Have people gotten meaner in the last 14 years? As a former census worker I would say yes.

Were people nicer 14 years ago? As a former census worker I would say yes.

It was around noon in May 2000 and I had been working since 9 am finding errant citizens who had forgotten or lost their 2000 Census long forms. After spending 3 hours determining which properties were vacant, or leaving notes warning of my imminent return I finally began to look for those addresses that showed signs of being occupied and finding the residents within. On my first round of addresses I was assigned to four local retirement manufactured home communities in my county. The first time I knocked a genial looking older gentleman of around 70 answered the door of his comfy looking ,manufactured home and before I could get through my spiel about the census etc etc he asked if I wanted to come out on the back porch ( which had a large fan) and have a cup of lemonade or sweet tea. At first hesitating ( I was 22 and stranger danger warnings still would be in my head at odd times) I accepted and spent 2 hours in the company of Mr. and Mrs. Robertson discussing Wisconsin, retirement, the grandchildren they never saw, why a “pretty” girl like me wasn’t married, my purple camaro, iced tea, Southerners ( they were incredulous that I was actually born in Florida), how often I visited my grandmother ( once a month minimally), and how long they had been married I can say I was genuinely charmed. And refreshed ready to tackle my next address. Which was 2 trailers ( manufactured homes darling) downand according to my new friends occupied. I drove my car 20 feet forward and smoked a quick cig while refreshing my survey supplies. Again I was greeted by a cornucopia of wind chimes, signs, and overall porch cuteness. Again my knock was answered by a fellow in his 70’s who interrupted my spiel and said “I have the form on the counter dear would you like to sit out on the front porch while I get it”. Realizing that sitting on the porch was a bit of a ritual with these sweet seniors I accepted and had yet another glass of lemonade. This visit was much shorter as I only had to help the gentleman answer one question and I was on my way down the cul de sac. Remembering these kind people and contrasting them with the retirees I meet today is an exercise in stark contrasts. I doubt if anyone today would care if a census worker was thirsty. 

Indeed by the time the 2010 census rolled around and I again was hired as an enumerator we were warned to not engage the public, we had to wear vests, badges, and carry an official Census tote. 

I doubt if anyone today would invite a young woman on their porch even a white woman. I doubt if people would think about the heat and offer a cold beverage.

Have people gotten meaner? Or is it just me?

 

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