Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Census Training - The Aftermath

Three days after my last day as an address canvasser for the U.S. Census Bureau I’m finally getting back on track. I’m writing this blog after just having read a very critical comment to my blog posting “Census Training Day Five – I Quit.” I’m not posting the text of the comment because it was full of incorrect assumptions and vitriol but I did want to address my reasons for quitting again. The writer called me a “lazy whiner who wasted the government’s money...."The writer is also an address canvasser and obviously the job is a good fit for him/her. I’m happy for them. It wasn’t a “good fit” for me and I decided to quit before I wasted my time and the government’s time. When I gave my resignation I suggested that they should give the job to someone who needs the job. I don’t need it. I thought it would be good fit for me because I like to get out and drive about. I enjoy immensely finding cemeteries and taking pictures and posting them to FAG (Find a Grave.) That aspect about the job is what appealed to me. However, that I didn’t account for were the more immediate problems like:

1) Parking
2) Safety
3) Weather conditions
4) Training
5) Bathroom needs

These are not problems I encountered with FAG. If the weather was bad, I didn't go to cemeteries. I didn't have to worry about my safety at cemeteries unless the dead decided to rise. Also, parking is never a problem at cemeteries. And, I have yet to encounter a dog in a cemetery. (note: this is another "tongue in cheek" reference in case "Census Taker" is reading this blog.)

While I’m aware these aren’t problems for some others, they are for me. I didn’t receive sufficient training. The trainer favored her group over our group. Our first day out in the field, we were on our own because the assistant crew leader quit (because she didn’t have an HHC was too stressed out to train – is she a “whiner” too?) The first day out in the field on my own was my first learning experience. Perhaps if I had an experienced person with me for an hour or two it would have made the difference. But, that didn’t happen. I'm not a dummy but I do need a basic run through in the field. It was promised to us but it didn't happen.

I respect the Census workers who are address canvassers, trainers, crew leaders and assistent crew leaders. In fact I have a renewed respect for the men and women who are our postal carriers. At work yesterday at the hotel, with all the wind and rain outside, our mailman came in to drop off our mail. I looked at this wind blown and rain soaked mailman and now I realize what he has to go through everyday. I have a new appreciation for him and his daily rounds in "rain, snow, wind, and sleet."

The following is a portion of the comment left on my blog who accuses me of being a “whiner.”

I could have misread you, but my impression of you from this post was, "what a lazy whiner". You should have known the job was not a "good fit" before you wasted a week of time and $16 an hour of taxpayers money. What did you think it would be like walking door to door? I wondered what your work ethic was and if you felt bothered when a person came into your hotel office and made you have to look up from the TV or your paper :) Again, apologies since you probably are not that guy, but from just this article, that's was my initial take.

To Census Taker, I accept your apologies because I am not the person who you are referring to when you say: “I wondered what your work ethic was and if you felt bothered when a person came into your hotel office and made you have to look up from the TV or your paper."

You are wrong in your assumption that I am the type of person you referred to in a hotel office. I am the ONLY person ever to win the President’s Guest Service Award for the Hampton Inn in Exton, PA. My job at the hotel is a good fit for my personality and skills. Just because I don’t do as well in another area of the job market doesn’t mean that I’m a “lazy whiner.” I write my blog with complete honesty. If I attempted a job as a brick layer, I would quit too because that isn’t a job suited to my personality or skills. That doesn’t mean I’m a “lazy whiner.” Just as I wouldn’t call you a “lazy whiner” if you quit a hotel front desk job from where you have to be everything from a restaurant reviewer, give driving directions for a 150 miles radius from the hotel location, do hotel laundry and kitchen chores, set up breakfast, help set up special events, check in and check out guests all the while maintaining a happy disposition no matter how tired your are or what is going on in your own life, and work shifts from 3 PM to 11 PM and come in the next day and work 7 AM t0 3 PM all the while staying fresh and new to make the guests’ stay at the hotel a pleasant experience.

Census Taker states:

My first day out I did over 100 map spots. I had a tough area that had been developed, abandoned, and then picked up again. The addresses were listed by where they 'thought' things should be based on computer mailing records, not on the ground observation; that's why they need us! I had to move apartments from one block to another and add and change roads that did not get developed according to the original plan. It made it more fun and challenging. Most blocks are much easier than that and "boring" as you say in that I am just validating an address and entering a map spot.

