house of happy

Life adventures in prose and verse. Explorations of places, people and words. Stories and fun.

Friday, 1 April 2011

Census 2011

Monica's running very late, again. She dashes out the door to get Kira from her friend's house. At the gate, a pretty young thing, clutching reams of paper and struggling with the latch. Monica helps then tries to slip by, avoiding the fact that the woman is probably looking for her. She's too late to stop.

She stops. What else can she do when a bunch of A4 forms and a sealed envelope are shoved in her face? The pretty young thing is the Census Girl, and she's got Questions. Oh Lord. Out comes Monica's eternal escape clause: 'We're foreigners'. It doesn't work. Everyone must be counted. There's even a law to this effect. 'Must I be counted NOW?' - she croaks.

Well, not necessarily. There IS an escape. Monica could fill the forms online. She drives off while the Census Chick is still shouting instructions.

Later, online, among many, why-so-many questions, Monica reads and attempts to answer the following:

Home information, blah – including 'functional square meters' (unsure and not in possession of measuring tape, she invents)

In what condition is your house? (well, apart from the crappy insulation and the constant mess... but there's no apparent space for such detail)

Has your house got: water / flush toilets / bath / air conditioning / heating system. What sources of energy? Etc, etc, it's relentless.

It's nothing compared to what follows: The Individual Questionnaire. This includes the following:

Were you present at the above location on the 21st of March at Zero Hours ? For her husband, Monica would have to write 'Somewhere in Pakistan'. She wonders if that makes him a citizen of Pakistan. She further wonders what the astronaut's wife would be writing: 'Somewhere along the Moon Orbit' – possibly even 'The Moon'. Sole citizen of the Moon,easy census that one.

There follows a series of increasingly insensitive questions:

Any difficulties in hearing (even using a hearing aid) – depends on mood.
Any difficulties in seeing (even using glasses or contact lenses) – that remains to be seen.
Any difficulties in walking or climbing up steps – a bit, if had too much to eat previously.
Any difficulties with memory or concentration – many – where do I start? What were we talking about?
Any difficulties in taking a bath or dressing oneself – yes: the bath is blocked and can't for the life of me remember where I put my jeans.
Any difficulties understanding others or making oneself understood – countless, and that includes spouse, children, building contractors, Chinese citizens, bank employees, pets.

Then two heartless and puzzling questions (especially if Monica answered YES to some of the above):

Where were you on the 31st of December 2009? Where were you on the 31st of December 2005?

How should I know? Can't see the question. Can't hear you. I have memory difficulties, remember? Or do you have memory problems too? I'd check but my diary's but it's upstairs, way too many steps to climb... Let me see: I've no idea what the question Means. Still, I shall now attempt to answer it: 'A/(?»?=)&xªq2):urgh'. Did you get that? Sorry – the truth is I try and try and can't make myself understood. I'm off to have a bath. Find my jeans in the meantime, willya?

Then an abundantly redundant question: Can you read and write? ...Would I be filling this questionnaire....

Education, blah, work, blah – and what means of transport do you use to get to school / work? Among the answers, 'boat'. Monica spends a pleasant five minutes sailing to work, there are no problems with her imagination and she needs a break.

Did you work in the week 14 – 20 March? No, I was busy rowing...

It beats having a bath in this house, anyway.