Sunday, March 21, 2010

The 2010 Census - Don't Try This At Home, These Are Professionals - 3/21/2010

Those of you who have followed my blog may remember that last July I was fired from a job that I really enjoyed because of the contents of my postings. If those innocuous words resulted in my dismissal, I probably can expect another pink slip from this entry.

I decided to work for the 2010 Census for several reasons. The first being that since I have not been able to find a suitable permanent position in today’s unfavorable job market, I thought that a little cash from temporary employment would come in handy. Also, I believe in the census. I think an accurate count of South Carolina’s population can only benefit the state in getting our slice of the federal government pie: representatives, electoral votes, funding, etc. In the 2000 Census, South Carolina, in particular Horry County, which I reside in, ranked nationally among the bottom as far as participation and accuracy of the count. As a result, we lost out in many different ways. I believed I could contribute to precision in my little way. Everyone who knows me knows that I am nothing if not exacting and detail oriented. Sometimes anally so.

There are a lot of people, including friends of mine, who are against the census. Although I do not understand their reluctance and fear, I respect their position. I have already completed and submitted my own census and found nothing in the 10 question form that would give me any reason for consternation. The most personal question was my age, and I think the government pretty much knows that anyway. I don’t think “Big Brother’s” knowledge of whether I own or rent my home is going to be used against me or create a Branch Dividian situation at my condo. There are a lot of problems I have with our government, but I would rather choose my battles and “rage against the machine” on more important issues. If I thought the census invaded my privacy in an important way, I would not participate, and certainly not work as an enumerator. That is what my position is called.

That being said, I have some serious reservations about how the 2010 Census is being managed and the potential for accuracy. The cost of the census has been estimated at 15 billion dollars. Let, me repeat that, 15 billion dollars, with a “B”. Though I have only a very micro view of this process, I believe that what I see in my little corner of the operation indicates how poorly it is run overall. I doubt we are the exception as much as the rule.

I took a multiple-guess test back in December. There were 28 questions and the score required for employment consideration was 10. The test was laughably easy and I had a perfect score, as I assume everyone with a full complement of brain cells did. The minimal requirements should have immediately alarmed me as to the expectations of the census. I believed it was more revealing as to the quality of people in the applicant pool. Though, I also realized that the chance of accuracy was greatly diminished.

I did not know how bad things were going to be until my first day of the four day training program. My supervisor conducted the training, which consisted primarily of him reading verbatim from the 2010 Census manual. This would not have been so bad except for the fact that this individual could not read, had absolutely no vocabulary, nor any knowledge whatsoever of the job we were being trained to do. His obvious dyslexia manifested itself whenever any sequence of numbers was provided to us. They were, without exception scrambled. It was the most brutal four days I have ever experienced. I do not know what the requirements were for the position of supervisor, but I am certain it did not include an interview of any sort. I am convinced that the same process was used as is used by our legal system to select jurors: Finding the absolute dimmest, most obtuse, people from the available pool. Here is a recording of a portion of one of the training sessions. Imagine four days of that.

Another obstacle to learning the job was that many of the materials that we would be working with were not available during the training program, so a lot of the instruction was conducted hypothetically, without the opportunity for practical, hands-on, applications. This included visual aids that the manual often referred to. I am at the higher end of the enumerator hires and I am struggling with some of the massive paperwork. I can only imagine what the 10 of 28 people will turn in.

There are 14 people on my “enumerator crew.” Make that 13, one guy washed out during training. Evidently, it was decided that one supervisor could not adequately administer that large of a workforce. As a result, there are two crew leaders underneath the supervisor, each responsible for half of us. I am sure that there was some head-scratching to find half of 13. This means that there is a completely unnecessary level of supervision in every crew, and there are hundreds of crews just in South Carolina. Who knows how many levels of management there are above us that also serve no function?

Because the supervisor had not been adequately trained or evaluated for competency, we ended up filling out all of the required employment paperwork many times. Not only wasting many man-hours but forests of paper. The supervision team was also responsible for fingerprinting all of us. To date I have been fingerprinted three times, with no assurance that a usable set of my dactylograms has been obtained. I will not be surprised to find out tomorrow that I need to ink up again. The police have more success printing uncooperative suspects than these guys have had with me.

