Seinfeld Census


July 25, 2010 by David Gillaspie

“Is this 129 W. 81st Street?”

“Yes.  Yes it is.  This is 129 W. 81st Street.”

“Did you live here on April, 1, 2010?”

“Who wants to know?  What are you, a census taker?”

“As a matter of fact yes, I am an enumerator.”

“Really.  Enumverator.  Is that even a real word?”

“Did you live here on April 1st?”

“Well, Mr. Enumerator, it just so happens I’ve witnessed a real enumeration and you’re leaving parts out.  I want my information sheet.  I want you to explain how raising your hand and taking an oath ensures my confidentiality.”

“Right.  Think of it like you might The Father, The Son, and The Holy Ghost.”

“I’m Jewish.”

“Good.  God is The Father.  Jesus is The Son Of God.  If there’s anything else that confuses you, look to The Holy Ghost.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“I raised my hand and said in front of witnesses that I would limit any information I might glean from you to the form in my hand.”

“That’s good enough for me.  Yes, I lived here on April 1st.”

“Does someone usually live at this apartment, or is this a vacation or seasonal home?”

“That’s more like it.  Now you sound official.  I usually live here.”

“How many people live here?”

“That depends.  You know I was thinking maybe someone was staying over on April 1st.”

“Just that night?”

“They were definitely here around midnight if that counts for something.”

“I’ve still got one.”

“And my neighbor has a key.  If I’m out of town he stays here sometimes.”

“The neighbor has an apartment?”

“Right across the hall.”


“And an old girlfriend is always here.  It’s sort of our thing.  A small group doing stuff all the time.  Like a family.”

“They stay here?”

“They have.  I only mention it to see if it pertains to the census.  I’m fascinated by our nation’s numbers.  You must be too.”

“What is your first name?”

“Before we get into the details, answer me just one question.  Can you do that?”

“If it will help with the Enumerator Questionnaire.”

“What would you rather be doing right now?”

“It’s funny you’d ask.”

“It’s part of my schtick.  Funny business.”

“At first I could barely knock on a door.  An episode of CSI Miami had a census guy knock on a meth lab door and get killed.  Then Betty White did the census on SNL.  It got easier.  Then it got sort of fascinating.  Knocking on a door for the census is like taking the microscope to America.  You see things and hear things and you know its normal living for the folks on the other side of the door, but not what you’d expect.”

“Such as…?”

“Remember that oath thing you doubted?  It’s a real oath.  I took a one similar in the Army.  It means something, and right now it means I’m not giving you something to put into your act.”

“Like that could happen.”

“Okay, I knock on a door.  The garage door next to me goes up.  A woman drives out in her car.  I say I’m a census guy.  She screams that she wants nothing to do with the census, me, or any other goon, and to get off her property.  I went next door to knock.  The door was open with a screen door shut.

“A man comes to the door holding a kid.  I tell him what I’m doing and he opens the screen and sits on the threshold like pulling up a stool to a pickle barrel.  We roll through the questions while he feeds his kid.  This young guy with such a trusting face and open way next to the screamer.  I don’t mention the screamer, but did ask what he did for a living.  Here’s Mr. Mom making it look like a breeze.”

“What’s he do?”

“Teacher.  He’s a teacher.  He’s got the magnetism with his own kids who came out to see what daddy was doing and walk back when he asked them to.  Serene.  And he teaches.  He’s got to have a classroom packed to the ceiling with kids.  And I imagined him putting his calm vibe in the room to get the kids task.”

“Wow.  I mean, wow.  I could feel it.”

“Think about that when you hear about schools in the next town you play.”

“You know, I will.”

“Funny thing is he’s more than a teacher.  There’s something else that might make a difference in him.  He’s also a wrestling coach.  The man had the calmest air about him I’ve ever seen.  I’ve knocked on doors of nervous people, people who don’t speak english, people who don’t trust the government or democrats or republicans or men or women.  Then this guy.  Calm and cool and the most lethal character on the block.  He knows how to unscrew things that might screw up.  Makes you want to do things right.”

“Like finish up here?”

“It’s a start.  Your first name?”



2 thoughts on “Seinfeld Census

  1. David Gillaspie says:

    I’m finding more and more that experience comes from the ‘More than I expected’ section. Who expects to be accused of CIA level sneakiness, or become a whipping post for those unhappy with the President. It all came with the territory, but I don’t remember any warnings.

  2. Skip says:

    Funny stuff Dave…elaborately similar to my experience…the threatening messages on my phone from a guy that I left a notice of visit on his door…Then there were the conspiracy theorists paranoid of the “gubmint” and the little 85 year old lady answering through a crack in her door, a small shadowed silhouette with a horrified look on her face as she closed the door…Refusals, perfectly acceptable for an enumerator to record until a regional supervisor instructs others to invade their privacy to extract the data at any cost it seemed…Yeah, what an experience…

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