Sworn to secrecy

bureauswagWhen last we spoke (typed/read), I was heading out to a regional center to become an official census taker. This is a journey of sorts, and I have learned a few things about journeys during my career as a travel writer:

  1. You shouldn’t have expectations
  2. You may imagine what you will encounter, but in general you cannot imagine what reality has waiting for you.
  3. If you go into sponge mode and soak in whatever comes your way, you will never be bored and usually be delighted,

All of which were born out during today’s  appointment. Centro de Amigos community center, I was first greeted with a goody  bag, my first rite of passage and one that addressed the elephant in every room (can you spell PANDEMIC?).

It wasn’t a full-on goody bag — it was  white plastic, tied with a twist-tie, not ribbon with a branded flash drive dangling from the end. Within, there wasn’t swag, exactly — I mean, no candy or mints. But there were  two white cotton masks (no official bureau logo – a design decision that probably keeps them from  being flipped on eBay) and a bottle of New View Oklahoma  hand sanitizer, in conjunction with Prairie Wolf Distillery.

I was ushered to a seat at a table with a thick plastic barrier down the middle, and decorated in a beach theme, with jars of colored sand and rainbow flip-flops.

After filling out some boiler plate (like that?  it’s so bureau) employment paperwork and signing for the official work smartphone (more about that later), I stood along with three other new hires, and began the process of becoming really and truly inducted into the ranks of the census bureau — the taking of the oath of office. 

With our  right hands held up from a cactus-arm pose (as we like to say in yoga), fingers pressed together and palms facing out in  promise-gesture,  we  followed the  census-staffer’s lead and repeated phrases after him.bureauoverview

For, like, 10 minutes.  There were several times I actually flashed on the idea  that after all this oathing I might be moving into the White House.

It seemed an  alarmingly long time.  And now, really, I have to say I can’t remember all that I swore to.  But a couple of points did stand out:

I swore to God (really, I don’t mind, but I thought after all the lawsuits, freedom of religion acts, etc. this was kind of presumptuous, not to mention passé?)

I swore never to go on strike.

 But the biggest deal was that I swore to protect data. Protect it with my life.

Protect it now,  even after my job ended, forever.  Even if  thumbscrews, nail-pullers or waterboards (wait, not sure that’s an actual gadget) were introduced.  I could go to prison. Be fined I think like $250,000. And put a black mark on the  pristine reputation of the whole census operation.

bureaupamphletThis was one of my first big lessons: the census bureau takes confidentiality very, very seriously. In fact, the first handout I encountered when I came through the door today was a brochure, “Data Stewardship,” which I initially figured was for the new IT employees.

Nope. It’s me, on the front lines.  Steward.

Like the staff member on the  cruise ship — I’ll take care of you, and your data. Unlike the cruise steward,  I will  not  unpack your belongings.  We don’t want your personal baggage.

This is good. Reassuring.  This I will tell people upon whose doors I knock.

The government just wants statistics. Statistics they’ll use to calculate funds for social services, for your community’s fair share of representation in Congress, etc. Nothing nefarious. It’s my job to convince the people behind the doors  that the census is a good thing and that they should stand up and be counted.

Hopefully I will learn how to do this during my at-home training. bureaujillbadge2

#census2020 #employment #Covid-19 #humor #facemasks


jschensul View All →

I have two passions: animals and words. And I have managed to spend most of my life combining those two lvoes, using words to create awareness, to touch hearts, to help alleviate suffering, and to just make the world a kinder kind of place fdor all living things. I spent more than 30 years as a jo0urnalist at The Bergen Record newspaper, and have t a lifetime een using the power of words to XXX

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