The Canadian Writers' Collective

Writing, and writerly tangents

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Thou Shalt answer every question

by Thea Atkinson

The census has come and gone and I’m still sour about it. At the risk of riling up the masses, (like my poor Mum who tracks our family history and spends hours digging up reluctant bones of trivia about ancestors who probably would rather remain buried, and who gave me a what for in no uncertain terms when I complained, yet again, about filling out the census) I do understand the need; but I hate it.

You see, when I first moved to my new house as a cream faced, flat bellied (oh, how I miss those days) bride, I had a particularly nasty run in with a census taker. I worked as a manager at a job I really loathed because it meant confrontation day in and day out—and I’m not good at confrontation. I hate confrontation. I’m a meek and mild mannered cream faced, fat bellied madam by now, and having to use a host of conflict res skills on someone who doesn’t have the decency to study conflict res before confrontation, and therefore, understand the rules, frustrates me to this day—imagine how hard it was back then. Not to mention the lady that came to work every day plastered out of her gourd and blamed it on Listerine. Not to mention the jealous lady down the hall who felt usurped because I understood computers better than she did so lost her place in the office as the know-it-all and set out to destroy me in no uncertain terms. Not to mention the gossip monger who began to spread the rumor that I was sleeping with a co-hort---me, a cream-faced, flat-bellied bride!

Is the scene set? Perhaps a little more flavour…

So. It’s Friday. I’ve left my job for the weekend (although I do get a call at midnight informing me that Listerine lady had been gargling from the bottle again, and just what do I plan to do about it?) I have a car loaded with groceries and I’ve been too stupid to pick up supper. I have a Wedgeport fisherman for a husband (which means meals at 8, 12, and 5, thankyou and could you please try to be a little more like Mére who because she’s from a lost generation of women–-god love em—still perches on her seat at supper time, ready to bolt to the fridge for pickles and dessert at so much as a glance at the fridge, and a little less like those new-fangled, feminist wives who doesn’t understand the precarious balance of keeping a French Acadian husband happy. I digress)

I’m loading my groceries from the car at 5:13 pm, imagining hubbie will be staring at his dish in the cupboard like a lab stares at its empty dinner bowl, and in behind me drives a lady in a white car. I’ll say it’s a VW Golf, but really, I have no idea what it is because all I ever notice about cars is the color and size. Drives my car-loving husband crazy. She tells me I have to answer questions for the census. I’m frazzled. She’s holding out what looks like a very full clipboard.

I say no thankyou.

She says, “You have to.”

“No, I don’t.”

“Yes, you do.”

It goes on for a spell with me trying to explain that I’m very busy. She wants it done now because she doesn’t want to come back.

“Too bad,” I say. “I’m busy.”

“It’s the law.”

By now, I’m feeling quite nasty (I can be real nasty if I choose to be, almost stand right beside myself and watch, I get that riled up that it becomes a sort of out of body experience, so without damning myself further by detailing the rest, I’ll just say you begin to see that the particularly nasty run in is all my fault)

“What are they going to do, put me in jail?” I say.

She says she will find out for me and finally she leaves with the warning that she will be back. And she does come back. Twice more before I answer the damned questions. On principle, you understand.

Fast forward to May, 2006. A different census lady comes this time with a quick knock and says she wants to ask a couple of questions. “Sure,” I say. I open the door wider while trying to keep my black lab from nosing her in the crotch. I smile.

She asks me a couple things. I answer. This isn’t so bad. Three little questions. Doesn’t hurt at all. Then she says, “oh, this is for you,” and passes me a large envelope as though she is being watched by the FBI. She turns on a dime and slips down my steps before I can even register that I’ve been subpoenaed.

The census. The big one. The over 53 question form.

Ask me why I’m sour.


Blogger J.A. McDougall said...

I hear you Thea - we received the long form this year. Great story!

Sun May 21, 08:30:00 pm GMT-4  
Blogger MelBell said...

Can I just say I'm jealous? I've NEVER gotten the long form. Maybe next time...

Sun May 21, 08:45:00 pm GMT-4  
Blogger Denis Taillefer said...

This is hilarious, and the makings for an entertaining short story! And oh, those French Acadians are so needy. (My spouse's roots are there.;)

Mon May 22, 09:07:00 am GMT-4  

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