During the Address Update, we used the hand-held computers (HHC) I mentioned before. It was a handy little gadget, complete with a GPS locator that would show me exactly where I was at any given time. It was not a complete GPS like we use in our cars, in that it could not give me directions.
We used the locator to place a spot on our maps to indicate the exact location of a house. I would stand 10 feet from the front door, wait for the spotter to settle down, then tap the indicator with the stylus. The computer would place a black dot on the map in that spot in relation to the road. Worked really neat.
During the actual census, these map spots had been transferred to paper maps that the census taker would use to help locate a house.
For those of you who have never been out into the farming community of your area, you may not be able to understand why we would need something like this. But, in the hills, with their twisted turning roads that become gravel to clay back to pavement without warning, these maps can be a great benefit.
In this type of area, the postal service does not go to every single house. Often, there is a row of mailboxes at the bottom of a hill on the corner of the intersection. These mailboxes can be more than a mile from the household to which they belong.
During the census, some of my people had a map with the housing spots all clumped together at the intersection!
Because some enterprising, shiftless employee who recognized an easy dollar, sat at the bottom of the hill using the HHC to map-spot the mailboxes!!
This made it extremely difficult for the census taker, because many of these houses did not have house numbers at their physical location.
Time wasted. Money wasted. Resources wasted.
But, who cares? I got mine!!
As to the houses without numbers, which has nothing to do with the census–don’t people realize the jeopardy they are putting themselves in?
Most folks who move out into the country backwoods are trying to get away from many things including government intrusion. So, the census workers were not very welcome at some of these locations.
But house numbers on the street are not put there so that Big Brother can spy on you. He does that with or without your house number. Numbering your location–in town or out-of-town–could save your dwelling in the event of fire or your life in some other disaster.
But people think they can hide with these silly little subterfuges.
I knocked on one door of a lovely two-story home out in one of these areas. No one answered the door, and I heard nor saw any signs of life. It was about 9:30 in the morning.
I backed up from the door, held my HHC, and was about to pinpoint the spot when the window upstairs flew open.
“What are you doing?!?” the lady demanded. She had a phone and was in conversation with someone on the other end.
I calmly and politely identified myself, and told her what I was doing with the census and with the HHC.
She wanted to know how the HHC worked, and I told her.
She said, “I don’t want the government to know where I am.”
After I told her I wasn’t after her name or any other information, I told her that the satellites overhead could see me standing in her yard talking with her.
She screamed, “Cannot!!” And then she softly said, “Oh.”
Her daughter, on the other end of the phone conversation, confirmed what I had told her.
Fear manifests itself in weird ways.
I had been to a house in a neighborhood in the suburbs. I spoke with the gentleman, talked about different things, told him what I was doing, and then went on my way.
Somehow, I failed to gather the mapspot for his location, but didn’t realize it until I was almost done with the block.
I went down the rest of the block, and then returned to his sidewalk.
I was standing there collecting the mapspot–which I had previously described to him–when the front door flew open and he came running out demanding, “Why are you taking pictures of my house?”
I guess that could be considered a legitimate question, but the demanding tone indicated something more than simply gathering information. He was trying to intimidate me.
Number one, I am not easily intimidated. Number two, it is perfectly legal for me to take picture of any house that I can see from the street. Number three, I wasn’t taking pictures. Number four, I had just told him not more than 10 minutes prior what I was doing.
I calmly explained that I was the guy who had just been to his house, and that I had failed to get the mapspot that I had told him about.
“Oh,” he said, backing down from his posturing. “The lady across the street called me and said someone was outside my house taking pictures.”
Those of you reading this will have plenty of explanations as to why he might have been that way, but I still call it fear. He believed the negative that someone told him, rather than his own experience.
I met a lot of strange people during my time with the census, but I worked with just as many.