I don’t count. I simply do not exist nor do I count to the American government. Ten years ago I was overseas and wasn’t counted. As it happens, Americans living abroad not involved with the government are simply not counted in the census. Thus, for the last two censuses I’ve been nonexistent. A census representative had a booth set up in my home town. I asked the gentlemen about my status and made him exceedingly sad when I made a sad remark about not mattering. I think he took me a bit literally. Anyways, he filled me in on the policy of us non-VIPs living overseas. The bare bones of it—you don’t count.
This wasn’t my first interaction with the 2010 census. Down in Texas (where we did a bit of traveling last winter) we noticed dozens of billboards along the Mexican border with signs like “Be honest on the Census. Immigration officials do not have access to census files.” And things of that nature. We suddenly noticed some of Hollywood’s A-list stars on TV telling us politely to fill out the census forms. And each evening when we turned on the news we saw talking heads talking about the upcoming ordeal. How many millions were spent making these commercials, billboards and forms?—not to mention the folks who went door to door!
My personal experiences with the census didn’t stop with my sad encounter with the census rep in my home town. Nope, a young man came to the family home where I happened to be visiting and demanded to know why there were several people at the house when only one was listed. I told him I didn’t count, and he said that I did! Success! I matter again! He took down my name and hopped in his Toyota and zipped down the driveway as I basked in my newly gained self importance. I matter!
Alas, this simply isn’t the case. Recently up in the Upper Peninsula, in Michigan, a census woman emerged from the woods and inquired about our residency and status. We told her we sometimes matter and sometimes don’t, depending on which census representative is asking. Turns out we decidedly don’t matter in the UP. Defeated again! (although obviously, the April 1st point did not apply to us) On a funny side note, this poor lady said some of these cabins in the woods she is sent to have no roads, only paths, and she has walked several miles down trails only to emerge suddenly in the front yard of a small cabin. “Aren’t you worried about getting shot?” I asked her. “I’d get worker’s comp.” she replied. Funny lady. Apparently she has walked and hiked and driven all over the UP and has quite a few interesting encounters with the yoopers (upper peninsula locals) not to mention the very active wildlife. She confirmed my earliest suspicion that we didn’t matter and then laced up her hiking boots and headed back into the woods. This is one very thorough government!
Despite the seeming confusion about the census, I’m very excited to see the results. I can’t wait to see how some of the places I’ve lived and visited have changed and grown (or shrunk, whatever the case). I think it is a great practice, and I am honestly excited about it. Almost like a sitcom you love that you have to wait to see the finale for—come on 2010 census information! I wonder how long it will take for the results to get into the public domain (aka-Wikipedia) for each city/county/state, etc.