Sunday, May 16, 2010

Census Report: Damn, That Felt Good...

If you'd have asked me three months ago, the notion of sitting in front of a classroom of Census trainees to narrate the minutia of their upcoming role would've scared the loving bejesus out of me.

Despite the fact I was a member of my high school & college public speaking teams (trophies in possession, pictured below) and a DJ at a radio station in my hometown of Lynchburg, Va., the passage of so many years (all right, already, decades) left my comfort level a far distant memory.

To my surprise, when given no choice but to play teach, I found that not only did those long-dormant skills froth back to the surface, but I actually had a helluva time reciting repetitious, bland “verbatim” and turning it into an animated, interactive affair.

So when called into action again this week to train a class of 13 newly hired enumerators for the Census’ knock-on-doors operations known as NRFU, I was eager to return to the scene of the benign.

Herein lies one of the charms of this ongoing adventure with my part-time U.S. Census Bureau gig: It’s all up to me to prove myself anew, with no preconceived reputation as that “Billboard guy.” No one knows, nobody cares where I came from—and frankly, I cherish it.

The experience was again a rush. I walked into the training session Tuesday, after the group had already spent a full day training with Crew Leader L. When I arrived, she announced, “It’s all yours, brother. I just can’t read anymore.” Typically, there was one Missy—that woman with 5,000 questions—but I managed to diffuse her with a light touch: “Again? I have an idea. Write down your questions and we’ll review them at the end of the lesson. Then your arm won’t hurt so much.” She actually apologized before proposing follow-up “what ifs.” Score!

Then there was K, a slacker who had the audacity to lay down her head on the table, crossed arms and shut eyes. I clapped my hands mid-paragraph: “No sleeping! This is your job and you are being paid. We will not sleep on the job.” She appeared dumbfounded, while I pondered, is she really that dumb?

At the end of the training week, I was rewarded with humble satisfaction, as well as a kind reward, when trainee P remarked, “It’s so nice to have a professional trainer.” I beamed liked a buffoon.

God bless this gig. Temp it may be, but this experience is going to serve me in positive ways for the rest of my days.