Friday, April 03, 2009

Census Training - Day Five - I Quit

Yes, you read it right. I quit my Census job today. Today started out as another gray, dreary, rainy day. This was the day of the Big Test. I was first to arrive at our classroom meeting place at the Lighthouse Church outside of Laurel Delaware. Shortly after I parked my car, my crew leader arrived. She unloaded boxes of material from the back of her SUV. More Census trainees arrived. Some stopped to talk to our crew leader before going into the building to prepare for the qualification test. The test would be 30 questions and we would have an hour to complete it. We would have to score 70% or better to get our wings to go out in the field. You know the old saying “be careful what you wish for?” Stay tuned.

Ten o’clock rolls around. We take the test. As we finish we hand our papers to one of the crew leader’s assistants who take the finished test papers back to be graded by the crew leaders. Once they are graded will call us back one at a time to tell us if we passed and what our assignment will be. My turn came and I was called back. My crew leader told me I scored 97 on the test. I passed! Then I got my assignment. She said I could work on it today or over the weekend, whatever works best for me. I decided to work on it this afternoon.

I shot on home for a quick lunch. I packed up all my material and head out to Hunter’s Mill, a housing development about five miles from where I live. Earlier in the day it had rained, hard at times. The sun was out when I left home for Hunter’s Mill. However, the wind was gusting up to 30 miles per hour. Big puffy clouds filled the sky. I had no trouble finding Hunter’s Mill. However, as I drove into the development I saw the first problem. Where am I going to park? I’m not comfortable pulling off to the side of the road. I couldn’t pull in a private driveway. Hmmmmmm. So, I drive around the development, looking for my starting point that my HHC indicated. I turned on the GPS. I was out of the area. Back around the development I drive a few more times. Still can’t hone in with the GPS. Then I notice another problem, the houses don’t run in consecutive order. Another problem, some of the houses don’t have numbers on them. But then I remind myself, that what they’re paying me for, to update the addresses to census forms can be sent to the correct addresses where people live.

Okay…………..I’m still driving around looking for a place to park. I finally find a cul de sac where I’m not too obtrusive. No one is around. A few houses up the street a dad and his teenage son were building a railing on their deck. They shot a few glances my way that weren’t exactly “Hey there! Welcome to the neighborhood” looks. This was a nice neighborhood and it was quite obvious that I was the Strange Person in the Neighborhood. I could feel several sets of eyes looking at me from behind silent picture windows of some of the other homes in the neighborhood. I have my Census bag on my shoulder and my Census badge blowing around my neck in the 30 mph gusts of wind. It was an unusually warm afternoon and I was starting to sweat.

I get out my HHC (hand held computer) and try to see where I am by looking at my GPS indicator. The bright sun was making it hard for me to read my HHC. The wind is causing my badge to slap me in the face. I’m trying to hang on to my Colorado Rockies cap. This isn’t going good. The first house I see isn’t on my HHC. This must be a new house. I see someone out front watering his lawn. I got to introduce myself by walking over to him then I remember, we’re not to walk on lawns. So I look for the cement walkway to approach the homeowner. He’s not looking happy. “Who is this nut?” he’s probably thinking. Yesterday we were mistaken for Jevohah’s Witnesses. Probably because of the bag we’re carrying over our shoulder. He’s also probably not happy seeing me take the long way around to circle into him. All he wants to do is water his lawn. My procedure is that I identify myself (“I’m Ronald Tipton with the U.S. Census Bureau and I am verifying your address for the 2010 Census”) and then I hand him a Privacy Notice. I had him the notice and I notice that his hand is holding a hose that has water running out of it. Ooops. Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea. I asked him how long his house had been there. He said it was built in 2006 (same as my house, but that’s another whole story). Thus, it wouldn’t be on my HHC because it only contains information from the 2000 Census. This is a New House. I have to add it to my HHC.

Here we go. My next step is to do an ADD. I enter the information on my HHC. House number, street, town/city and zip code. Then I attempt to do a Map Spot which is to have the HHC GPS indicated where the house is on the map. My GPS had gone. Where, I do not know. It’s not there anymore. Oh great. Now I do a manual Map Spot. I can do that but I don’t know where to put it on the map. My map is either 5 feet out or 5,000 feet out. No in between. I think you can see how this is going. I discovered I was out of my range. In other words, I was in the wrong assignment area. Back to Go.

