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Commentary by William Carter: A Good Citizen and the Census

The phone burbles on the table beside my easy chair. I groan and grumble and force my eyelids open. Bear-Dog, stretched out on the floor at my feet, jerks his head up and stares intently at the phone as if Cool Ranch Doritos and tater tots and left-over vegan meatballs are about to spill magically from the receiver, twirl and spin through the air as if choreographed by Disney Studios, and then march directly into his open mouth, each gulp timed precisely to the happy thump of his tail on the side of my chair.

At his age, everything means either food or sleep or affirmation — eight or nine times a day — of what a good boy he is. Usually it is food, but when he realizes there is no magic at the moment, Bear-Dog huffs disgustedly then drops his head back to the floor to continue snoring.

Another burble and I groan some more before picking up the phone, knowing already that it is either –– despite all of our efforts to have our name put at the top of the so-called No Call list in giant red letters — a robot woman. She will most assuredly be warning me that the FBI has determined crime exists and if I care anything at all about my family I must immediately press “1” to receive my ABSOLUTELY FREE consultation from a HOME SECURITY SPECIALIST. Her promise is to be in my area for a limited time only. And then again, it could be yet another robot woman calling for the six-hundredth time about my last chance to buy credit card insurance.

Sometimes, though, it’s my father-in-law, well into his ninth decade upon this earth, calling to ask if I or Love-Weasel had tried to call him earlier because he thought he heard the phone ring but wasn’t sure and didn’t want us to think he didn’t want to talk to us. This is fine because we usually end up in a conversation about the blossom-end rot on the tomatoes he grows on his patio or whether or not we’d like to have the old bananas he gets from the cafeteria at the place he lives but forgets to eat after he takes them to his room and he’d hate to see them “go to waste,” both topics I’m pretty sure Alexander Graham Bell would approve of.

It’s not a robot this time but a real person from the University of Somewhere informing me my family has been chosen to participate in a series of opinion polls and that we would be called periodically to answer a short list of questions about current events.

I decline by telling the person there are too many opinions and too much information floating around as it is and that, anyway, the only things I’m an authority on is blossom-end rot and old bananas.

Just as I put the phone down, Bear-Dog lifts his head again and growls low in his throat; his nose pointed towards the front door.
The mail is here and I give Bear-Dog a treat of the non-tater tot variety for a job well done.

In the mailbox, sandwiched between a postcard reminding me it’s almost time for an oil change and a fifty percent off coupon to have my vinyl siding pressure-washed, is the 2014 Special Census Package sent out by the powers-that-be in Our Town.

I haven’t filled it out yet, and not really sure if I will, because, on the surface, at least, it is a sinister thing.

First of all, the reason

“They” give for wanting this information is to “increase the amount the City receives annually from state-shared revenue.” This sounds suspiciously like socialism or, at least, municipal-welfare to me and even though I am an unabashed Liberal who has chosen to live in one of the most conservative states in the nation, I am also a proud Citizen of Our Town and am loathe to aid and abet the notion we are unable to throw money at and otherwise pander to all of Our own developers and other special interest groups or re-build horse barns without the benefit of government handouts.

I’m also confused as to why only two of the only four questions on the census are mandatory.  Why, I wonder, would “They” want my address when the census could not have arrived at my house through the mail without the benefit of an address?  The other mandatory requirement is the full name of every one living in my house.  Why names and not just a number?  Does having too many people named “Bob” or “Alice” or “Ted” in Our Town preclude Us from receiving the municipal welfare and government handouts Our Leaders think we are entitled to?

This is scary stuff and suspicious minds want answers.

I’ll be waiting.

Pass the Cool Ranch Doritos, please.   

William Carter is a longtime Franklin city employee and published author.  He may be contacted at


Posted on: 8/28/2013


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