Opinion 2020 Census: Going door to door is isolating, nerve wracking and sometimes inspiring

11:40  27 september  2020
11:40  27 september  2020 Source:   usatoday.com

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Census takers will wear masks and follow local public health guidelines when they visit your home. All census takers complete a virtual COVID-19 training on social distancing and other health and safety protocols before beginning their work in neighborhoods.

In March, homes across the country received invitations to complete the 2020 Census . It has never been easier to respond on your own, whether online, over the phone or by mail—all without having to meet a census taker.

I looked up, doing what I was told at Honolulu Census office in March of this year, where my picture was being taken for an official Census ID. About four months later, I grimaced as a saw my ID for the first time. It was hurriedly handed to me with an official satchel, some paperwork, and an iPhone. That was the only time I met other people who worked for the United States Census Bureau, besides the occasional enumerator I ran into in the wild. I only met my supervisor on the day I was suddenly let go and asked to turn everything in.

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a close up of text on a white background: FILE - This Sunday, April 5, 2020, photo shows an envelope containing a 2020 census letter mailed to a U.S. resident in Detroit. © Paul Sancya, AP FILE - This Sunday, April 5, 2020, photo shows an envelope containing a 2020 census letter mailed to a U.S. resident in Detroit.

Many people, mostly men, scrutinized my badge. Some took photos, others asked me for my badge number. I just told them, “If this were a fake ID, would I use a picture this terrible?”

This job takes grit. I was never one to walk up to stranger’s houses, but I suddenly found myself breaking the sacred covenant of the “Private Property: No Trespassing” sign. Many people in Honolulu have dogs, some terrifying and others petite and annoying. By the end of the day my brain was rattled from the yapping canines that would slam against fences.

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Old job, new residents

On one of my days out, I enumerated a house with an older man out front, crouching shirtless with a towel around his neck. At first I felt bad for disturbing him, but he quickly revealed that he too was a Census worker, although in the 80’s when the forms will filled out on paper.

He asked about my coworkers. I told him I had never met them. He was surprised and told me of how all the Census takers used to pile into a car and get dropped off in a neighborhood.  They would be picked up and tell stories on the way home.

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I showed him my government-issued iPhone where my assignments were beamed down everyday. We talked for a while, and he showed me a shimmering abstract painting he painted through the window. It was chaotic, covered with glitter, and yet somehow the elements rested neatly within the frame.

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I thanked him and continued on, grateful for meeting someone who could relate to the strange experience.

As a former enumerator for the 2020 Census, I can say my short career was a lonely one. In order to combat the spread of COVID-19, all trainings were held over the phone. We communicated mostly through text, and the app we used to record Census data was updated automatically.

On top of this feeling of isolation, I tried to remain an impartial federal employee as our government sabotages the very job I found myself doing. I would be lying if I said I didn’t feel fear for the household when I checked the box for, “Are You of Hispanic, Latin American, or Spanish origin?”

This was most apparent enumerating a house of Latin Americans. The matriarch gave me guava juice as she patiently told me her family’s information. The family was sweet like the guava juice I later drank, but a spoiled taste of guilt remained in my mouth as I thought, What if I just gave them up to the spooks?

America, the melting pot

Honolulu was and continues to be a port city. Enumerating reflects the diverse background of its people, many of whom are four or more races. Hawaiian melds with Tongan, Japanese and Chinese are commonly mixed with white. Everyone seems to be a little Filipino.

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back- door . unspeakable. impelling. running over. wracking up. “The more you begin to jar on one another's nerves , the more you'll find yourself remembering the ease and freedom of the life you used to know.” matching strength. going up against in contest. going head to head. scrambling for.

Houses in Honolulu are packed with people and often hidden behind one-another. Upon finding them, I’d take a deep breath and hope the person inside would not be mad. Some people would rant at me about mail-in-voting or city planning; others would offer me water.

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Most enumerating was pleasant and forgettable. The hardest was walking away from people where friendship was fertile. Once in awhile there would be a heinous resident, but I would write colorful notes in the Census app out of desperation for someone to know what I was going through. I thought that perhaps when the next enumerator came, whether in days or 10 years, they would know that a real person was there and went through this too.

I worked as an enumerator for about two months. On one of my last days I heard a man call out to me, calling me "Census guy." My stomach dropped as I thought, "Great, I’m going to have to fight." I turned to the man, who then thanked me for my good work. Taken aback, I asked him why he was a fan of the Census, and he said, because it's important and everyone deserves to be counted.

Benjamin Z. Pierce is writer and designer working out of New Hampshire for the winter.

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: 2020 Census: Going door to door is isolating, nerve wracking and sometimes inspiring

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This is interesting!