2010 Census could be as entertaining as The Olympics

December 02, 2009|By TIM ROWLAND

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So, are you as jacked as I am for the 2010 Census? Or for my Hispanic box-checking friends, el Censo del 2010.

I love a good Census. I do hope I get the long form this year -- it offers more opportunity to mess with the government's head.

Until I saw a recent Facebook post, I had completely forgotten that a new Census will be at our throats in a matter of months.


I don't really care about the numbers all that much. Yes, like Christmas ornaments, we'll haul out and dust off all those headlines from 2000, about how the nation is growing more diverse (as if you couldn't tell that by stopping for coffee every morning at the 7-Eleven) and how an alarming number of children are growing up in single-parent homes and how many hillbillies in Arkansas are making do without plumbing.

You know. Fascinating stuff.

But what I enjoy more is all the residual unhappiness a Census creates. I love the whining, the anger, the accusations and the lawsuits. I love the angst caused by underreporting and overreporting.

I love the idea of a white nerd in North Philly asking questions like, "So do you prefer to keep your investments in growth stocks or government bond funds, sir?"

I love the subsequent redistricting and reapportionment that feeds and froths talk radio. It's all meaningless, of course, but people treat it as if a burglar has just broken into their homes and made off with an infant. If I were in charge, I would appoint ACORN to take the Census, just to see how many American heart attacks I could cause in one day.

So, as Terrell Owens would say, I have my popcorn ready.

I even thought briefly about becoming a Census taker myself. Unfortunately, there's a pretty long list of qualifications a prospective body counter must meet.

First, you must be "able to read, write and speak English."

So members of Congress are out.

They would like you to be a legal, permanent resident, but if you speak Spanish they might cut you some slack, provided you have a visa and "there are no available qualified U.S. citizens."

Always a possibility when it comes to American public education.

You need to "commit" to four days of training. Four days? Those perfectionists. You need to pass a background check, have a driver's license and Social Security number and -- here's where it gets dicey -- pass "a written test of basic skills."

It doesn't say what those basic skills involve, but I assume it means you have to be able to gut a deer and start a fire using flint and birch bark in the middle of a monsoon.

Oh, my fault, it does say what these basic skills are -- I just didn't scroll down far enough. They include "clerical skills, reading, number skills, organizational skills" and my favorite, "evaluating alternatives."

Evaluating alternatives. Somehow, I interpret that to mean, "knowing when to run like mad." If I'm wearing a federal government ID badge and I walk up to a Unabomber-like cabin in Idaho and I see a rifle barrel poking through a slot in the plywood, you can believe that I'll be evaluating alternatives like nobody's business.

So I was already discouraged when I looked up the pay rate, which is on the order of $15 an hour for this area. It's hard to see the value there. Maybe I'm just more efficient than the average person, but for many years, I've been making people mad for a lot less than that.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 2324 ,or via e-mail at Tune in to the Rowland Rant video under, on or on Antietam Cable's WCL-TV Channel 30 evenings at 6:30. New episodes are released every Wednesday.

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