This is the scary season for the nation's census takers.
Since they began making follow-up house calls in early May, census takers have encountered vitriol, menace and flashes of violence. They have been shot at with pellet guns and hit by baseball bats. They have been confronted with pickaxes, crossbows and hammers. They've had lawn mowers pushed menacingly toward them and patio tables thrown their way. They have been nibbled by ducks, bitten by pit bulls and chased by packs of snarling dogs.
Some days, being cursed at seems part of the job description.
So far, the Census Bureau has tallied 379 incidents involving assaults or threats on the nation's 635,000 census workers, more than double the 181 recorded during the 2000 census. Weapons were used or threatened in a third of the cases."
"There's so much anger and bitterness, with people losing their homes and their jobs," said McDonald, who eventually quit. "They're not too fond of the government. They don't want to talk to you."
Sherri Chesney, 46, said she was cursed and spat at during follow-up visits in Houston. One day, she encountered a woman working in her garden. Chesney showed her census badge, she said, prompting the woman to launch into a tirade: "I don't need the blankety-blank government snooping in my business." Then she threw a metal patio table at Chesney, who escaped injury by ducking.
"I was stunned, I really was, that America is so mad at the government," said Chesney, who no longer works for the census. "People don't know what it's like out there. It's scary and dangerous, and it's not worth my life."
Some people pointedly mentioned President Obama.
While conducting follow-ups in an upscale Seattle neighborhood, Grover Ellis said he came across a woman who considered him an agent of Obama, not the U.S. government.
"The idea of the census just enraged her," said Ellis, 64, stressing that the overwhelming majority of people he met were welcoming and responsive. "The way she saw the census, she was required to help Obama. And she wasn't going to do anything to help out Obama."
Police have been dispatched after confrontations between census takers and property owners who posted No Trespassing signs. As federal government employees, the census takers are not breaking the law by disregarding the signs. "
Census taking must be a good way to take the pulse of the country's citizens. Washington...take note!