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Shell Shocked: Have you taken leave of your Census?

By ART STEVENS - | Oct 20, 2020

PHOTO PROVIDED Art Stevens

It’s that time again. The Census people have been knocking on our doors asking us for information that we’d rather not share. It’s a federal crime not to divulge the identities of all individuals occupying your residence. This includes illegal aliens from either other countries or planets, skeletons in the closet, your mother-in-law and hostages you may be holding.

The Census officer will come down hard on you if you don’t give him an accurate count. His job and reputation will be on the line. He’s being trained right now to make sure that you are who you say you are. False identities and forged documents will land you in the cooler. That’s how serious our government takes the responsibility of counting and identifying all 300 million plus U.S. residents.

You might ask why it’s so important for the government to have an exact accounting of all live bodies in U.S. households. The most important reason is to make sure that your district has the proper number of members of Congress. Since the House of Representatives works on a proportional basis then the more people who live in a district the more members of Congress that district is entitled to

The House of Representatives has grown by almost 50 members during the past hundred years. That’s how fast the U.S. population has grown. In 2000 the U.S. had a population of 281,000,000.

And, as you know, the more members of Congress there are the more dysfunctional our system of government has become. But I digress.

Census takers, as they’re called, collect additional information besides a head count. They want to know such things as the number of true blondes in the household, your views on Saturday Night live, if you ever participated in bra burning demonstrations when you were young, and if you bared all at Woodstock.

All of this information is fed into complex computers to determine if you’re worthy of remaining a citizen of the U.S. If it’s determined that you’re not then Census takers are authorized to relieve you of your Costco card and prevent you from attending spring training games in Fort Myers.

So how does one become a census taker? Is this a career one dreams about in elementary school just as you’re first learning how to count? The answer is that it’s a part time job available to those who qualify. And just what are the necessary qualifications? You’re going to be very surprised.

To begin with a census taker is given a test to determine if he can distinguish between a street, avenue, boulevard and driveway. Normally, census takers live in the community that they become responsible for. They are taught early on that bars do not qualify as households and learning the identities of bar flys will not add to the knowledge required during census taking.

The census taker must also count newborn babies who are still in their maternity ward cribs as members of specific households. How they do this remains a mystery to this day. Do they politely ask men who answer the door if their wives or partners have just given birth? And what if the man who answers the door is clearly in his eighties? Is he flattered or offended?

Since accuracy is pivotal to a successful census count the census taker is required to be able to count. He needs to be able to solve some difficult arithmetic problems like determining if 475 Main Street is the next house to 473 Main Street. Or how many persons actually reside in group quarters of more than ten, such as college dorms, convents, medical offices or halfway houses. For example, do you divide the occupants of a halfway house by two?

If only I were qualified to become a census taker. But my duty is to my garbage which I take out faithfully two times a week. But when the urge hits me to apply to be a census taker I look at myself in the mirror and ask — are you ready for this? — “Have you taken leave of your census?”