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Phone Call from The Census

The US Census office in New York has had to fire workers due to fraud. The new folks there must still be learning the ropes. This actual telephone call to my friend Erik Gordon was transcribed immediately upon hanging up, so it’s practically verbatim…

Ring. Ring.

ERIK: “Hello?”

CHARLOTTE: “Hello.  This is Charlotte calling from the 2010 United States Census.  We’ve left you a couple of messages over the past few weeks but you haven’t returned our calls.  I’m calling to ask you some additional questions about the census form that you recently completed.  This should take only a few minutes.”

ERIK: “Okay.”

CHARLOTTE: “Can I start by verifying your address?”

ERIK: “Yes, it’s the one you have on the form — 68 East 78th Street in New York.”

CHARLOTTE: “And is this the Gordon household?”

ERIK: “Yes.”

CHARLOTTE: “And who completed the census form on behalf of the household?”

ERIK: “I did. I’m the only one who lives here.”

CHARLOTTE: “And what is your name?”

ERIK: “Erik Gordon. Don’t you have that on the form I filled out?”

CHARLOTTE: “Yes.”

ERIK: “So why are you asking me again?”

CHARLOTTE (reading): “We need to make sure that the 2010 US Census is an accurate count of every person in the United States and that no person is double counted.  This should take only a few minutes.”

ERIK: “Okay.”

CHARLOTTE: “So Erik Gordon filled out the census form on behalf of your household?”

ERIK: “Yes, I did.”

CHARLOTTE: “And am I speaking to Erik Gordon?”

ERIK: “Um, yes.  But I think we’ve covered this, no?”

CHARLOTTE: “Yes, but I need to ask the questions in the order they appear on my screen.”

ERIK: “Okay.”

CHARLOTTE: “Mr. Gordon, how many people were living at your address on April 1, 2010?”

ERIK: “Just me.  I’m the only one who lives here.”

CHARLOTTE: “So should I put ‘One?'”

ERIK: “Probably.”

CHARLOTTE: “Mr. Gordon, do you have children, babies or foster children living with you?”

ERIK (louder): “I’m the only one here.”

CHARLOTTE: “It’s a yes or no question, Mr. Gordon.”

ERIK: “If I’m the only one here, then the answer is ‘No,’ right?”

CHARLOTTE: “Okay, I’m going to put ‘No.'”

ERIK: “Good idea.”

CHARLOTTE: “Mr. Gordon, do you have any other relatives living with you?”

ERIK: “I’m the only one here.”

CHARLOTTE: “I can’t put that.”

ERIK: “I don’t care.”

CHARLOTTE: “Mr. Gordon, we need to make sure that the 2010 US Census is an accurate count of every person in the United States and that no person is double counted.  This should take only a few minutes.”

ERIK: “But all of this is on the form I filled out.”

CHARLOTTE: “I know.  I have it here.”

ERIK: “So why are you asking me the same questions?”

CHARLOTTE: “Mr. Gordon, this should take only a few minutes.”

ERIK: “This should take no minutes.”

CHARLOTTE: “Mr. Gordon, are you refusing to answer the questions?  Because if you’re refusing to answer the questions, I’m going to have to call you back.”

ERIK: “I’m not refusing to answer the questions, Charlotte.  I already answered them.”

CHARLOTTE: “When?”

ERIK: “On the form you have in front of you.”

CHARLOTTE: “Oh.”

ERIK: “Yes.”

CHARLOTTE: “Mr. Gordon, this should only take a few minutes.  Can I ask if you have any nonrelatives, such as roommates or babysitters living with you?”

ERIK: “I’m the only one here.”

CHARLOTTE: “Mr. Gordon, you know I can’t put that.”

ERIK: “No, Charlotte, no. I don’t have anyone else living here!”

CHARLOTTE: “No roomates or babysitters?”

ERIK: “No!”

CHARLOTTE: “I’m going to put ‘No.’  Mr. Gordon, do you have anyone living with you temporarily?”

ERIK: “Charlotte, you know what I’m going to say, right?”

CHARLOTTE: “Mr. Gordon, it’s a yes or no question.”

ERIK: “Charlotte, you’ve already asked me about relatives and nonrelatives.  Who else could be living with me?”

CHARLOTTE: “Anyone living with you temporarily, such as any illegal aliens.”

