This morning a gentleman from the census bureau knocked on my door. I refer to him as a gentleman because his grey hair was combed back nicely with just the right amount of gel. He wore khakis with just enough pockets to make them questionably cargo pants, and his name badge hung over his blue, zip up fleece top. The apparel was pretty standard “comfy-casual” for this neck of the woods. But like I said, the hair made him a gentleman.
After he grabbed his laptop with its giant U.S. Census sticker on it I invited him in. I didn’t offer him coffee as that seemed too friendly an invitation for someone I wasn’t quite yet positive wouldn’t be murdering me in the next 5 minutes. He asked me the standard census questions, but as this was my first home visit I wasn’t quite yet sure what to expect. I fumbled on my husband’s birth date, first correcting myself on the day (“seventh, not seventeen”) and then letting it slide when I realized I also gave him the wrong year (“my husband was born in 1988?!”). I also over estimated my yearly income, choking as I secretly vowed to brush up on my mental math skills. I imagined myself sitting before a jury some time from now being questioned as to why I gave so many wrong answers. I also thought about how ashamed I would be the next time I read some sort of national population statistic, knowing that my answers were slightly off. “Accurate to the best of my knowledge” hopefully applies to my poor memory for birth dates and horrid math skills.
Even more concerning was the fact that this man was possibly judging me as he sat in my two room home (“if I sleep in the attic does that count as a second room, and does it count as a bedroom?” was my answer to his 8th question). The upside down patio chair laying next to the couch, the dirty floors, the long, white cat hairs strewn everywhere like confetti. I watched him type in between questions wondering if he was taking observational notes. “Fidgets as she answers questions regarding numbers,” “Says she has husband but incredible amount of cat hair appears to prove otherwise,” “Bird seed on kitchen counter – she possibly eats birdseed???” In my mind I see these notes being sold to retailers, ad agencies, and local mayors, maybe even Russia who would use them to calculate the stupidity of their frenemy.
I am an annoyingly clean person, or at least my husband thinks so. To have someone come into my house while even just one item is out of place causes a self evaluation of the highest scrutiny. I don’t spend countless hours every evening after work dusting cat hair, organizing my desk, and sweeping each square inch of my small home so that someone can stop by unannounced and find my home in a mediocre state. As I sat across from the gentleman in his barely cargo khakis I wondered what it would be like to have his job and see so many homes. I also wondered if his office was hiring.
Oh the excitement of stopping by other people’s homes unannounced and seeing what items may be out of place or what other people did while home on a Wednesday at 9am. Maybe my barking lap dog was a breeze to a man who probably stopped by a lot of homes filled with small children and blaring day time talk shows. The perspective one must gain by showing up at strangers houses unannounced!
As he left, the gentleman (who never once tried to murder me by the way) called back at me from his black Buick “you have a great place here!” and I thanked him, knowing he must be referring to the sunshine and tweeting birds flying over his head. And as he drove away I thanked myself for cleaning the dog poop from the yard this morning.