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Some census advice

January 24, 2000

The 2000 census got under way last week in Alaska - so far the score is Penguins 16, Humans 12 - so it's only a matter of time until the number crunchers come to a neighborhood near you.

Obviously no one told the Census Bureau that the new millennium hasn't started yet and they are actually a year too early. Personally, I have vowed to stay out of the 2000/2001 new millennium controversy.

My only thought is that my friends Guy and Robin recently had a new son and it may be up to me to break it to them that, according to the "millennium doesn't begin for another year" crowd, their baby technically will not exist until next January.

Because even when the poor child is 11 months old, he will still be Age Zero under this latter theory. As a matter of fact, we are all living in a time void right now, since the year 2000 doesn't really count for anything - an argument I plan on running by the IRS this April.

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But at least, according to The Onion newspaper (www.theonion.com), this explains why there were no worldwide acts of violence on New Year's Eve.

Under the headline "Millennium Actually Starts In 2001, Terrorists Note" The Onion went on to write:

"DAMASCUS, Syria - With the world breathing a collective sigh of relief following the violence-free passage into the year 2000, an international coalition of terrorists issued a reminder Monday that the new millennium does not actually begin until Jan. 1, 2001.

"'Technically speaking, we are now in the last year of the 20th century,' said Mahmoud al-Habib, a spokesperson for the terrorist organization Hamas. 'Since there was no year zero, next New Year's Eve is the real time to detonate bombs in Times Square and blow commercial airliners out of the sky.'"

But back to the census. It will be in the Tri-State area sooner than you think, so I figure it will be in everyone's best interest to offer a few helpful hints for the local populace. Keep in mind, these suggestions are not for you, they are for your neighbor down the street. You know the one.

1. Do not count dogs as immediate family. Near to your heart as they may be, they cannot legally be factored into the equation when your neighborhood is applying for a federal grant.

2. Yard sale receipts should not be included in your estimated annual household income. This is because you know that you will take the $200 you made from your last sale and go to other people's sales and spend it all, basically replacing your junk with someone else's.

3. Where it says "Age of father, if living," do not write "If living, he would be 136."

4. Where it says "Language spoken in your home," do not write "Bad."

5. Where it says "Do not write in this box," do not write "OK."

6. In the section where they ask about your commute, they want to know how far you drive to work, not what the judge did to your sentence for failure to pay back child support.

7. Under "Education," - oh, never mind.

8. Sterno is not a "kitchen facility."

9. To my knowledge, there is no box for "boyfriends living at home," so you will have to figure that one out on your own.

10. As a matter of common courtesy, do not automatically assume that the census worker who comes to your door wants to hear about the fellow your hairdresser ran off with, or who you saw the other day at Big Lots. If they ask, fine, but otherwise stick to the questions at hand.

I hope these guidelines are of some use, and have fun standing up and being counted.




Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist.

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