ERIK: “Yes, Charlotte.  I forgot.  I do have illegal aliens living with me.”

CHARLOTTE: “How many?”

ERIK: “I live with approximately twelve thousand illegal Mexican immigrants.  But please don’t put that down, I don’t want to get in trouble.”

CHARLOTTE: “Mr. Gordon, I have to put it down.”

ERIK: “Please don’t put it down.  They’re nice people.  They’ve traveled far.”

CHARLOTTE: “I’m sorry, Mr. Gordon.  I have to put it down.”

ERIK: “Okay, put it down.”

CHARLOTTE: “Okay.”

ERIK: “Charlotte, did you really just put down that I live with 12,000 illegal Mexican immigrants?”

CHARLOTTE: “No.  I just put twelve.”

ERIK: “Why?”

CHARLOTTE: “I don’t have enough room.”

ERIK: “Okay.”

CHARLOTTE: “Mr. Gordon, were you away from this address anytime in March or April of 2010?”

ERIK: “What do you mean?”

CHARLOTTE: “What do *you* mean?”

ERIK: “Are you asking me if I left my apartment anytime in March or April?”

CHARLOTTE: “Yes.”

ERIK: “Then ‘Yes.'”

CHARLOTTE: “Mr. Gordon, where did you go?”

ERIK: “Charlotte, I went a lot of places.”

CHARLOTTE: “I only have one line.”

ERIK: “That’s too bad, Charlotte, because I went *a lot* of places.”

CHARLOTTE: “But I only have one line.”

ERIK: “So what do you want me to tell you?”

CHARLOTTE: “I don’t know.  Do you want me to ask my supervisor?”

ERIK: “Actually, I think you should ask your supervisor.”

CHARLOTTE (returning to the phone after putting me on hold for two or three minutes): “I think we should just put ‘Don’t Know.'”

ERIK: “Fine.”

CHARLOTTE: “Mr. Gordon, in March and April of 2010 where did you spend most of your time: at your address in New York or in Don’t Know?”

ERIK: “New York.  Don’t Know isn’t a real place.”

CHARLOTTE: “Okay.  New York.  Is there any other place you spent most of your time?”

ERIK: “Charlotte, what does that mean?”

CHARLOTTE: “You said you spent most of your time in New York.  Is there any other place where you spent most of your time?”

ERIK: “Charlotte, how can I spend most of my time in more than one place?”

CHARLOTTE (after thinking it over): “I think we should put ‘Don’t Know.'”

ERIK: “Okay.  Let’s put that.”

CHARLOTTE: “Okay.”

ERIK: “Okay.”

CHARLOTTE: “Mr. Gordon, other than New York and Don’t Know, did you spend any time anywhere else?”

ERIK: “Pardon?”

CHARLOTTE: “Other than New York and Don’t Know, did you spend any time anywhere else?”

ERIK: “Other than New York and Don’t Know?”

CHARLOTTE: “Yes.”

ERIK: “No.  I spent all of my time in New York and Don’t Know.”

CHARLOTTE: “How about prison?”

ERIK: “How about prison?”

CHARLOTTE: “Did you spend any time in prison in March or April of 2010?”

ERIK: “No, I was only in New York and Don’t Know.”

CHARLOTTE: “Okay.”

ERIK: “Okay.”

CHARLOTTE: “Okay.  Mr. Gordon, did you spend any time in the military?”

ERIK: “No.”

CHARLOTTE: “Mr. Gordon, did you spend any time in a nursing home?”

ERIK: “Charlotte, can we just put ‘Don’t Know’ for the rest of the questions so we can both get on with our lives?”

CHARLOTTE: “No, I can’t do that.  You need to answer every question.  This should take only a few minutes.”

ERIK: “It’s already been more than a few minutes.”

CHARLOTTE: “Mr. Gordon, are you refusing to answer the questions? Because if you’re refusing to answer the questions–”

ERIK: “I don’t want you to call me back Charlotte.  I did not spend any time in a nursing home in March or April of 2010.  I was too busy in Don’t Know.”

CHARLOTTE: “What?”

ERIK: “No.  No time in a nursing home.”

CHARLOTTE: “Mr. Gordon, that was the last question.  On behalf of the 2010 United States Census, thank you and have a good evening.”

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