Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Census Report: The Count Begins

Let's get busy, baby! Boy, those winter weeks of placing recruiting cards on cars are a distant memory. A month ago, our LCO had the distinction of being first in NYC to complete AVIRs for GQs throughout our AA and thus, we were in danger of having no D308s for a matter of weeks. Can you believe it?

Okay, in English: Our Local Census Office finished its initial survey of temporary living quarters throughout Brooklyn/Northwest ahead of schedule and thus, the 10 Crew Leaders in my office, myself included, were in danger of being laid off until… now. Thankfully, we were all delegated to other departments, filling in with tasks that I’ve outlined in previous posts, to get to this point.

Starting tomorrow, the role that I was hired for shifts into high gear. As a Crew Leader, I will supervise 12 “enumerators,” who will survey, door to door, facilities throughout the district that house non-full-time residents, including soup kitchens, shelters, mobile food vans and places where the homeless are known to sleep. This is known as Service-Based Enumeration. The second mission—GQE or Group Quarters Enumeration—will count residents of dormitories, old-folks homes, prisons, rectories and similar facilities.

For the rest of this week, I will train the newly hired enumerators at a church in Prospect Park, BK, with a fellow crew leader, T. In all, we’ll have a class of 24: his 12 & my 12. Because the training location is nowhere remotely close to where I live, I’ll be up at 6:30 a.m. tomorrow, pour coffee down my gullet, and hit the subway by 7:15 to be there at 8, hang signage, arrange the room and begin training at 8:30.

The Census provides a manual, known as “the Verbatim,” where we sit and read, read, read. On Wednesday, we’ll go over a thousand federal mandates, including confidentiality, sexual harassment and showing them how to fill out 500,000 forms and then fingerprint each of them—twice—and swear in enumerators as federal employees. T and I have already split up the 200-page manual, which also builds in time for a thousand questions from the handful of hires that undoubtedly will be either overeager or dimwitted.

Thursday and Friday, we get into the meat of the matter, explaining what they’ll be doing for a living and the deadline structure—which leaves no time for waste. The SBE portion endures for all of three days. The GQE follows for a period of anywhere from two to three weeks.

Each enumerator will meet with me on a daily basis to get their assignments, while I hang in a pre-designated spot—hopefully some centrally located cafĂ© or coffee shop—and address any problems, make sure they’re getting their work done expeditiously and check to make sure they've filled out a host of forms correctly. It’s all very precise, with little room for error or waste. Believe me, while this is a federal job, every employee & task is highly accountable. The feds are watching. Closely.

I’m totally stoked about meeting my minions tomorrow—one of whom I will sniff out as my “Lead Enumerator.” Read: right-hand man or woman. I’m told that if any one of them has a car, they earn immediate points, since I can employ them to cart me around (don’t worry, they get paid for mileage). I’m also pretty psyched about the leadership position; even though I’m still fairly new at this and barely have a handle on all that’s ahead, I'm looking forward to having a hand as a supervisor, especially since the longer I was at Billboard, the less command I maintained, as new hierarchies continually came in and chose to designate their own leaders, leaving the most capable vets in the dust.

All told, this Census gig continues to be a wild and wonderful undertaking. I’m getting paid (much) less than half of what I made as a journalist, but the adventure offers a dividend of its own: recognition, creativity, bonding with a whole new group of folks that I'd have never met in my former life and the chance to prove myself with no previous record. It's good. Really good.