I commend you for completed for a job well done. You are the type of person who should be working as an address canvasser for the Census Bureau. You find the challenge as I did. However, I don’t understand why you thought I said it was “boring.” I didn’t say that. If you got that message from my blog post then I didn’t write clearly. I didn’t consider anything about the address canvassing job boring. In fact, I thought the job would be quite interesting. That’s why I applied for the job. Not to repeat myself, what I didn’t take into consideration was juggling both jobs and the lack of training.
Census Taker further states:

I don't find the work boring, thought I am really just moonlighting because I wanted to be out in the beautiful spring weather and meet people. I think I brighten their day. I don't go in with fear and I don't come across as a salesmen or "Jehovah's Witness". The few people who look like they are going to stare me off their property are quickly smiling and wanting to chat when I give them my smile, my opening line, and my sense of humor. So you are right in that you definitely needed a different attitude for the job and the government needs a lot more forward thinkers and a lot less "typical government employees" that everyone complains about.

Dear Census Taker, obviously you misunderstood that I my comment was tongue in cheek (look up this term in Google if you don’t understand what it was) that I went in with fear and coming across as a salesman or Jehovah’s Witness. The people that I did encounter on my brief foray were friendly and helpful. I have no complaint with them. Perhaps if I didn’t have my job at the hotel, I would have toughed it out on the training part and stayed with the job. When I applied for the Census job my hours at the hotel were cut back to one day a week. Once I began training, the hotel called and increased my hours. I felt obligated to go through with giving the Census job 40 hours a week. When I realized how difficult it was going to be to juggle the two jobs in addition to dealing with the elements, I decided to resign the Census job.

I’m sorry that my blog posting was so poorly written that it came across as a post of a “lazy whiner” who epitomized all the worst stereotypes of government workers. I meant in no way to disparage the individuals who are working as address canvassers for the U.S. Census. I have a great deal of respect for them because this is a hard job (as our regional leader reminded us every day.) The message I attempted to convey with my blog post was that this job wasn’t a “good fit” for me (and hopefully with some humor.) The people who are doing this job should be like you, committed, hardworking, and willing to take on the challenge of this very important job. However, I don't see the purpose in disparaging me by calling me a "lazy whiner" because I posted a blog stating that the Census job wasn't one for me. Please take time to explain to me what you hoped to accomplish by calling me a "lazy whiner." You seem to have a deep seated anger over some issue. Maybe you should address that problem instead of making sweeping assumptions about someone you don't know.

Earlier today I received an e-mail from a friend of mine who took the Census job test as a result of me taking the test. She told me today she was asked to attend training. She said she was having second thoughts now because of the warning about taking pepper spray with her. She has a legitimate concern. However, I urged her to take the training and see for herself if the job is a “good fit” for her. I certainly am not discouraging anyone from taking this job. Last I heard, this was still a free country and we have the freedom to chose. Just because I quit a job that I didn’t feel I could give my all I don’t think that warrants calling me a “lazy whiner.” As my Mother always said, someone who calls someone else names says more about the name caller than it does about the person who is being called the name.

To the commenter of my blog who called me a “lazy whiner”, I wish you much success on your job as address canvasser. Remember what our regional director promised: if you’re good enough you’ll sent to Newark to help them with their address canvassing. Just make sure you take your pepper spray.


  1. Ron,
    Don't worry about what Census Taker said. You are right that not every job is right for everyone and you could of just done the job halfassed. Good luck with future jobs and at the Inn.

  2. My sentiments exactly. I knew my heart wasn't in the job so why do a half assed job and kill myself in the process just to prove something? Besides, there are too many people out there who are looking for jobs that are better suited for a job like this. Let them have the job.

  3. Aching Back1:05 PM

    I think you did the right thing based on your particular circumstances. Folks just aren't thrilled to see strangers, who might be selling goods or religion. I was pleased to make a few dollars and canvas in my neighborhood. My first assignment went well, not so the next one which requires me not only to have advanced map maker skills, but to work through an additional problem that should have been addressed in beta testing.

