Knocked out

Merry Christmas — not.

Every morning was like Christmas morning. I’d get up and first thing look at my census cellphone. It would say “You have received work for today.” I’d log in and BLAM-o, I’d have like 75 cases. A ridiculous amount, I began to understand. I could do maybe 20 a day if I was lucky and every door I knocked on was opened by a non-hostile.

I got used to the deluge of doors that needed knocking-on. I began to crave them. I missed the whole process during down time, or on the rare day I didn’t work.
We thought the deadline for census-taking was Sept 30, so we knocked like crazy. Mad-knocking. Huge job. The powers that be approved — encouraged — overtime and superhuman hours.

To me, the harder/faster thing felt a little like we were sealing our own fate. A little like when they made the first convicts going “up the [Hudson] River” construct their own prison — Sing Sing.

Cases got harder. Most everywhere I attempted to enumerate, I’d find Notices of Visit (NOVs) already in door jambs, flapping in the bushes, tromped over at doormats.
One rather helpful little Hasidic boy said, “That’s so over,” pointing to my Official US Census briefcase.

And so here we are.

In New York, we were done, almost entirely by the original panic deadline on Sept. 30. When the court ruled that the census could proceed to its original end date, Oct. 31, we knew it was a pyrrich victory, at least here. There was hardly any door that hadn’t been knocked on, any domicile without data.

In recent days my case list plummeted. Some “Christmas mornings” the message was that I had work, and I’d find one case, and then an hour later it was gone.

Now, there are none.

I’m looking at my stuff: my forms — “Who to Count,” “NOV” and Language Identification Card”; my clipboard; my Census briefcase; my badge; my very cool “official business” dashboard sign. Even the much-feared iPhone.

I will have to return them all.

Soon I will not be a census taker.


Doors without number, a story behind each one

There are doors we never notice, doors we pass right by every day. Doors in shadow, doors without numbers, doors without doorknobs/ Doors on the sides of buildings, doors in the back, doors at the top of rusty metal stairs, doors below ground level, and on the sides of garages.

And yet, these doors all open, all lead somewhere, to something – to hallways, and stairs, and dinner smells, and shoes by the door, and welcome mats, and ultimately, to the places people call home.

Lots of people, calling every kind of space home.

It is a big deal, having a home.

You can’t even imagine all the spaces, all the lives and the homes behind all the doors you never see. And every single one is important. Not to you, maybe, but to someone. Families, old people, screaming babies, lonely souls, all of them getting by, spanning time, all of them with futures and dreams and hopes and ideas and sadness and despair. And stories. All behind those doors.   

We walk by the doors and we don’t see them.

If we don’t see them, they don’t exist. At least that’s how we proceed.

I have  to see them. I have to find them — many without numbers — and knock on them.  And see who’s on the other side.

It is my job. To counted the uncounted. And ultimately, make them count.