Friday, April 3, 2009

The Census Panda part 2

It took us a few days to get to the census. As I said previously, we aren't good at doing things, and we especially aren't good at doing things together, because although we have parallel lives, we have completely different schedules. But yesterday, the stars aligned, the kitchen table was cleared of its usual clutter, and I flopped the big newsprint survey down and got to work.

The first few questions are easy. What is today's date? What is your name? How many people live at this address? Over the next few pages, Josh and I are transformed from two complex writer-types with hobbies and interests diverse and varied into Person 1 (me) and Person 2 (Josh.) The survey gives us plenty of room for other housemates (10 more, I think, and if we need to, we can call for any other residents in excess of a dozen) and I ponder, for a moment, how much trouble we'd be in if we claimed Jesus and Moxie as roommates. Probably a lot.

In any case, filling out the survey gives me a profound sense of accomplishment. I breeze through the brief profile of Persons 1 and 2, and get to skip several pages because we don't have children or other roommates. I'm cooking with the proverbial gas.

There's a whole section about the house. Do we rent or own? Is there hot and cold water? A flush toilet? A bathtub or shower? A sink with a faucet? A stove or range? A refrigerator? Telephone service from which you can receive or make calls? I pause here to think about the kind of housing one must have to answer no to all of these questions. Are there people, for example, who are paying rent on apartments without flush toilets? The census leads me to believe that there are, and I say a quick prayer of thanks to the Great Panda for providing me with such thoroughly adequate housing.

But then things get complicated, and quick. What is Person 1's ancestry or ethnic origin? I write Portuguese in carefully, making sure each letter is perfect. Then I scribble "Hillbilly," erase, "Okie", erase, "Mutt", erase, "Heinz 57", erase. I am sad that this isn't multiple choice--my ethnicity of choice is "Other."

And then come the funny questions. "Does Person 1 have difficulty dressing or bathing?" The answer to this question is yes, but not because of an infirmity. Primarily, my dressing difficulties have to do with my inability to do laundry regularly and my pathetically one-note wardrobe. "What kind of work does Person 1 do?" Teaching/Tutoring. "What where this person's primary job responsibilities?" I don't want to be snarky to the census, so I try to find an answer that isn't Teaching/Tutoring, but there isn't one. I hope the census will keep in mind that Person 1's ancestry/ethnic origin makes her exceptionally likely to be a smartass.

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