    Obviously you take pride in what you do, and you want to do it well, no matter who you work for. What a concept!

  4. Thank you for your understanding comment. I'm glad you didn't misunderstand my posting as a criticism of the address canvasser's job. I have total respect for those who went through training and are willing to do the difficult job of verifying addresses for the 2010 census out in the field. Our regional manager was absolutely right when he said it was "hard work." Indeed, it is.

    You are right; I do take pride in what I do. The first time I was on my own in the field I quickly realized that I needed more training, especially in the map maker area. I had a great deal of difficulty trying to map spot addresses. A few days later I went back to the same neighborhood (Hunter's Mill off of Rt. 9) to show a friend the problems I encountered. I realized then what my problem was, I was at the wrong end of the designated map area and that's why I couldn't get my GPS to map spot.

    As I said before, perhaps if I had an experienced person with me for an hour or so the first time, I would have done better. I'm not blaming the Census Bureau, the trainers or the crew leaders. As someone said when we went out on our first field exercise the Thursday before without a leader, "it is what it is" referring to the fact that we would have to figure this thing out for ourselves and fend the best we could.

    However, in my situation all of these problems came together in a "Perfect Storm" and I realized that I would not be able to do a satisfactory job. I wasn't comfortable wandering in strange neighborhoods (city streets are different), and I had the new burden of juggling the additional hours that my other part time job now required.

    When I originally signed up to take the Census Taker test, my hours on my other job were cut back to one day a week. During Census training, I was assigned more hours on my other job, including a stretch of four days in a row next week. I no longer would be working only one day a week at my other job. And since there was a deadline of completing the address canvassing by Memorial Day, I just didn't see how I could get in 40 hours a week, let alone 30 hours a week.

    This confluence of events led me to my decision to resign and to make the job of address canvasser available to someone else that doesn't have a job and needs one more than I do.

    I try to write my blog with a touch or irony and a sense of humor while chronicling my daily life as a retiree in Delaware. I certainly didn't intend for it to come across as a whinny complaint against the Census Bureau and the very important job they are doing for the 2010 census.

    One thing is for sure, if I see an Census address canvasser in my neighborhood, I will offer my services as a "knowledgeable person." I know where the OLQ's are! They can even use my bathroom facilities. It is a tough job.

  5. Ron,

    You need to change yur link to my Blog. What you have takes you to those who took over that domain. You need the http://nightwritinglem.blogspot.com now.


  6. Ron,

    Not sure iuf I put that address correctly. It should read http://nightwritinglem.blogspot.com. I may have used the @ in there by mistake in the previous comment. However, I have decided to make the address for new postings http://nitewrit.blogspot.com. Boy, this loss of my domain has caused a lot of confusion.


  7. Lar,

    I'm totally confused now. How about if I just delete the link for the time being then set it up later when things settle down?

  8. Anonymous9:01 PM

    Lots to mull over here - and people are going through similar ups & downs all over the country! My lister training ended Friday without any test (!) and with just field trip using the practice runs - never going live with GPS. I'm comfortable with tech & GPS in particular and thought this would be a snap... but like many others, after running through 3 blocks that afternoon on my own (!) I came home thinking.... "$15/hour is not enough for the decisions we're being asked to make!!" And this on a lovely spring day in a relatively "simple" neighborhood! All OK - just exhausting for me personally. Then, TODAY, my hand held has been totally fried all day - stuck trying to transmit and never getting anything. This is a hardware issue that someone is going to have to diagnose & fix for me. I'm still on board, but after the incomplete training and the software issues, and the hardware issues, there are 140,000 people all over the country thinking the same things!! Thanks for telling your story to the world! Next year's followup door to door Enumerator jobs should still be a good bet for folks wanting a few weeks of person-to-person type of interviewing. I worked that phase in 2000 and it will be easier (I hope) in 2010 as they are NOT using the long form!! Good Luck, Ron!

