What’s behind the knock? Fun facts

I was really looking forward to the training for this job. I had high hopes – perhaps unrealistic expectations – for how enlightened I would be once trained. I can only imagine what the collective insight is from census takers, who have been knocking on doors since ]this started in 1790. They must have seen everything.

After a 12.5 hour curriculum, thankfully on land technology (i.e., my laptop), I did get some of that. I also got the history of the census I got a lot of information on laws against discrimination – and lots of examples of what discrimination was – er, is.

Anyway, here is some of what I learned (and if you want to know more about what goes into the making of an enumerator, just ask).


There were 5,474 injuries to enumerators during the last decennial, in 2010, The hit parade, so to speak:

“No bad dogs,” she said, while keeping out of biting range.
  • Falling while walking, 39% (and back then we weren’t eye-glued to cell phones)
  • Motor vehicle accidents, 34%
  • Animal (mostly dog) bites, 27%.


— People can be mean, certainly. But I was delighted to learn that attacking a census worker is a federal offense. I doubt the guy with the baseball bat knows that, however. I hope I have time enough to inform him before he swings. 

— The census was established in the Constitution. So it legally has to be conducted every 10 years (every year ending in a “0”).

It also means census takers are on a sort of mission from, well, the Constitution, and we have a legal right to knock on doors. “No Soliciting” signs do not apply, nor do “No Trespassing” or “Private Property” or even “Stay the F**k Out” signs (though the latter might make me pause, Constitutional coverage or no….). There have been lawsuits about this issue, as recent as a month ago, but it seems — like scissors cut paper — the census wins.


“Are you male or female?” (There’s no “other” — maybe next decennial). I’m a little worried about asking this question while standing in front of the person. Then again, someone called me “little boy,” when I was 19 years old.

And I do suppose there are a lot of those SNL-esque “Pat” situations.


We learned interview skills and how to get someone to talk.  The Bureau has this “A+ advice for interaction” system I’ll share — maybe you can use it too.

  • Acknowledge (people’s concerns like privacy);
  • Answer (tell them the facts, like everything’s confidential) an
  • Ask for help. The latter – “so, okay could you help me out here and let’s answer this questionnaire together” – sounded a little contrived to me (why should they care about my job?)   but research shows that appealing to their magnanimity/knowledge/possession of desirable data works.


There are soft refusals and hard ones. The soft, you may be able to flip with some good things about the census, and assurances of privacy.  Then there are the hard no’s, like the baseball bat, or the door in the face, or the verbal threat. One training slide showed a guy with his hand on a pistol. Yeah, then you leave; the “Thank you anyway” nicety optional.

After my online training, I did some role-playing on the phone with my supervisor. He said I did fine, but I was pacing and sweating.

Still, I got my training certificate. I will be unleashed tomorrow. Supposedly ready for whatever comes next.

Actually that became a mantra during my career as a travel writer. The unknown is what I’m good at.

In my own ‘hood, the unknown should be pretty easy, then…


#census2020 #dogs #safety #funny #Constitution #census-taker


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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