Daily Archives: 30 August 2011

I once more smell the dew and rain …

… and relish blogging.

Three main things have kept me away from the blog for such a long time, all of them involving earning of money and all of them now done with and money all but in the bank. All of them were interesting, but I’m only going to talk about one: I was a collector for the Census.

The Census Collector’s Sacred Oath of Confidentiality guarantees that I won’t subject you to any gossip of even the most abstract kind, but I can tell you that it was a very interesting and – actually – heartening experience. I was variously hailed as ‘the Census man’, mostly greeted warmly both when dropping off material and when picking them up. The vast majority of the people I had dealings with were either pleased or uncomplainingly willing to be part of the Census: ‘I want them to know I was here.’ Once or twice I thought I was being fobbed off when someone told me to come back ‘on the weekend’ or said they ‘should be able to get it done by Monday’ (this was on a Thursday), but each time I was smilingly proved wrong.

I started out feeling like an intruder in people’s lives: ‘Here are your forms. How many males and how many females will be here next Tuesday night? Just you and your partner? So that would be one of each, or … ?’ I progressed to a sense of myself as a personification of our interconnectedness: ‘Here’s your chance to contribute .’ And then towards the end as I was going back for the fourth or fifth time and finding no one home or forms not yet completed (‘Sorry, mate, we’ve been busy/haven’t got around to it/lost the form’), I realised I was the little man from the government.

I was offered one cup of tea, told two life stories, given three helpful suggestions for improving the census (all involving the need for more questions), reproached once for not knowing the completed form had been left under the mat, attacked by no savage dogs. I walked in on one tragedy, in a  household that gave me a form with good grace. I left my phone number when I didn’t make contact, and had half a dozen calls or text messages that all made life easier. It was a sustained reminder that we are a cooperative species, that Australians, at least on my four blocks, are clear that at least some government agencies are to be trusted.

I’ve handed over my record book and passed in my ID card. There are no longer stacks of blank and filled forms taking up shelf space in the spare bedroom. I’m back to being a private citizen. The pay isn’t great, but I recommend the experience. Keep your eyes peeled for the job ads in 2016.