Friday, April 03, 2009
Census Training - Day Four
The cloudy, misty, rainy sky that greeted me this morning was not a good sign for the day to come. This was the day our group was to go out in the field. So we wouldn’t be traipsing around the streets of Lewes under sunny skies. Our regional manager already warned us that we would be going out in all kinds of weather and he didn’t want to hear any complaints. He reminded us that he was a retired postal worker. “Rain, shine, sleet or snow; nothing will keep us from our appointed rounds.”
Another bad sign appeared when I turned on my rear window shield wipers as I was traveling down the rain soaked Rt. 9 (Georgetown-Lewes Highway) to my training class in Laurel. The wipers didn’t work. These are the same wipers I just paid over $300 to have a new motor installed because the previous wipers worked intermittently. These wipers didn’t work at all. Okay. Now the first thing I’m thinking “When can I get my car back down to the place who installed the new window shield wiper motor and have them fix it since I’ll be working almost everyday from here to eternity?" (actually to the end of May – the regional manager wants our address canvassing done by Memorial Day.)
I arrive at the church building where our classes are held. We started classes. I soon fell behind in following the instructor (who is working from a different handbook than the class – yes – that is true believe it or not.) Of course Polly Wolly Doodle All Day (Polly, the Old Biddy who has been annoying me all week by her fidgeting, talking and complaining) goes into her routine again. This time I did a major slap down. She got the message.
After a morning of class which I got virtually nothing because I couldn’t follow along with my handbook and HHC (hand held computer), we were told to have lunch and then go to our respective meeting spots in the field. One half of the class was to meet in Georgetown. That wasn’t me. I’m in the Lewes group. We were told to meet at the Lewes Public Library in Lewes. We were also told that our leader was no longer with the Census Bureau. What happened? Our now leaderless group was to meet in Lewes. And, of course, Polly Wolly was in my group.
I get to the library. There is no parking. Nightmare time. I park on a side street. Parallel to me is a huge flatbed truck from a lawn service company. I’m standing outside the library waiting for the rest of the group. I see cars threading the needle passing by my parked car and the lawn service truck. I go to my car and move it to a Staff Parking Only slot in front of the library. I’ll take my chances.
The rest of the group arrives. We gather at a table in the crowded library. We have our reconnoiter meeting. We can’t talk. We have to whisper. This is bizarre. Then we hit the streets. The blind leading the blind. Eight of us ranging in age from 75 (not me) to 23 years old (she’s got an Ipod jammed in her ears.) The 75 year old geezer (not me) looks totally lost. The 23 year old is snapping her fingers to the music (which we can hear by the way) of her Ipod. Polly Wolly is way up ahead (she’s staying away from me after the Morning Slam Down.) Just incredible. Traffic is rolling by. Big construction trucks. Lewes is a noisy town. We’re spilling out on the road trying to get our GPS signals to Map Spot the first structure we encountered. I feel like I’m in a bad dream. I’m about five seconds from just walking off the job. However, I look around and see that no one else is leaving. We’re out on training and there is no one to train us! I feel like I’m in the Twilight Zone. But, as one of my fellow canvassers said “It is what it is.” Indeed.
We continue down our assigned block. The job was starting to make sense. Maybe we’re learning something after all. We look at our HCCs and see the structure number. We look at the structure in front of us. It matches. Then we Map Spot the Housing Unit (or OLQ – Other Living Quarters) on our HHC (hand held computer.) We’re using a GPS system to Map Spot. Okay. Now we’re rolling. Then we came across our first structure without a house number. Problem. What to do? Someone had the bright idea to check the junk mail that was hanging out of the mailbox. Viola! Address confirmed.
We continued along until we encountered another problem. It was a bed and breakfast with separate living quarters. How to enter this into our HHC? We didn’t have the answer. It was humorous encounter because the Indian lady standing on the front porch thought we were a group of Jehovah’s Witnesses descending upon her quaint bed and breakfast. She obviously mistook the Census Bureau bags that we all had hanging from our shoulders as packed full of Watchtower booklets instead of our training manuals and privacy notices. We quickly assured her that we weren’t there to save her soul.
Five o’clock was rapidly approached. We are not to put in more than eight hours a day of work. NO OVERTIME. I had a dinner date that night with a friend and his wife who were staying at the hotel in Lewes where I work. I went home and changed taking all my Census material with me. We are having our Big Test tomorrow. We have to score at least 70% to be kept on as a Census Bureau Address Canvasser. I had homework assignment to complete also after dinner. To be quite frank, I don’t care if I pass the test or not. We shall see.
The day ended as it had started, on a bad note. I’ve never eaten at Stripper Bites in Lewes. Now that my friends were in town, this was my opportunity. While I enjoyed getting together with my friends again, dinner was typical for Slower Lower Delaware. It was overpriced and tasteless. I’m not a seafood lover, so I ordered Stripper Bites “Angus” hamburger. For $12.00 I got a slab of meat that was the same kind of tasteless beef patty that one could get at any fast food joint. Tasteless except for what you put on it. Even the red onion that came with the hamburger was dried out. This was the first time I’ve ever gotten an old slice of onion. They must really be cutting back on expenses. The meal wasn’t totally lost. The French fries were good as was the Pinot Gregio glass of wine. My dinner mates were satisfied with their meal. I wasn’t. This may have been the meal that broke the camel’s back. I’ve been disappointed so many times with the meals down here in Slower Lower that I’m seriously considering to never eat out again. Bill and I have breakfast at Zorba’s every Saturday morning. While that breakfast is no great shakes, at least it isn’t overpriced. Plus, our weekly breakfast outing is more of a reason for me and Bill to get out than a culinary adventure.
Once home I cracked open the books and began studying for the Big Test this morning. By the end of this day I will know if this adventure continues. It is what it is.