven now in the midst of January.)

And that got me to a thousand words (and a bit more), so I had better quit for now…

©2011 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A

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