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Mar 18

Written by: Greg Runyon
3/18/2010 8:26 AM 

I got my census form in the mail the other day.  I filled it out and mailed it back the very next morning, like a good citizen.  I did this for two reasons.  I heard a news report on the radio that said the government could save something on the order of 1.5 billion dollars if everyone who received the form filled it out and mailed it back promptly.  I’m all for saving 1.5 billion, so I got right on it.  You should too.  That’s your own money you’re saving, after all.


The other, probably more important reason that I promptly returned my form was a previous, scarring experience I had with the census.  I can’t say I recall the 2000 census.  It was probably about as boring for me as this one was—fill out the form, send it back.  The 1990 census, however, is one that will haunt me forever.


At that time I was living in Currier Hall at the University of Iowa with my friends Hunter* and Goldie*.  I remember when the census forms all got delivered to our mailboxes there.  Being a bit of a fussy lad at the time (I’ve gotten over it, I think), I was put off, to say the least, by the demand that we fill out the census form and return it within 48 hours or suffer the consequences.  If I’d known then the consequences I would suffer, I would have complied.  At the time however, I thought the demand was simply disrespectful.  I was a very busy student, or at least had I applied myself I would have been.  The point is they didn’t know that I wasn’t under tremendous pressure to finish some big student-y project, report, or what have you.  I could have been swamped.  Give me a week or something to turn that thing around, not two days.  Sheesh.


Having thus been insulted by the government, I chose the path of civil disobedience.  No, I didn’t organize a march on the Pentacrest.  That would have required effort.  I chose instead to, well, just keep on doing what I did, which generally included sleeping late and having the time of my life.


Big mistake.  A couple of days later, having savored my victory over an oppressive government, I was brutally reminded that there is no stopping the federal bureaucracy. 


At the ridiculously early hour of like 10:30AM (this is college, for God’s sake, not boot camp), there was a pounding at the door.  “Census!” came the call of a female voice.  I rolled over to see Goldie across the room sitting bolt upright in bed, looking somewhat like Punxsutawney Phil just ripped from his hibernation hole.  In the other bunk, Hunter just glared at me, knowing this slumberus interruptus was entirely my fault.


The pounding on the door continued.  “Census!  And I’m not going away!”  One of us, I can’t remember who now, cleverly yelled “I’m naked!” at the door, hoping that might scare her away.  “I’m a grandmother,” came the retort, “I’ve seen it all before!”


From there, it’s all a bit of a haze, not unlike much of my college experience.  I opened the door, answered the nice grandmotherly lady’s questions (she wasn’t as nice as my grandmother, but let’s not quibble), and if I know myself, probably went back to bed.  The lesson here (I did learn stuff at college, despite majoring in sleeping) is that when the government demands action from you, it’s best to just suck it up and do whatever they want, or you’re going to get woken up.  Bear this in mind during this census season, and don’t say I didn’t warn you.


*Not actually their birth names.



3 comment(s) so far...

Re: Census!

A slight correction to your story is needed. It actually was an ungodly hour. It was between 7:00 and 7:30 a.m. which made it all the more rude and unnerving. She pounded on the door HARD! It was an, "I am on the football team and you slept with my girlfriend!" level of pounding. In fact, my first thought was fear that I had done something like that. I quickly remembered, however, that I had not touched a woman in at least 6 months, so I was off the hook.

When she yelled, "CENSUS!", I vividly remember casting at you the glare referenced above. You had celebrated your lack of compliance and openly mocked our government's chosen method of accounting for its citizenry. This was all on your head, pal. Deal with your mess.

I wonder if she worked for ACORN...

By Mitch "Hunter Rawlings, III" Towne on   3/18/2010 12:32 PM

Re: Census!

Oh, you college boys! How fun to know that your old roommate is a fan. And still funny, too! What about the other guy? Where is he? I remember you had a t shirt that said "abandon hope, all ye women who enter here" or something like that from your dorm. Hee hee.

By J on   3/22/2010 11:00 AM

Re: Census!

I, too, filled mine out immediately and sent it back the next day, for the same reasons that you did. It was a little disappointing and dull. I had expected more challenging and interesting questions. I resisted the temptation to be a different, more exciting race than I am. I feel grateful that I really have nothing to hide and can live openly as I am.
HOWEVER, I do now seriously doubt that the response the government gets is going to be anything like accurate- if I lived here as an immigrant, legal or otherwise, I would be frightened to answer. If I owed money, was a criminal, had issues with my past, etc. I would just probably have to falsify the information. I work with mostly middle-aged, Caucasians and many of them feel that "it is no one's business" so they purposely put down false info or are refusing to mail it back (or say thy are.) One added (or said she did) a bunch of fake children or grandchildren so that her school district would get more money from the federal government. Is someone checking this stuff? How CAN they check it? Maybe I should go to whatever website and find out the answers to my questions instead of wasting my time and yours here. But your college story was funny and real.

By Serious citizen on   3/22/2010 12:09 PM

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