Friday, February 26, 2010

Census 2010 Part 2: Is This Real Life?

Evidently I am quite the bureaucrat. Despite my personal goal to complete as many crosswords, sudokus, kurokus, napkin notes, word jumbles, text messages, and cryptoquotes during training as possible, I have managed to climb another rung in the Census Bureau. I am now an "assistant crew leader," which evidently entails me training another group of budding enumertors next week. But first, let's review some notes from the last three days.:

Wednesday: Learn which entries are in pen and which are in pencil. Reading maps and calculating mileage by subtracting the current mileage reading from the previous mileage reading. Contingency situations. It is not necessary to remove gun racks or lip piercings but it is required to cover up any political bumper stickers during official business. Fortunately, I can make campaign donations while I work for the census. Eat "monkey-brain roll" for lunch (deep fried avocado and krab meat without rice).

Thursday: On-the-job training. I arrive and discover that I am to canvas the areas around Bosler, Wyoming this morning with the assistance of a partner. We drive 60 miles to find that the roads on the map are impassable. My pupils are replaced with dollar signs as each mile I drive earns me fifty cents. Hit a gas station for newspaper and burritors. Return to work, visiting a rural farmstead. Immediately ram through a rancher's fence and slide off the road. Stuck for two hours (thus earning $27). Get a free tow by fraudulently using someone else's AAA priveliges. The tow truck driver does not have good teeth.

Friday: Drive 65 miles and log four hours of training time driving to and from our final review exam. Finish in 7 of the allotted 55 minutes. Complete 2.5 crosswords and several sudokus before time is up. Receive a 96% tied for best in the class and still argue questions with the crew leader (because I'm obviously right.) Half the class manages to fail the test despite it being open book. By this point, I have learned to just sit until we are explicitly told to leave, because I get paid to sit. Eat a piece of warm string cheese slowly.

After this charade, the boss tells me and three others to sit down and offers us the privelige of training next week's enumerators. I volunteer as it involves being the boss, and I have never really been the boss before. Training will be a different animal with me in charge. I think the most important change I will make is introducting glow sticks, steak lunches, and happy hours into the training process. Yet I plan on ruling with an iron fist and utilizing timeouts, dunce caps, and paddling for disciplinary problems. We will also play buzzword bingo.

Here are some other things I will do like a boss: Talk to corporate. Send some faxes. Approve memos. Promote synergy. Lead a workshop. Remember birthdays. Micromanage. Eat a bagel. Turn into a jet. Bomb the Russians. Crash into the sun.

Anyway, I have gotten a couple serious questions about working for the census. For those people, I have not yet been trained to answer questions, only fill out forms. If you want to know more I can only guide you to the following website: www.2010.census.gov. You can also go to meatspin.com but only if you're over 18 and not easily offended (but it won't tell you anything about the census).

Monday, February 22, 2010

Census 2010

So training started today for Census enumerators in and around Albany County, Wyoming. I count myself so lucky to be part of this group. But as is true of much guvment (that is how our training leader says it, seriously) work it can be tedious, in fact it is quite often boring to the point of tears. Government (which will heretofore be abr. "guvment") conversations seem to be more circular. Vagueness and redundacy are treasured. In short I'm quite surprised the Census hasn't been privatized by Google. It's like, if you want to know where the road is, do you actually drive to the road? No you look at it from a satellite. Duh!

Anyway, on with the training. There did not seem to be a formal "beginning" or "end" to training, nor did there appear to be any logical agenda or schedule. Lunch was understood to start at noon and end half an hour later but that was really the structure of our day. It started out with alot of talks about small towns in south southeast Wyoming. Then we filled out forms for two hours. I think if I had really studied, I could have crushed the forms in ten minutes flat. Progress be damned, though, we had to ensure that everyone had two blue pens and one neon highlighter first and then talk of the ramifications of losing said highlighter.

The first time you lose your highlighter (item Z1908) you will be warned (in writing). The second you will be terminated. This "two strikes you're out" rule also applies in the following situations: wearing a helmet while riding an ATV, sexual harassment, and working overtime. Overtime requires pre-approval because without it people might overexert themselves, or possibly waste money with overtime pay, because all the Census Bureau's other expenses seem air-tight and unwasteful.

After the form-filling-out, a guy showed up to fingerprint us. Luckily, a random women had also been trained to fingerprint for the federal guvment, which is important because YOU HAVE TO BE FINGERPRINTED 14 TIMES BY 2 DIFFERENT PEOPLE EACH. We managed to tear through 12 people in two and a half hours. Some of the folks were elderly and forced into quite uncomfortable positions by the fingerprinting situation! I was told by BOTH fingerprinters that I had quite distinct and dare I say beautiful fingerprints, to which I quite characteristically replied, "I know." I got paid about $39 plus mileage to have my fingerprints taken!

There was also this great snippet of conversation talking about fingerprints:

Boss: "It's important that you roll your finger, so we get all the ridges and apexes."
Me: "Apices."
Boss: "Come again?"
Me: "Nevermind."

At one point, I realized that getting the group off track was quite easy, I figured it might be fun to try my hand at misdirection. When Lakewood, a suburb of Denver, came up, I realized that I had found my opportunity: Casa Bonita. I would say that we talked about Casa Bonita for five minutes, and then a fish restaurant in Lakewood for three more. Then we talked about other Denver suburbs. I would say all included I took up about fifteen minutes just by saying "Casa Bonita."

We spent a good two hours discussing assaults, safety, and mostly threats from dogs. Some of the better questions regarding dogs: "If there's a little dog hanging onto your ankle and you kick it, are you covered against a lawsuit?" "What if there's a big Doberman in the yard?" We also learned how to anticipate dog attacks and appear submissive in the face of dog aggression.

The afternoon was pretty dull, and we really could have knocked about two hours off the whole day. But the training seems more guided by the hours that need to be filled than any substance filling those hours and we chatted for quite awhile. At the end of the day I looked at the poster on the wall of the fire station in which we convened, and found quite a bit of comic relief for me.

I can't find an image of this poster on Google images, which means it is quite rare indeed. I also haven't the signal to send the pic from my cell phone. But to give you an idea, it portrayed an angelic babe with wings on it above two cars which had quite obviously crashed. It encouraged people to use child safety seats. The caption? "Babies can fly.... once." I'm not sure who made this but it's clearly not in the best taste even if the black humor is overwhelming. I mean, dead baby jokes are sometimes funny but the idea of a flying, winged dead baby is f-ing hilarious.

Also, there was an Asian woman in our class, thus I made the common-sense decision to either leave training first before she could get behind the wheel or wait around for the streets to clear.

I drove past a McDonald's on the way home and had a hankering for a double cheeseburger. But what did I see advertised on the window? A phony McDouble. I will never eat your McDouble, Sir. (Sir is Ronald McDonald.)