As anyone who pays attention to the news knows by now, the U.S. Census is over. I pretty much stopped enumerating around the end of September anyway, after a series of frustrating shifts, the details of which are unimportant, convinced me it wasn’t worth my time or the wear and tear on my car anymore. Turned in my phone, ID and bag o’ forms last week. It’s over.
But I’m still left with my experiences, which is one big reason I did it in the first place.
In June, we had a brief, ferocious thunderstorm, and our neighborhood was hit hard. Trees down all over the place, roofs pierced by falling limbs, one house and a couple of garages destroyed. Within 12 hours all the streets were clear, within 48 hours most of the chain saws and chippers had fallen silent and within two weeks, you had to look for the damage in the trees — the still-raw snapped limb stumps, etc.
My census cases were mostly in Detroit, on the east side more or less adjacent to the Pointes. And there, three months after the storm, the storm’s evidence was still very much in view. No streets were blocked, but where limbs had fallen on private property, quite a few were still there. One house had a huge tree lying across the back yard. (I assume from the same storm because we didn’t have another nearly as severe, and the look of the leaves left on the branches, the stump, etc.)
I remember thinking, walking Wendy in the days after the storm, noting the cleanup, Thank you, civilization. But of course it’s more honest to say, Thank you, money. If you don’t have the resources to remove a tree too large to do yourself, or with help from neighbors, if you don’t have a chain saw or other suitable tools, well, the limb stays where it is.
My ultimate takeaway from the census was this, however: We have to figure out a way to do it better. Polling had to pivot from the everyone-in-the-phone book landline era to cellular phones. The census, too, has to figure out how to get more people to fill out the stupid form themselves, because door-knocking is a highly imperfect tactic, particularly in poor neighborhoods. Good news rarely arrives via a knock on your door, and with technology enabling people to see the person standing there without even leaving the upstairs bedroom, bathroom or miles-distant office, it’s easier than ever to ignore it. In poor neighborhoods, your friends text you that they’re coming by. Several times I’d knock, knock again, leave and then see someone pull up a minute later, hustle up the front walk and be hastily admitted.
All this by way of saying: We’re headed for a big undercount, especially in cities like Detroit.
I got my main Problem Closet cleaned. It took the better part of a week, off and on. As always, when I do this, I get sidetracked. There are boxes of letters and photographs in that closet, so you can just imagine. But as also always happens, the further you get into that project the more ruthless you become. I didn’t throw out a single photo, but I did pitch lots of clothes and other crap. The door closes smoothly now and while there is probably still stuff to toss — hello, mystery Box o’ Cords, I’m looking at you — it’s done for now. (I’m actually waiting for a recycle event for the cords. Someone must do something with those things; it can’t be entirely landfill material. Does anyone know?)
Now to put the still-good clothing on the Facebook Mom Swap. Lots of pictures to take, capsule descriptions to write. My FB listings are the J. Peterman catalog of social media.
What else this weekend? Watched the new Borat movie. It’s fine, if you like that sort of thing — cringe humor. Personally I think Larry David does it better, but Sasha Baron Cohen certainly does it fearlessly. One thing I do know, however:
Rudy wasn’t tucking in his shirt. At that man’s age, sometimes Mr. Happy needs a little shake to wake him up.
So let’s have a good week ahead? I hope to.