My 2020 census form arrived this week, and what pleasure it was, just to open it up. For a starter, it did not ask me for money. Not one blessed dime. In the past month I've received only six pieces of mail that did NOT ask me to donate to a worthy cause.
All the Census Bureau asks is that I fill out the form and send it in to their offices in Jeffersonville, Indiana. They don't actually name a deadline, but they imply if you wait too long they will send a real live human being to your home. With this visitor will be a team of bloodhounds, handled by a dyspeptic deppitty shurf (that's how "deputy sheriff" is pronounced in Texas). I'm only kidding about the shurf and the bloodhounds. Census employees are always polite. And usually very tired, from sorting all those forms into the proper categories.
I imagine the census warehouse in Jeffersonville has a huge canvas bag for each category that you and 336 million other Americans fit into. That's a lot of categories. For example, my census reply will be tossed into a bag labeled "Old Men Living with an Erratic Cat." Another bag tag will say "Female CEOs of American Corporations." And so forth. Americans come in many shapes, sizes and backgrounds.
If you live on the Philippine island of Luzon and speak only Tagalog, your census form has instructions on how to solve that problem. The words, "Na nasa itas na kanang sulok" are printed right there. They mean "Call your mother in Manila" to translate for you. As you may know, many Filipinos already work offshore for U.S. companies.
The 2020 census form has only nine questions, aimed at citizens identified as Person 1, Person 2 and so forth. The first five questions ask, "How many persons were living in your house, apartment or mobile home on April 1, 2020?"
This is easy to answer, except for folks who held a wild party on the night of March 31 and woke up next morning with a dozen or so hungover visitors scattered around the premises. That's when the counting fun begins.
The form then asks "Who owns this home? Is there a mortgage, a loan arrangement or what? Is anyone paying rent, or is that guy snoozing on the sofa a brother-in-law who just arrived from Topeka?" (Please know that I'm rephrasing some of the questions, except for those requiring Tagalog precision.)
Next, you're asked about any rent arrangements, followed by a request to state Person 1's sex. The only choices are "Male" and "Female," which hints that the census-preparer has been in a news-free coma for the past 20 years or so.
Question 8 asks "Is Person 1 of Hispanic, Latino or Spanish origin?" At this point I freely admit how out of touch I have become over time. Since I was in third grade, I have assumed that all three of those racial adjectives (above) were interchangeable. Apparently they're not.
Question 9, the final one, asks "What is Person 1's race?" That's probably the toughest one to answer, except for those lucky persons who were born into a family so tight-knit that none of its members ever married or impregnated someone from another racial group on the face of the earth.
My immediate family predecessors were born in Scotland and England. But beyond that hazy statement I must plead ignorance, while issuing a hearty welcome to all the Albanians, Nigerians, Nepalese, Choctaws and Mongolians whose blood and DNA lines may now be swirling merrily through my arteries.
A final word on the census. The U.S. population in 2010 was just short of 309 million. Today it is roughly 336 million. That equates to a 27 million growth in only one decade. Except for immigrants, where did all those extra people come from?
I know the answer: fecundity. Widespread fecundity. As in this old joke: Pat proudly says, "My wife is fecund!!" Mike replies, "Very good. I think mine is Lutheran."