At-Home Dad As Census Taker

Would it be fun/interesting/a break from laundry, cooking and squabbling children to get a job with the 2010 U.S. Census? I took the half-hour field employee placement test last month, and I might find out soon.

A few days earlier when I took the practice test, I didn’t finish in the allotted 30 minutes. Of course, I was taking it at the dining table while the radio was on and my Lovely Bride was telling me about her day — lots of mmm-hmmms on my part — while she cleaned up the kitchen (“Sweetie, could you do the dishes? I really need to get ready for the test on Friday.”)

Or it could have been that the test took me back to the GREs I took in the 90s. All those annoying questions asking if Paul sits next to Mary, whose sister Francine lives across the street from Roger, then which one had a Reuben sandwich for lunch yesterday? Who cares, I say, because it had sauerkraut, which I don’t like.

But as someone who never served in the military, this is a small way to serve my country. I thought it might be interesting to work at the ground level of a nation-wide effort to get a sense of who we are as Americans. And it doesn’t hurt to pull down $17 an hour without getting shot at. Plus, it’s part-time and temporary. Perfect for me as an at-home dad.

You don’t find out your specific job or hours until they call you (who doesn’t like a little controlled chaos in life?), but it sounds like most jobs involve knocking on doors of people who didn’t mail back their forms or who filled them out incorrectly. At least it’s not like where I had to sell markers and wrapping paper for marching band in high school (shudder).

I know the census happens every 10 years. But for me, it’s probably a once-in-a-lifetime event. At 27, I was a fully employed New Jersey newspaper reporter with no children. Ten years from now at 47, I’ll have hormonal teenagers in the house. Not the greatest time for Dad to spend more time away from home.

The day of the test, I drove to a cinderblock-and-fluorescent-lights meeting room upstairs in a firehouse in Cockeysville, Md. This time, I knew not to linger on tricky questions. That didn’t stop me from doing one of the multiplication problems four times and getting four different answers. It was three digits times three digits, and one had a decimal in it. The fifth time was the charm, however. Its answer matched one of the others I got, so I picked that one. (And to think I worked in business news for years.) It took longer to fill out the application than it did to take the test, so I couldn’t stick around to get my score — I needed pick up Carla on time from preschool.

Ironically, the Census office guy giving me my score over the phone said I got 26 out of 28 correct, for a score of 97%. Either that’s his idea of a little census-worker humor, or they hire people who aren’t so good with numbers. Twenty-six divided by 28 is 93%, pal.

Government employment, here I come!

Here are two questions from the practice test, which you can find online.

S1. Multiply the numbers below:

1.5 x 6.3

 A .945

B 9.45

C 94.5

D 945

(The correct answer is 9.45, which is answer option B.)

9. The Field Operations Supervisor (FOS) will issue one identification card to each Crew Leader. Crew Leaders will issue one identification card to each enumerator. Clerks will be issued identification cards by the FOS only if necessary for them to work outside the office on special tasks and in contact with the general public. All identification cards issued to Crew Leaders and enumerators must be turned in to the Field Operations Supervisor upon completion of work, separation, termination, or resignation. The FOS is responsible for seeing that all returned cards are destroyed.

Which of the following is NOT a true statement?

A  The overall responsibility for identification cards rests with the Field Operations Supervisor.

B  Clerks may not always be provided with identification cards.

C  Enumerators who resign turn their identification cards in to their supervisor, the Crew Leader, who destroys them.

D  A Crew Leader’s identification card is destroyed when he/she resigns.

(The correct answer is C.)

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One response to “At-Home Dad As Census Taker

  1. I worked as an enumerator in the 2000 census, I was in rural PA. It is an ok job, just be prepared for the sinking feeling that accompanies knowledge that your co-workers and superiors have the combined intelligence of parsnips.

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