I find another house and I am in my assignment area. I bring up the GPS again and nothing. Nada. Zilch. Zero. While standing in front of the door of the Housing Unit, I see an elderly man looking at me on the other side of the glass storm door. He’s looking at me like I’m a Jevohah Witness. Those damn bags. I go to the door and to introduce myself. He opens the door and a dog scoots out. All five pounds of his furry self. My first dog! We were warned about “My dog doesn’t bite.” What did the elderly gentleman say? He didn’t say “My dog won first place at the Westminster Kennel Show.” He said……are you ready?........he said (I swear to God) “My dog doesn’t bite.” Oh Hallelujah! I think that was the grape that caused the camel’s back to sag. My first open door and I get a “My dog doesn’t bit” scooting out to greet me. Actually, this dog didn’t bite. She was just a little big of fur (some Yorkie mix) who actually seemed happy to see the big old strange man at her door with the Jehovah Witness should bag at her front door. I wasn’t happy. In fact, I was finished. That was it. This isn’t the job for me. I admit defeat. I go down in a blazing fireball of flames.

What in the world was I doing out here on this unusually warm, windy spring day when I could be home doing one of the following:

1. Taking a nap
2. Working in my garden
3. Writing my daily blog
4. Updating my genealogy records
5. Aggravating Bill

I hate to admit defeat but I just didn’t see this job fitting in with my lifestyle (such as it is.) I love my hotel job. I know others who would hate such a job. Too boring they say. Not to me, I never know what’s coming through that door at the hotel. I’m always up for the challenge. I like the challenge of making people happy. I didn’t see that in this job of canvassing neighborhoods, verifying addresses. I’m traipsing around in front of people’s houses, bothering them. That’s not me. I want to make people smile, not frown and fear that I’m going to hand them a Watchtower religious pamphletgiving them the opportunity to be one of the 144,000 Chosen. Then there are the other problems of where to park my car, and where was my GPS signal? That was so frustrating. I didn’t know where I was. I couldn’t Map Spot the house to verify the address on my HHC. At the hotel I have no problem “Map Spotting” my guests right into there room and I leave them smiling. And I didn't even get into the problem of going to the bathroom. How wold that be handled? I can hold it but not for hours on end. Wearing a giant astronaut diaper was out of the question. Maybe a mayonaisse jar. Nah, wouldn't work either. I was advised to try local libararies and fast food joints. Maybe McDonalds is good for something after all, a pee break.

No, address canvassing for the Census Bureau isn’t Ron. Sometimes you just have to admit defeat. Maybe defeat is too strong a word. A more accurate description would be that the job wasn’t a “good fit.” I remember years ago after I got out of the Army, I applied to Lukens Steel for a job. Back in the small town where I came from, most guys who didn’t go to college worked for the local steel company. I was no exception. Except that I wanted a job in the office but this was back in the early Sixties when sexism was still rampant and Political Correctness hadn’t been discovered yet. Office jobs that I wanted were listed under the “Female” section of the help wanted ads in the local newspaper. So, I dutifully applied for a job at Lukens. I passed the test and physical (had to parade around nude – all of us at once – all ages – something wrong with that.) I was hired as a crane operator. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the steel industry that is a job in which you’re in a small enclosed cage on tracks high above the factory work floor. The crane operator operates a giant magnet to pick up metal sometimes weighing thousands of pounds and move it around to different places on the work floor below.

Right away I saw a couple of problems with this job. First, was the cage air conditioned (it was not.) Second, there are men milling about the floor down below me, what happens if I make a mistake and drop a couple of tons of steel on someone’s head? Then there were the other problems like when and where to I potty? And I didn’t even get into how dirty my hands were going to get operating those greasy levers. I could see a lot of broken fingernails in my future. So, even after I was hired as a crane operator, I quite before I started. At lest today, I gave this job a couple of hours. But I could tell, this wasn’t the job for me, wandering around in front of strange people’s houses looking for my GPS. “Hey you! Whaddya doing out there?” Me……”I’m looking for my GPS signal.” Uh huh. Time to end this puppy’s misery.

