Friday, August 27, 2010

Census Report: Fringe Benefits

Among many unexpected gifts, my temp gig with the U.S. Census Bureau brought me a handful of fine folks that I hope to keep in my life even after the paychecks run out. Many of my upper-level co-workers are displaced somebodies who came from positions of prestige; in other words, they're fucking smart, personable, clever, fun individuals who, like me, were laid off amid a desperate economy.

Among the two most influential are Otwane and Deborah.Deborah and I met on my first day of training back in February. I was a class of one, with this fabulous diva sitting in for supplemental training to her supervisory position as the head of Census Recruiting. Within the first hour, we sniffed kinship and she became a touchstone for me, truly my kind of lady.
Otwane was my supervisor from the beginning, and took awfully good care of me. In fact, it's because of him that I persisted for six months-plus, while some of my capable co-workers either completed assignments or fell into the dreaded federal black hole, never again to be called upon by the Census.

Early on, Otwane mentioned he had Googled me—which, at the time, I found irritating. My mandate from the start was to remain anonymous: to do my job based on face value, with no shadow of the past. What it took me months to realize—because I, in turn, did not investigate Ot—is that he also came from the music biz, working with 50 Cent, Young Buck and other rappers, and—most fun—serving as co-writer of Salt-N-Pepa's 1993 top 5 smash "Shoop." He appears prominently in the music video as the rapper (he comes in at 3:03)—which cracks my shit up. I annoyed him to no end by taping a color still of him from the video onto my Census badge.
Then there's Zanne. We served as fellow Crew Leaders during the first operation, GQ (Group Quarters). One Sunday we were working at a senior facility, shuffling through a mountain of forms and I sat on the floor, crossed my legs and started parceling stacks. Apparently, Suzanne liked the down-home vibe; she looked me in the eyes and said, "I like you."

From then on, we spent as much Census time together as possible; she'd pick me up in her SUV just so we could drive to the office together. We aligned for a number of facilities—in particular a woman's shelter that was mind-blowing in the amount of heartbreak we witnessed during that 10-hour day. Those experiences bring people closer together, you know? I adore Zanne's tough veneer. She's a broad... with a heart. And now, bless my heart, she's my friend.Since, I've been to her home several times, met her man Ralph, cooked out on the deck and been to Costco together.Among co-workers, Dennis and Trien have been mainstays since we began GQ together... and all three of us got renewed again and again, thanks to Otwane's fine taste in sniffing out hard-working talent, eh? I think if I were to look back on my Verizon Wireless records, I'd have 10,000 texts between the three of us over the past six months. Good folks... and the only pics I have of them: Otwane and Dennis at Brooklyn's Green-Wood Cemetery; and Trien at Grand Army Plaza's main Brooklyn Library branch.Addendum!
On Thursday, a heap of "retiring" Census workers met at Union Hall in BK for a farewell gathering. At last, I can legally post pictures! First names only, mind youse.

Census kin: Otwane, meese & Dennis. Sadly, Trien couldn't make the farewell. We four were together for the seven months I endured at the gig.I was thrilled to see Deborah again, stylish as ever; she left the Census a couple months ago.The big guns: Harry, Irv and Otwane, three of the office chiefs.Denise, the head of our Local Census office, meese & Eunice.A gaggle of Census workers from our 2226 LCO.With Joan, a daily point of contact. Good lady.Karina, born and bred in Brooklyn with the accent to prove it; and Duwake.In February, the Census was a blessed means to an income. What a bonus: meeting people whose influence will be felt for a good long time.