  9. Thank you very much for taking the time to share your experiences as a enumerator. There were a lot of difficulties in the job that is for sure. Not enough training, erractic GPS function, and the logistics of finding the neighborhoods, parking in them (where parking was available), and the weather conditions. As it turned out it was good that I quit when I did because the weather has been mostly rain, wind and cold since I started the census enumerator job. And now I'm recovering from a near brush with walking pneumonia. I definitely wasn't the person for this job. I don't like to quit. I have had many jobs that I didn't like that I stuck it out. But his job was just too much, especially with the increased hours of my other part-time job. It really stung me when one person left a comment on my blog that I was just a "lazy whiner." As you can tell, that just isn't the case. This is a hard job with a lot of obstacles. One thing is for sure, it definitely should pay more than $16.25 an hour. Good luck on your AA (Address Assignments.) I wish you the best.

  10. Anonymous9:41 AM

    I concluded a 4 week tour as an Ennumerator (lister). I worked near my own neighborhood (in the suburbs) and that went well and I didn't mind it. When all the Areas were completed they transferred me to another crew. This area was out in the boonies. Talk about isolated areas where people live! I was not comfortable nor felt safe going through totally unfamiliar territory. Particularly where people have firearms. In the 'burbs I went rain or shine, walked miles on foot but out in these isolated areas I was not comfortable at all. I resigned.

  11. Thank you for your comment and thank you for your service as a census ennumerator. We were told it wouldn't be an easy job by our field director and he was right. I admiration goes out to those who are able to stick with the job.

    As I said in my blog, there were several reasons why I resigned but perhaps the number one reason was I just did not feel comfortable wandering around the yards of strangers' houses, even though I did have a Census Bureau worker badge. I'm not afraid of dogs but when the first person I talked to had a dog come racing out the door towards me, that did it.

    It was just as well I resigned anyway because I'm also getting over a horrible cold. What with the rain and cold of the past few weeks, that would have surely done me in.

    Thank you again Jimbo for your service as ennumerator. Someone has to do it. I wish them the best.

  12. Anonymous11:23 AM

    Hi again,

    I just finished my stint as an enumerator and I would NOT recommend that anyone do it. The computer system was erratic and often froze. Our hours were reduced to under twenty hours per week and we were sternly warned that we would be fired if we worked so much as ten minutes beyond, even to finish an assignment. At the same time we were threatened with termination if we did not achieve a certain number of addresses per minute. We were pitted against other areas that were not comparable to ours. Despite the inherent conflict of interest we worked like dogs to finish in half the time. Thus we worked for less than four weeks, despite being baited with promises of eight weeks of work. Okay, I'm a grown up I could deal with that, but not the fact that after arranging my life around the 20 hour work week, suddenly someone decided that workers were needed for "overtime" on the weekend. Well few on our team bit so they brought in the "outsider stars" whom they pitted against us, they were supposed to work eight hours, but only lasted two in our daunting area-whining about the distance between all the houses.

    I'm not sorry I did this, but I am disappointed by the BOC leadership.


  13. Thank you for your comment. I'm sorry your job didn't work out as planned.

    You brought up some factors that bothered me also. One was the leadership. I was very disappointed by the lack of training. We were literally thrown in the field to figure out things for ourselves. I guess I could have overcome that eventually but I was concerned by the constant drumbeat of threats by our area supervisor. He said over and over again that they would tolerate NO OVERTIME and excessive mileage. I understood their concern but I didn't understand the constant repetition of warnings about being replaced if we didn't do so many addresses in a certain amount of time.

    My first day I was in what was probably a very easy neighborhood but I couldn't see how I could accomplish all they wanted me to in the amount of time they expected. If we did, then the "reward" was to go to Newark to help them with their address canvassing. No thank you.

    No, the job wasn't what I envisioned. Perhaps for someone who really needed a job and didn't mind wandering around people's yards dodging the ever present dogs. But it is interesting that you brought up the subject of the heavy pressure and the threats. That is something that concerned me and I didn't go into a great deal of detail in my blog postings.

    Like you I'm not sorry I undertook the job. I understand the need to canvass addresses for sending out census forms. However, I was surprised at the lack of training, the unreliability of the equipment, and the tone of the threats as if they assumed I would cheat. The group I was with all seemed like good, honest, hard working people. I wondered how they made out. I'm glad you sent me a comment about your experience.

    Thank you for your service. I wish you the best.


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