When it arrived I knew I’d arrived.
For years I had dreamed of being considered important enough to be asked to fill out the long form from the Census Bureau. It began when I finally owned a house with more than one bathroom and I wanted to tell someone.
Only on the long form does the all-important bathroom question come up. The American Community Survey — which used to go out only in census years but now is done annually — also asks whether we Americans have a phone, indoor plumbing, whether we heat with gas or oil, how many cars we have, whether we have health insurance, how fertile we are.
Some people don't think it is any of the government's business. But if someone wants to know how fertile I am, I'm telling them.
Eager as I am to help U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke Count America, I always get the short form. That's the one being promoted this year as "10 Questions in 10 Minutes." Is that all you've got? I give more personal information to get a Macy's card.
Therefore, the day it arrived in the mail was like my birthday, Opening Day and St. Patrick's Day all rolled into one festive package. I felt like a high school senior who gets the thick envelope from a college — the one with the "Welcome-to-Our-University" brochure, not the skinny one with the "Thank-you-for-applying-but-we-received-many-applications-from-highly-qualified-students" letter.
"Do Not Destroy. Official Document," read the rather chubby envelope.
"Census Document Registered To: Mr. Peter Callaghan."
"DELIVER EXCLUSIVELY TO: Peter Callaghan."
And they did. I ripped open the envelope as carefully as I could so as not to destroy it because I didn't want to start this special relationship with the census by disobeying its very first demand.
Inside was a four-page form complete with a Census Tracking Code (mine was A10PD292). I read the instructions carefully.
"When finished answering your Census, please return it along with your generous contribution in the enclosed postage-paid envelope."
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