My crew leader’s final instruction prior to our first day of enumerating was “don’t work too fast; we want to make this job last for a while.” He is a true bureaucrat. Sucking off the government teat. Your tax dollars at work. Anyone who knows me also knows that I am not capable of giving less than my best effort. But in spite of my participation, there is no chance in hell that the Horry County 2010 Census is going to provide an accurate/timely count.

15 comments:

orionsbow said...

Indeed, most government operations with which I am familiar, the DMV, Social Security, the post office, are poorly run. Some, like the SC DMV, are abysmal. Therefore, I wouldn't expect that this effort would be any better. After all, consider who's at the helm. I have been a resister right from the start, mostly because I abhor government interference of ANY sort in my life. To me, the Census is an interference. Nonetheless, as you have explained to me several times, and here again, it has a positive side. If the form I recieve in the mail looks like the one you have published and the one that the gu'ment's official site claims is the standard, I shall bite my lip, gently, and comply. I do not, however, intend to stop bitching about it. 'Cause, that just wouldn't be right.

Regina said...

I was laughing out loud, so I read the part about your supervisor's dyslexia to my co-workers. Unfortunately this is not really funny. It is sad that this is the way things are. I still can't believe that we had to receive a mailing telling us that we would be receiving the census form, plus a postcard telling us who to call if we needed help filling it out. What a wonderful use of our tax dollars. Are Americans really that stupid? This is in addition to the TV commercials.
Well, best of luck with your job. It really sucks to have no power and be the smartest person in the room!

myrtle beached whale said...

Wait until you get the follow-up card saying that you should have received your census questionnaire. I am not joking.

Go Figure said...

Whale: What, what did you say? Horney County? You are too old for that stuff. I can appreciate why they (the gubbermit) would want three sets of your finger prints, but that is probably true of most everyone from Horney County. Oh well, it appears that you did get some lead in your system from good old "lead creek." Ha.

Songwraith said...

Like the new look!

Go Figure said...

Whale: Yep...give me a blue man over an eye, any day! Ha.

Go Figure said...

Whale: Is that blue man your son?

myrtle beached whale said...

Could be, Starr. I recall having some sex with a blue woman. Or maybe she was just sad.

S.C. Rock Music Journalist said...

Rick Wainright! I really enjoy your writings, you're interesting guy. I run the S.C. Rock Music Network. You're a great writer my friend.

Anonymous said...

Just saw this post. I'm behind. I love that you are called an enumerator. You could write a book series just on that title. The Enumerator Walks the Block, The Enumerator Returns. Haha. Hope it's going well. Love ya. Carly

Go Figure said...

Whale: You must go the the Coeur d'Alene Press web site and check out the article today, 4-10, about the guy who is charged with firing a shotgun in the air to keep a census taker off his property. I don't know anything more about it than what is printed. He did call yesterday afternoon and see if I would represent him. I did call him back today but he had already hired someone. I am not sure if I am glad or not. Ha.

myrtle beached whale said...

It might be a good thing he got somebody else. I think you might have had a fool for a client.

myrtle beached whale said...

It is a little odd that the census taker waited several days to report this incident. Sounds a little bit fishy. I would have dialed 911 before the pellets even hit the ground. If the shotgun was fully discharged, arriving police would have found the shotgun securely up the citizen's ass.

Go Figure said...

Whale: That is exactly what I thought and why I thought that he might have a good defense. Oh,...everytime I jump over here...I am beginning to think I liked the "eye" better than the "blue guy." HA

Anonymous said...

My 'sister' in Idaho is a military wife and figured a little work as an enumerator would be a good way to get out of the house and make a little extra money. Little did she know that her experience was going to end up exactly as yours. She has had nothing but problems with her crew leader who seems to be a few eggs short of a Denny's Grand Slam breakfast. So, now, she's on temporary hiatus until someone can pull their mouth off the teat and actually give legitimate work instructions. I'm not sure what's more scary, that the government hires these idiots, or the simple fact that they exist, share the same oxygen as we do, and procreate?