What it’s like to work for the US Census Bureau

This is fiction but mostly based on reality!

First, like last winter, you took a test, did great on that, ok so finally in June is training.  Ok but getting to the training part took weeks of- oh no you can’t miss one day of training because of a prior obligation so you can call back about the evening training time slot since it isn’t scheduled yet, but then when you call back, it’s already been a full class so you can’t have the training now, sorry no job for you.  But if you call back several weeks later actually they fired a lot of people from the first 2000+ hiring and now another training is taking place.  Ok just say yes over the phone and get a spot in the training session.  But why is one training session 40 hours a week and the other is 20 hours a week?  Will the 40 hr wk people get to learn another job, more difficult perhaps with better pay?  Afterall it’s double the training time.  All the phone people insisted that no there was no difference, it was just scheduled that way for people who had day jobs or other.  Finally a manager told me that it’s the same material but it is just stretched over 40 hours and you get paid for training so you get twice as much for that.  Ok great sign me up for the 40 hours!

Ok back to training.

This is the most disorganized thing I’ve seen, everybody sitting around for hours while peoples names keep getting called off of different lists and people get moved to different rooms or not, glad I brought a book!  Anyway, everyone’s getting paid for this!  The class started with the teacher reading the lessons, but there are so many interruptions since people that work there keep coming in and reading more names off lists, and people keep talking so the noise level goes up and down and up and down.   There are no blackboards or anything so that just makes it even harder to concentrate on the material, which is very “dry” as the our Texan accented former army drill sergeant teacher keeps mentioning.  Big voice:  Listen up people!  I know how to do this right so let’s get to it!  Actually, he said that he was Puerto Rican from Brooklyn born and raised, but that he got the accent when he was in the army or other briefly and besides, all his friends are either country, or Southern, so he always talk like that.  Indeed.

The teachers are all quite entertaining in their own way.  The first guy was the Shake Shack guy, I guess he ate a whole lot of burgers, appreciated his humor and attitude about all the confusion.  Then there was the slicked back slightly tousled silver-haired guy, seemed to take his job more seriously, supposedly he was on the cover of a magazine, something like GQ, back in the 70’s, you can still see that he cares about his fashion as he wears gucci something or other, and drives a shiny black sports car.  Somebody joked that it was probably a porn magazine.  All this time, sitting around, allowed us folks to gossip about the goings on.  I was sitting next to a guy, a philosophy teacher, and I had told him that I was also a teacher and we agreed that if we had to evaluate this class we’d give it an F.

But on the second day as we were getting fingerprinted, and waiting in line in the hallway, you could hear, in one of the rooms, there was a huge argument going on between the assistant girl who was helping Shake Shack guy on the first day and one of the trainee girls.  Apparently the assistant had had her cell phone stolen and accused the other gal of taking it, and the other one was claiming that she was being searched and that was against the law, you can’t just look for your stuff on other people, who do you think you are!  Huge shouting match.  Finally one of the uppers shouted them down ok that’s enough! and fired the new trainee on the spot for her behavior.  Meanwhile everyone was surmising why take a cell phone it will just be reported stolen and then what are you gonna do.  Guess you could try to try to sell it?  I was saying it’s not about the cell phone, that’s not what’s driving a clepto, it’s the act of stealing, that elevates you, though briefly, puts you one up over somebody else.

The big group, our classroom, was the slowest, compared to the other rooms, to get the fingerprints and of course my table had to go last.  They needed two sets for some reason, Shake Shack guy did my first set really quickly and sloppily, (but who’s gonna care anyway?), we could have been singing that line in a musical, then Texan accent army guy did my second set, more carefully and slowly, he said he was a pro, I was the last one, he was ready to get outta there.  Actually earlier I had noticed that he was wearing eyeliner and he could tell I was looking at it and he seemed a bit embarrassed briefly that I looked there instead of at his eyes when speaking to him.  After that I always imagined that he had been performing at some club the night before and had left the eyeliner on by mistake and that’s why he was always so late in the morning, or otherwise he was just a kind of vain person who put it on in the morning for teaching like I do so the eyes will look a bit more awake.

On the way out, with our new shoulder bags with pencils and pens that were missing a lot of materials for some, we saw the fired-accused-of-theft-girl talking to some cops on the sidewalk in front of the cop car.

Turned out that I knew two people in my class from separate former lives, Tina and Jessica.  Good to have friends in there!

Next day Wednesday, I got there early and was sitting there just before 9am and hardly anyone there, and no teacher in sight.  Tina came over and had the brilliant idea to go check out another room, smaller, downstairs.  It was just too big up there and we were moving more than twice as slow as the other classes.  The new teacher graciously let us in even though we were behind and had to catch up.  No problem, at least now we were doing something in class, l e a r n i n g!  We did role playing about door knocking and went over the different situations and how to handle them.

The teacher was a CL in the process of making FOS (pronounced foz).  Crew Leader being promoted to Field Officer S___.  So he had to go to meetings at lunch break and kept having updated info about the situation out there.  Whole crews of enumerators were being fired as were Crew Leaders, so they needed people fast, and by the end of Thursday he was offering people in the class to be Crew Leader right off the bat.  Friday of training was canceled for all trainees, that’s it, go out there and finish you’re assignment cases.

Oh, see, I was just going to write here about what a sucky day it was at work today, out there in the trenches, but I got distracted by all the background details.

People have no idea how hard this job can be sometimes.

Anyway, working really blows!  No time to get anything done!  One of Those days I guess… more on the good the bad and the characters of the neighb next time.

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