Mostly, all those preconceived notions of danger and nastiness behind the doors I knock on have not materialized. People are at least civil. Often warm. Surprisingly kind.
As I’ve said before, I love this job.
But (ah, the bu) I’m starting think, from a couple of recent encounters that maybe the honeymoon is over.
The first sour note was on Sunday, down at the end of a quiet street with filled with late-afternoon sun. A dog on a tether, with a toy in his mouth, watched me park and put my Official Census Bureau Business sign on the dash. He trotted toward me, prepared for fetch, and slowly, the young, very ripped man in the lawn chair came toward me, too. He was as friendly as the dog, until I asked if he could take 10 minutes of his time to answer the survey. His sky blue eyes instantaneously went icy; I could almost hear the snap! Time? he repeated. I’d triggered something, I knew as he began to tell me his real-world problems. They were immediate. They were big.
The census — and the enumerator — were small, an affront. He was done with me. He moved away, his body language and his eyes clearly dismissive, and putting on alert. I tried to say some kind of basic human thing, not to convince him to fill out the questionnaire or maybe even smack me. But something that showed I got him, I felt for him. (We cross paths for a reason.)
He wasn’t listening.
I retreated to my car, wrote in the space for notes that I wouldn’t go back, and gave the dog a sad wave as I back out. He still had a toy in his mouth.
Yesterday, I went to a house with inhospitable signs out front — No Trespassing for one (by law we aren’t trespassing, as I learned during my training).
I half-cringed my way down the driveway to the house, waiting for a shot to ring out. But obviously none was forthcoming. I approached the house meekly, rang the NEST doorbell and made myself visible through its camera, my official badge prominent. A voice eventually answered – it sounded like a teenage girl but only till she got to the actual responses: First a refusal, then a veiled threat that I was trespassing, then an outright statement to get off the property immediately.
Now today I‘ve gotten my first case actually marked with an exclamation point in a triangle. “Approach with caution.” It’s one step “safer” than the DANGEROUS ADDRESS indication — which we actively avoid. Anyway, this scary address is among the list of cases in an area I know pretty well, an area I’ve driven by over the years and watched slowly deteriorate. An area where I can’t imagine people even living now. An area where an 80-year-old man man – the property owner, was shot and killed a while back.
I joke with my supervisor that I will stay far enough away to outrun a bullet. Today I will think carefully about which pair of sneakers will enable me to run faster and jump higher.