Census collecting is pretty damn hard work.
It’s certainly proper healthy outdoorsy stuff, walking and talking in the sun; I go to bed genuinely tired, and my neck is tanned beneath the too-long mop I really need to cut off* (well, the neck is burned actually, but I can pretend it’s tanned); my arms would be too if I ever stopped wearing my one-colour long-sleeved shirts, though I never will.
I’m being paid £9/hour, which would be a pretty good rate for being a sort of reverse door-to-door salesman, except that there is no real way an hour of census collecting is going to take one hour of my time. As an example, a batch of sixty-something addresses has been calculated to be worth four of the government’s hours; a shade under 4 minutes per house sounds just about reasonable, given that while sometimes I’m just knocking, waiting and sliding a “please return your census bro” leaflet in, and sometimes going through the laborious purpose of addressing and barcoding a new form for them (so far nobody has required me to actually fill their form in for them… so far). But I’m not going down streets, but picking on sometimes extremely poor route maps (it would help if they gave us actual street paths rather than a hideously broad and poorly delineated AO map), and there’s usually a minute or two of travel time between them; and I’m expected to visit all these houses two or three times.
Plus there’s travel time to the AO – I’ve been lucky so far that most of it’s been ten-fifteen minutes’ bike ride away (though up some steep hills, carrying a *lot* of census paperwork – again, HEALTHY! But also sweaty and tiring) – which I don’t get paid for; and then the followup paperwork of double-checking my stuff, filling in the dummy forms, making sure my forms all conform; and my one hour of census collecting might have taken an hour and three quarters by the time I’m done. So it’s still good solid work, but not so competitively paid as it sounds, and I’m not enjoying the fundamental discord between expectations vs what’s actually possible – but Dad informs me that this sort of employee abuse is pretty much par for this sort of work, and you do what you can.
But it is definitely not boring. I can’t tell specific stories, sadly; they fall under the century-long statute of limitations applying to all census data. (The awesome bloke who did our classroom training,** when I asked if I was allowed to tell census anecdotes in a hundred years’ time, said “not only can you tell them, you can tell people I said you can tell them.”) But I have learned that places which look deceptively nice from Google Maps – even Streetview level – are often still quite shitty, unpleasant and run-down when your boots are actually on the glass-scattered, miscellaneously stained ground; and I have also learned that even in places that could have been backdrops to The Wire, I have so far not felt threatened, and there seems to be no correlation between the “niceness” of a neighbourhood and the actual niceness and friendliness of the people. Some people are shit. Most people are actually pretty cool daddio.
I’m very much on my own out there, and self-discipline is pretty nice – but it comes with a) going into scary buildings with no backup and b) having no help except the giant book of regs and the seemingly-rather-divorced-from-reality classroom training. We’ve not been given enough of the replacement H1 forms, and several times I have been terribly embarrassed by having to stop and fumble through my paperwork; and I have resorted to using my proper backpack to hold my folder and backup forms rather than the bespoke, census-branded bag because I simply can’t take that damn thing on a bike (also, it doesn’t hold my thermos.) I am sure that after a week or two I’ll have this all down to a fine craft, but at the moment it’s all a bit of a mess – the sort of pressure and uncertainty that I normally thrive on, and would be massively enjoying if my house wasn’t going to shit.
*It doesn’t even look that bad objectively,*** just fuck the Young Tory look.
** The training session was at a travel inn at the absolute arse-end of nowhere. I’m not sure if this is a calculated trick to test our census-collector-intrepidity, or just plain government incompetence and inability to find a good venue.
*** Alright, so it looks awful.