Counting People



I’d met John at my friend’s place a year earlier; then I started seeing him at the library. He is at the library almost every day. When our friendship started, I’d just found a book about Norbert Weiner in the Business, Science and Industry section, I left the second level to find the book called Cybernetics when John had set up a game of chess. We always say hello. I said hello and went back to the computerized card catalog. He asked if I wanted to play chess after I’d turned away from the computer.

We played two games every day for about two weeks. A person can use chess as a lens.

In the first chess days, the goal was to somehow move. This was not easy; I’d get headaches from holding my breath. I was not used to spending time in public with people. Everybody’s got some hang up and this may be mine: going outside and being with people.

In chess, obviously, the player moves towards the action in the middle of the board. Towards the battle; probably I am defensive though lately have not bothered, defending. Living between states of perception: machine or animal, bug or bear, so to speak. These are the things on my mind. To somehow make myself over from a cone of light or travel in an equation. I was and still am living in my imagination. My spirit exists in my imagination, primarily, and also sometimes in physical senses. I think spirit is one’s will to love things and the force behind your choices.

I think about chess every day in a transposed way. I have my own magnetic set. I hope to play again on Saturday and Sunday rain or shine. In playing chess, a person confronts their own mind in the form of their strategy. Are you more likely to attack or defend? Are your captures/attacks to clear space, exchange, or take a move away from the other player? I am a beginner so my assessments are facile. What I read on Monday about lines of power: realize the lines of power; see across the board. I will speak no more of technicalities.

I’ve often read about the importance of having a plan. “Have a Plan!”, they say, “Even a BAD PLAN is Better than no Plan at all.” My day’s are made usually in the form of lists. My goals are big (in my opinion): they involve spectacle and text. Goals are not plans, though. And there is the business of taking care of oneself: being functional. I had to get a job again.

I took the Census test in February. I was hired in April. Census training takes place in a church basement which is cold and damp. We get fingerprinted and sign an oath.

The challenges were: sitting still, not getting overwhelmed by the loudness and smell of it all. The basement seemed to amplify everyone’s voice. I had headaches all through training: the table clothes had a petroleum smell; there was not enough ventilation.

The US Census began in 1790, it’s purpose is to count the people of each region so that a proportional number of Representatives can stand up for their interests in Congress. People’s participation provides the statistics that will bring services to their neighborhoods. If a neighborhood is under-enumerated, they may not get the funding for important services for their community: Health Centers, street maintenance, etc.

In the process of doing this job I have been meeting my neighbors. So far, everyone seems okay. They care for their house, their family, friends and endeavors. I see how we are similar.


Being an Enumerator

One learns to follow the script; to not take liberties with the questionnaire.

Put the power in the lines.

Concentrate on reading the questionnaire believably to people.

To avoid being robotic, modulate the voice: tone, rhythm, and emphasis.

Create a feedback loop with oneself.

When not delivering lines, be attentive to the respondent.

The strategy is to be really attentive.

The goal is to count people.




Ish Klein‘s book, Union!, came out April 2009 through the Canarium Press. Her next book, For the New Manchurians, will come out from the Canarium Press in 2011. Her poems have been published in The Canary, Gare du Nord, The Hat, Make Magazine, Tammy, Satellite Telephone, and Lungfull! among others and are upcoming in The Recluse, Lo-Ball and hopefully some other magazines. See the videos: www.youtube.com/user/ishkleinfilms.
She makes movies and lives in Philadelphia.