I get home and I call my crew leader immediately. I inform her of my decision. She expresses regrets (a very nice lady by the way) but says she understands. I feel bad because they went to all the trouble to train me and I’m bailing. But, it was either now or later. I could see it coming. This job needs to go to someone younger and more energetic and less sensitive than writer of this blog. The unemployment figures go up everyday. I have a comfortable retirement and a lovely part-time job that I enjoy immensely. It was time to turn in my HHC. My crew leader told me to call her assistant and he would arrange to pick up my material. I called him and told him I would deliver it to him. Bill drove me to the assistant’s house and I delivered all my Census training paraphernalia and my HHC to the assistant. I officially resigned my job as a Census Worker. The resignation was probably necessary because I did take an oath of office when I was hired. I'm still feeling guilty that government funds were spent to train me and I didn’t follow through with the job.

It was better to quit now than later, when I would be totally frazzled and shell shocked. As the old saying goes, “You have to know when to play them and you have to know when to fold.” (Kenny Rogers?) I folded today. But, life goes on. I have a new appreciation for my hotel job. Bill is ecstatic that I will be home more. After 45 years, he knows me better than I know myself. He told me that he knew I wouldn’t like the job. Oh he does know me.

I go to work tomorrow at 7 am. Tomorrow night I think I’ll take in a movie from one of my Net Flix rentals (“Dan in Real Life”.) Sunday looks like dinner with friends at Stoney Lonen. Monday I work again at the hotel. Tuesday I take my car down to The Garage to get the rear window shield wiper working. Ah yes, back to the regular routine.


  1. Now you know why the Census is so fouled up; no one in their right mind, goes through with the 'crap' they endure.

    Glad you're home; resting, and given that 'beat' the gate. Diane

    Hey, why did you put that word verification back on; it's a miserable thing to read.....but I guess you're worth it. And now comment moderation? Wow - it used to be so easy.......

  2. I will post another blog on the reasons why I quit. I reinstituted the comment moderation because I was getting bombarded with spam. I don't know how it happened but I am getting a lot of junk. I don't want those comments to appear on my blog. You are the only one who complains about the comment moderation. I'm sorry but I don't want my blog to be a vehicle for ads.

  3. You can put 21st century technologies into people's hands, but clearly the infrastructure just isn't there to back it up.
    I'm reminded of when I took the test we were not allowed to use a simple calculator - but they throw a HHC and GPS into your lap when you get out in the world.
    Remember, this state is an address nightmare because of the switch over to 5 digits after 9/11, so you got out just in time.

    btw, you are the ONLY person who ever complained about my comment moderation, and see what happens?

  4. Census Taker3:37 PM

    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.

    In all fairness, while some retirees embrace technology (and you obviously have figured out how to log in and use a computer to do blog posts), not everyone understands how a touchscreen PDA works, let alone cell or GPS technology.

    The devices are far from perfect, but anyone who has ever used a GPS before should first know how to read a map to know where they are WITHOUT the GPS lock, and then know how to wait for the device to sync up to the satellites and zoom out to see where you are. Remember those little "+" and "-" symbols? :) Sometimes after being in standby, it can take 2 or 3 minutes for the GPS to re-enable and get a lock.

    My first day out I did over 100 map spots. I had a tough area that had been developed, abandoned, 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 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.

    I think that folks who are intelligent, problem solving, and can think on their feet will do well, while those who need step by step instruction will have a tough time.

  5. Census Taker: Yes, you misread my blog. My question is: what did you intend to accomplish by calling me "lazy whinner?" Is that a reflection of your innate cruelty or ignorance? I can understand your criticism of my decision but I don't understand the necessity for name calling.

  6. Anonymous1:47 AM

    Guess some people get tired of your long-winded posts; the infinite details that are truly boring, and the fact you document every aspect of your life.

    Maybe you could post more interesting discussions that invite people to participate, rather than to read about your life that is truly focused on yourself in a way that is consistently way too verbose, and tiring to read.

  7. Cindy2:27 PM

    contrary to some others, i fully enjoy your blogs.. i am going in two days to start my training for the census job, and i found these census entries to be very helpful in trying to figure out what to expect.. i think i'll be able to make it through, though hopefully i'll have a less aggravating experience than you. well, good day(:

  8. Cindy,
    I wish you the best with your census training. I truly wanted to do the job but it just wasn't for me. Sometimes you can just tell when a job isn't going to work out. However, I do not discourage anyone else from trying the job. I think part of my problem was that I also had another part-time job and they were conflicting.

    Good luck on your job!


