Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Census Report: The Final Countdown

When I was hired as a temp employee for the U.S. Census Bureau last winter, I wrote in my first post about the gig, “After 10 months without anyone in journalism realizing they were surely suffering without my innate talent in their corner—and more urgently, with my unemployment benefits expiring in two weeks—this (is) no time for pride. Besides, the census experience sounds like it has potential to be quite an adventure. Among my life mantras: Anything with anecdotal potential is worth experiencing. It certainly sounds more fun than ringing up power cords at Radio Shack, yes?”

And how. It is stupefying to realize that was nearly seven months ago, as I transitioned from climbing over snow banks in February/March to enjoying the blossoming spring weather in May to enduring a daily flop sweat throughout this summer’s tenacious 90 degrees-plus days...

Somehow, connected to the right people, combined with the fed’s persistent outlay of follow-up operations, my tidy little turn as a Crew Leader was renewed time and again… as the Census became my financial savior of 2010. But now, at last... my number has come up.

As predicted, it was also a shitload of fun. Foremost, I got to know my Brooklyn intimately, connecting the dots between neighborhoods that I previously knew only in cursory fashion. After 14 years as a Manhattan snob, I am now a BK patriot. I treasure this city's rich history and diversity.

I also worked with a lot of cool, smart people (pics in a future post) within my varying Census duties. Now, as the door closes, I have to wonder with amusement how many names will stay with me, how long I’ll remember the office bathroom security code (4253), whether my federal ID will vanish out of short-term memory… how much of that routine was committed only to the here and now. I bet I'll never forget my daily "commute," walking from Brooklyn Heights up and down Fulton Street, taking in its seedy sites with near adulation.I sure as hell had a bountiful run, full of acronyms: from GQ and NRFU to QA, VDC and finally, NRFU RES. And now, as the Local Census Office begins laying off the 800 or so remaining staffers and emptying out the physical space, it's a wrap. For real, this time.

Yesterday, after my final office duties were done, I made a hasty getaway. I was afraid my emotions might bubble to the surface and I’d find myself getting misty. Temp it may have been, but the impact of this experience will remain with me for the long term. I learned a lot. I lived a lot. In the end, it counted. For a lot.