Over a decade ago, when I suddenly needed to earn money, a friend trained me in professionally washing windows. “Now, just go out and knock on doors to drum up some window-washing gigs,” he said.
Cold-calling, in other words.
I gamely went out to do this, driving to a likely neighborhood, but I was paralyzed with stage fright. I couldn’t actually get out of my pickup. So I drove to another neighborhood. Same thing happened. I went home to make a flyer that I could hand people. This required a little advertising character, which put off going out there again for a few more days.
Anyway, with that flyer in hand, I was able to cold-call and get past the tongue-tied stage. That experience helped me immensely with the census enumerator work.
Take a Prop to Cold-Call
Therefore, when you have to do cold-calling, you need a prop. The printed census information sheets and the iphone script were excellent props to get us over the awkwardness of talking to complete strangers. We are required to stick as closely as possible to the script presented in our census iphones when we do our census interviews.
One of our lines is: “The interview should only take about 10 minutes.” Usually it did. But one afternoon, I turned up at a large, rambling mansion of a house. A few teenagers and a vigorous man in his 70s were hanging out on the porch. They were cooperative and good-humored. We commenced the 10 minute interview.
“How many people were living here on April 1st, 2020?” I asked. They conferred and counted fingers. “Eleven, right? Yes, eleven.”
I blinked. “Well, this may take a little longer than 10 minutes…”
They were a terrific family. It was like filling out the questionnaire with the Waltons, only without the cornpone. Wife, sons & daughters, grandkids, in-laws. The patriarch said, “We had 9 kids. They were supposed to be GONE by now!” he mugged good-naturedly. This was greeted with chuckles from his descendants. “What with the lockdown and the economic situation, some have come back for awhile.”
Several of the female family members had the same middle name. I double checked, “Really? Another Linda?” Yep, they confirmed. Next person was a boy. I cocked an eyebrow, “Middle name Linda?…” They laughed. No, it’s James!
Putting in the ethnic backgrounds took a lot of thumb typing. Then came the part where I read back the summaries of all the data I had collected. That alone took almost 10 minutes. My tongue tripped a few times, reciting all the names, birthdates, relationships to the patriarch, race & ethnic background. They joshed, “You’re just testing us!”
They were the biggest household I did, and thank goodness they were really fun people. Afterwards, I had to shake out my poor thumbs, but I drove away thinking, well, at least there are some families left who are not dysfunctional… That capped a successful day in Enumeratorland.