  9. Anonymous12:55 AM

    Great Blog! Most of today's morons have the attention span of a gnat on crack, that's why they say you are long and verbose. LOL

    As for the underpowered, old tech HHC, I was a crew leader during that operation. The HHC was designed for 2010 use in 2002, not anticipating increases in processor speed. If you look at the device closely it was an ugly phone, reworked for the census gigs, over priced at 600 bucks a pop. Your current cell phone is more powerful.

    The govmnt had a choice of a .300, .400, .500. or .600 processor. It chose the 2nd slowest.

    The memory cannot be upgraded nor old emails purged easily. One had to remove the simm card and purge it, which we were not permitted to do.

    On my own, I figured out what 5 of the higher ups took a week locked in a room to figure out: 150-200 units was all it could handle before the spinning wheel of death
    hovered interminably.

    When it 1st went in the field, it was fine, until it filled with data. For all it cost it was used in only ONE operation. THAT is far more of a waste of taxpayer $ than you deciding that the job wasn't for you. Efficiency is NOT job one here, so you made a good choice.

  10. Anonymous8:42 AM

    Nicely written. Good insight. Thank you.

  11. Anonymous,

    Thank you for your compliment. Ironically I'm mailing my completed census form this morning. I know how important it is and I don't want to add to the Census Bureau's problems by causing a Census Bureau employee to come to my home. It's in the mail!


  12. Stradlater1:20 AM

    This sounds like The Adventures of Holden Caulfield, Census Enumerator.

  13. Stralater,

    My census job was an adventure, that's for sure. I regret that I was unable to stay in the job because no doubt there was much more adventure to be had.


  14. Hi Ron, I had never seen your blog before, I stumbled across it after googling "quit census job" b/c I wanted to see if other enumerators were having similar thoughts as mine. Thank you so much for putting your experience out there for all to see. I don't understand why people want to criticize someone, it's not like this was in the local paper! It's just someone's thoughts, take from it what you will. Personally I enjoyed this entry and hearing about your job at the steel mill... I've lived in the South all my life (but traveled a lot) and am always curious about other people's experiences across the nation and globe. Even little details like the weather and what people are doing in their yards is interesting to me... I'm a writer (still in college though) and these small things help flesh out my imagination's picture of what life might be like in your neck of the woods. It's a great mental exercise and makes me feel closer to my fellow humans.

    I've had my census job for 3 weeks now, and I've felt exactly the same way as you! I'm fortunate that the section of the Alabama city I'm enumerating is known as the "hippie district"... lots of historic homes and kind people. But I feel so terrible that the way I get to meet these folks is through bothering them! Once they realize I'm 'cool', things go smoothly, but it's the first impression that drives me insane. I've never worked in sales b/c I know I'd be a terrible salesperson, I hate talking someone into buying something they don't need, and this job is, surprisingly, not unlike sales in that we are selling people on giving out information. Not to mention the fact that as a young woman, I have certain anxieties about what may be waiting for me on the other side of that beer-can strewn front porch, or around the corner of this blind alley. I'm not normally an anxious person at all, but this job has resulted in quite a bit of anxiety and worry that I wasn't expecting!

    To the lurking critics, sure I knew this would be door-to-door, but recruiters (in my area anyway) led us to believe that we'd mostly be counting vacant units, adding new builds, that sort of thing. Not harassing our neighbors! I've worked enough now to pay my tuition for some late summer classes (one good thing about a small University in Nowheresville!), so I think this will be my last week. So Ron, at least one other intelligent, personable, and yes hard-working individual understands why you quit!

  15. Rachell,

    Thank you very much for understanding the message I was trying to get across in my blog.

    I don't consider myself a quitter but I just couldn't see how I could do a good job as a census worker. In addition to the poor an insufficient training and equipment that didn't work they way it was supposed to, I quickly realized that my personality was not the type to walk in someone's back yard and bother them into giving personal information.

    I realize that taking the census is very important and I do not disparage or criticize those involved in the census. But just as someone would not like or could not perform my hotel front desk job or my previous job as a bank operations manager, I would expect them to quit once they realized they were not the person for that job. That is the main reason I quit the census job. I didn't have the skills or personality for that type of work.

    I appreciate you helping to lift the guilt that I still carry by quitting my census job.

    Good luck in your writing. Have you ever considered writing a blog? I write a blog mainly for my own personal pleasure. Every time I receive a response like I have from you, it is an extra bonus.

    Thank you again.



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