my census work assignment for today came late last night, almost 2am (typically new cases are handed out before 1am): 68 cases with a start time of 12:45pm. they were still located to the west of my location, the bulk of which along mass ave between porter and harvard square. my random distance cases were not too far away, an 18 minute walk, but i'd be taking the bike today.

when i woke up this morning however, my cases ballooned from 68 cases to now 103 cases, a 50% increase. a lot of new cases were repeat, like it was forcing me to revisit all the addresses i wasn't able to close. fortunately they were all at the end of the new cases, and most likely i wouldn't even get to them.

i spent an hour in the late morning fixing the front brakes on my bike. the pads had worn down to the point that it was scratching the rim whenever i tried to stop. it took a while to adjust the new pads so they wouldn't rub up against the rim. while working on the bike i noticed one of the bolts that held my rear bicycle baskets in place had sheered off. it was still help in place at 3 points but better to repair it soon (just not today). i finished with the bike by 11:40am, coming back inside to take a shower and had some lunch. i ate less than half a container of potato salad then a pluot.

i was out by 12:30pm. the first address i visited had 4 cases all in the same apartment building with about 15 units. it seemed like a dead end because i couldn't get inside the building, just the main entrance with the intercom. i tried all 4 addresses without success, and left the main entrance to make my report in the census app.

that's when i realized each one of those addresses needed 3 proxies, for a total of 12 distinctive proxy attempts. how could i even find that many? there was a sign for the building maintenance company with a phone number. i called them first, hoping somebody there could at least tell me if any of those units were vacant on april 1st. i called the number, which transferred me to a receptionist, who transferred me to the property manager. he was very helpful, said he could give me some contact info, but would have to go look it up first. that was one potential lead. so one maybe proxy, 11 more to go.

out of ideas, i called the census supervisor hotline (my own supervisor had the day off today). the person i spoke with wasn't the least bit sympathetic. after listening to my situation, she told me the solution: try every single buzzer on the intercom until somebody lets me in. that seemed a little illegal, but if this was the official policy, who am i to argue against that?

so i gathered up my courage and prepared to seriously prank that apartment by ringing each doorbell. but i realized i could record each attempt as a proxy (even if nobody answered), with the only caveat being that i would run out of units before my proxy quota was fulfilled, but that was a later problem.

while i was in the entrance ringing the doorbells, the mailman came in to fill the mailboxes. i asked him if he knew anything about the units in question on april 1st. surprisingly enough, he did. 2 units were vacant, 1 was occupied, and 1 was bought by somebody else in the building. i thanked the mailman for the leads. the property manager had called me but i missed the call. i went back outside to call him but he wasn't there. i left a message, said i got some info from the mailman, and would call him back if i needed more help.

i went back to the entrance to ring the owner of one of the other units. it takes people a while to come, and while i was getting ready to ring more buzzers, the owner came out of the building. she told me that unit is just a studio, and no one lives there. so she helped me crack one of the cases.

i then continued with my bell ringing, not really expecting to get into the apartment, but rather to accumulate proxies. i did eventually get a live one, he let me in the apartment. i searched notice-of-visit papers in 3 of the units. that's when i also realized that the census had secretly added 2 more addressed in this same building to my case list, so i had to enumerate those as well (nobody home).

when i was finally done, i went back out and called the property manager again. this time i managed to get ahold of him, he gave me the owner's name and contact info for the 3 of the units (but not the 2 new ones because i didn't ask him about those as they were new to me too). by that point i'd already spent 2 hours at this one building. not wanting to waste anymore of my time, i just put the numbers in the case notes, hoping the next enumerator will be more determined to contact the owners and get more info.

it's like, how far down the rabbit hole do you do want me to dig for the answer? earlier this morning i was pulling up cambridge property records, using that to find owner's names. there's no phone number but if the name is unique enough, it's not too hard to find their number online. i mean, did they hire me as an enumerator or a private detective?

a lot of my cases today were 2nd or 3rd attempts. while trying to enumerate one address in another large apartment building, i arrived right when there was a fire alarm and everybody was outside waiting for the fire department to check and call it safe again. i managed to get into the building along with the flood of people returning to their apartments. i also got a lot of cases were the address simple didn't exist. references to nonexistent unit numbers, or references to apartments when they were just single units. i had 7 in one place (i called back the property manager who also managed that building), 13 in another. that 13 one was torture; i had the info, but it took me a long time to go through each case, answering the survey question that the unit doesn't exist and input my proxy's info. it was also in that same building where a woman who was answering my census questionnaire was threatened by her intoxicated boyfriend with physical violence if she didn't go back inside the house.

i finished by 8pm, a dusky glow to the landscape, capping off a week of hard census work. i end each workday a little numb, don't want to do anything but take a shower, eat some dinner, and veg out in front of the tv. i finally finished the last of my pasta salad, then ate the rest of my lychees.