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  • Betty Girardeau

The Lights Are On, And Nobody's At Home

I have a new appreciation for this phrase. Friday's cases were much closer to home, though I did put in a total of 78 miles for the day. It poured rain on Thursday night, a total of over four inches in my rain gauge. And most of Friday was pretty wet and misty. Since I am a "new hire," all of my cases have been visited before by other enumerators, which can make the case notes pretty interesting sometimes. In most of these cases the enumerators have not been able to talk to the actual resident, which requires trying again, and/or find a neighbor who would be a willing proxy let us know if the resident had been at their address on Census Day, April 1, 2020. Successive enumerators try to close those cases with either finally encountering the resident or getting useful information from a neighbor. My job is to close the ones that could not be closed before, or that the information to do so had not been sufficient. I had 37 assigned cases on Friday, nine of which had already been designated as "dangerous." Thankfully, I did not get to one of those until it was time to call it a day and head home. But I wouldn't have gone there anyway after reading case notes that said an earlier enumerator had been bitten by a dog, especially since I encountered an aggressive dog at my last case. It's interesting to find that there are so many people living in this area that have second homes in other states. They have apparent yard care while away, and, in some cases, have lights that have been left on, either inside or outside, or both. When trying to find a proxy, I have found that it is also not uncommon to go to a neighbor's house and see lights on but no one at home (or willing to answer the door). But, because it was a rainy week day, I expect in some cases where I could not contact the resident or a proxy, they had just left their lights on when they left for work because it was so dark and gloomy that morning. I did meet some really nice people, all proxies, and saw some parts of Vonore, Tennessee, that I did not even know existed. I think what is also eye-opening is seeing up close the wide disparity between those that obviously are well off and those that aren't, and they can quite literally live just a few houses away. I did have a funny thing happen just before my shift was supposed to start and I already had my case assignments for the day. I got a text message from another supervisor in, of all places, Grundy, Virginia, saying that I had been assigned to her today. Now talk about a commute from East Tennessee to Grundy, Virginia!! Well, of course, it turned out to be a mixup and was corrected pretty quickly corrected by my supervisor. But this all makes me really appreciate and understand better how complicated and difficult it is to make a proper census count. By virtue of the rules of the Constitution, censuses have been tabulated since 1790. If I think it is difficult and sometimes impossible now in 2020, what must it have been like then?

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