Monday, March 30, 2009

Day One at Census Training

Today was my first day as a U.S. Census Bureau worker. The location of the training was at the Lighthouse Church in Laurel, Delaware. I got up early and left early to make the 23 mile trip down Route 1, through Georgetown, Delaware. I didn’t want to be late. I wasn’t. I was an hour early. In fact, the church doors were still locked.

It wasn’t too long before the Census officials arrived with cartons of material for the trainees. I helped the women unload the boxes. One of them thought I was one of the trainers. I told her that I was one of the trainees who arrived early. I got a knife from the church kitchen and sliced open the tape that had secured the cartons of training material. After I was done, I selected a seat next to a window and waiting the arrival of the rest of the trainees.

Nine o’clock arrived soon enough along with about sixty more trainees. We were to be a consolidated training group. I was told this was the reason for the location in Laurel, it was the halfway point between the two districts. The materials were passed out. The first thing the instructor did was ask us to rise and take the oat of office. After we took the oath, she asked us? "Did that oath sound familiar?" Yes, it was very similar to the presidential oath. So now I'm an official government worker. My resume expands.

After administering the oath of office to us, the instructor explained to us our duties. It wasn’t too long before I realized that I wouldn’t be working on the census as I originally had thought. Instead we’re doing the preliminary step to the census count. We are called listers. Our job is address canvassing. That means we are given a neighborhood or an area and go out and verify the addresses. We are to identify structures that are listed as living quarters. This includes checking buildings, trailers, sheds, tents and even caves. Yes, caves. That should be interesting to see who is living in a cave. Anything that is a structure, we are to check.

We will be working with hand held computers. Perhaps this sounds easy but it is actually more complicated than it sounds. There is a certain protocol to be followed. Our official title is “Census Enumerator.” What we’re doing is counting and identifying where people live. We have a U. S. Census badge that we wear around out neck identifying us. We have to identify ourselves when wandering through neighborhoods clockwise canvassing structures for addresses. We have to indentify ourselves everywhere we venture, even the caves.

Perhaps the most interesting part of the day was when we got fingerprinted. Yes, fingerprinted. Again, it was not as easy as it sounds. No, we didn’t have to get mug shots. The fingerprinting is necessary because that is how we sign on to our hand held computers, heretofore to be known as our “HHC.” Lots and lots of acronyms were tossed at us today. We were told by our instructor that by the end of the week we will be masters of those acronyms. Ah, brings back memories of my Army days (AOL, TDY, etc.)

At the beginning of the day I was unsure if I would like this job. That uncertainty is gone now. I can see where this job will be interesting. My only concern now is working around my hours at the Inn. I’m scheduled to work four days next week and the following week. I think this should be manageable because there are no set hours. One of the big rules is that we’re not allowed to work more than 40 hours in any given week. The other Big Rule is that all the information we accumulate is confidential. We are not to divulge any of this information now or after we leave our temporary employment with the U.S. Census Bureau. Again, brings back memories of my time in the Army when I worked for the National Security Agency at Ft. Meade, Maryland.

Most of my fellow trainees were older women. The ratio of women to men was about 70/30. There were very few young people. I counted only four in the total group of about sixty trainees. I initially counted myself among the young (a frequent mistake I make until I look in the mirror in the morning) until I realized at 67 years of age, I’m in with the rest of the group.

Today was a good day. The trainer was knowledgeable and had a sense of humor. She conducted today’s session with an easy authoritarian manner. We learned something in a friendly collegial atmosphere. A bit of overload with the information but I’m sure we will be more comfortable with it by the time we finish our training session this Friday. The only downside was my lunchtime excursion to Hardee’s. Why did I think I could eat a fast food hamburger? Fast food is the meal that keeps on giving. I’m still digesting that 100% Black Angus Thickburger. Tasteless.

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