Friday, March 26, 2010

Targeted Nonsheltered Outdoor Location Enumerator

This is my new official job title. I will be working for the 2010 Census, at least for a few days next week counting the homeless in soup kitchens, shelters, and by the freeway. It's basically a trial run to see if you qualify to be a regular Census taker. I heard back from my last interview finally and although they decided to go with someone else, they genuinely seemed to like me and wanted me to keep calling back to see if they had a position available. This gives me hope. And at least for now I'm getting paid so I'm not quite as freaked out as I would be without the Census. But when the following instructions are included in your training, one has to ask oneself if it's worth it:

1. Be sure to check under your car to see if there is someone hiding, waiting to charge your ankles.
2. Do not wear anything around your neck that could be used to strangle you.
3. If you witness any illegal activities, ie drug use, prostitution, gang activity, use a secret code you've developed with your team members and walk away.
4. Wear clothes you don't mind getting dirty and comfortable athletic shoes in case you have to run (!)
5. Assume that a "person experiencing homelessness"'s dog is not friendly.
6. Do not carry a pocketknife, or any kind of weapon even if the other guy is probably packing.

At first, I was nervous and very uncomfortable with the thought of initiating conversation with people I'd always been taught to avoid. Yes they are human beings who have fallen through the cracks of the system and suffered countless and unfathomable hardships. But it still doesn't make one anxious to go out in the middle of the night by the freeway and ask them their name, sex, and race.

After my training sessions the past few days, however, I'm kind of looking forward to this assignment. I'm still scared, but kind of curious to see what will happen. If nothing else, it will be fascinating fodder for my writing, not to mention a much-needed paycheck. I just would prefer not to get shanked in pursuit of either though.

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