Aprilcot 1, 41 A.B.
Oh, BTW - I made history this past week.
The US Government said so.
In fact, Washington even sent me congratulations.
Did I patent a world-changing invention? Copyright a book that
will finally put American literature ahead of that of the British and
French? Suggest a replacement for the Constitutional that both
liberals and conservatives instantly recognized as a work of true
All I did was fill out my census form online.
Geez - have our standards for deciding what's history-making
and what's not fallen to an all-time low or what?
Maybe if I'd been requested to fill out the long census form I
could accept these congratulations, but as it is... does knowing
how to upload my own name and address really merit more than
the sound of one hand waving at the next person in line to get
on with it?
Oh, sure, it was a bit tricky coming up with my own name and
address, but that's why I carry a little card with both pieces of
information on it at all times. My address is also emblazoned on
my mailbox, just in case I ever lose this card. My name, in con-
trast, isn't emblazoned anywhere, leading me to conclude that
it's far more important for me to find my way home than for me
to find myself. Which makes sense, when you realize that my
home has care-free vinyl siding.
The hardest question I faced on the short form I filled out,
however, concerned neither my name nor my address. It con-
cerned my race.
I have no idea what race I am. My mother never saw fit to tell
me, and I never asked. The few people I've encountered who
have asked me what race I am, I wouldn't think of telling even if
I knew. Goodness knows I often feel utterly unrelated to the
human race, but this feeling wasn't any help at all when it came
time to decide exactly which box the census people wanted me
to check. Clearly the census wasn't interested in my feelings at
all, otherwise it never would have asked the question in the first
I mean, come on. From what I've read, some Italians share
more genes with some blacks in Africa than some blacks in
Africa share with blacks elsewhere. Scientifically speaking,
the very idea of race has been discredited and rejected. News-
week actually ran a cover story on this not too many years ago.
Doesn't anyone at the Census Bureau subscribe to Newsweek?
Or do they subscribe merely to have something to put on the
table in their waiting room so visitors will think they're smart?
In either case, it's pretty amazing when you think about it.
Almost as amazing as the fact that distant bureaucrats almost
had me up all night last week looking in a mirror trying to
decide if maybe - just maybe - I was Guamanian....
At least it distracted me from trying to figure out exactly how I
may be related to my wife.
In the end I guess I did what everyone else does when faced
with the hard questions of life: I simply guessed and quickly
But even now, days later, I find my mind drifting back to those
silly questions and wondering about The Census Form That
Might Have Been.
If you could ask every single American any question you wanted,
what would it be? What would be the most revealing or useful?
Name? Sex? Age? Race? Number of toilets? Do you have a
I don't think so!
What would I have asked instead?
I'm not sure, but I came up with about four candidates. I
suppose that if I were the high and mighty Director of the
Census, I wouldn't think twice about asking all four, but as it is
I know how lucky I am when I can get anyone to pay attention
to me at all. Actually getting a few legible answers to a single
question of mine before I die is far more than I ever expect to
Candidate #1: "Wassup?" It's brief, it's been widely field-tested,
and (unlike some questions I could mention) people seem to
really enjoy being asked it. The only drawbacks that I can see
is that it requires a high tolerance for essay-length answers
which usually convey very little information when all is said and
done. Oh, well. It's not like you really know the first thing about
a person until you live with them, anyway, and that's just not much
of an option considering that there are now some 275 million
Americans out there, many of whom refuse to share tooth-
Candidate #2: "What's the point?" I like this one a lot. Kids
know to start asking it almost from the time they first learn to
talk, and most people are still asking it when they're in their 90s.
If we standardized its many variations (ranging from "What's the
point???" to "What the hell's the point?"), ordered everyone to
freeze, and then systematically asked all of them, one by one,
maybe we'd finally get a good answer.
Candidate #3: "Do you want me to smack you?" I know, I know
- not a very pleasant question. But judging from the number of
times I've heard parents in a store or at the next table in a res-
taurant urgently pose it to their kids, it MUST be important.
Maybe if we asked it of everyone at once, we'd never ever have
to hear it asked again. Oh wouldn't that be lovely! We wouldn't
even have to tabulate the answers to declare this census the
Candidate #4: "How stupid are you, anyway?" Come on, 'fess
up: You've often wanted to ask this of your fellow Americans,
haven't you? Or at least those who have appeared on TV -
which come to think of it is pretty much the same thing these
days, isn't it? In any case, it's the question which would be the
easiest and most foolproof to evaluate since anyone attempting
to answer it at all would be declared "Pretty stupid indeed."
Well, if you've read this far I suspect you're coming up with a few
good questions of your own. So be it. This is America! Why
should we rely on a distant Census Bureau to ask us questions
when we can just ask ourselves and each other all the damn
questions we want - and we don't have to wait 10 years before
asking the same question again, either.
In fact - just to show you what's possible when we grant people
the freedom to excel free of government intervention - my own
wife has just now asked for the umpteenth time, "When are you
going to stop that infernal tippy-tapping and come to bed??"
I don't know. I don't have a good answer for her. But I think
I'm going to go try to come up with one for her now even though
I'd be breaking no law if I didn't. I simply don't want her to be
breaking anything, either.
And I just hope her follow-up question as I slip into bed isn't
"Are you Guamanian?" since my mirror isn't any help at all in
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