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I knocked on the door of a basement apartment in a dingy hallway that smelled like old sweat socks.
A gruff voice growled through the closed door. "Who is it?"
"Peter Carlson from the United States Census Bureau."
"I already mailed in my form."
Of course he had. The kind of people who yell at census workers through locked doors always say they already mailed in their form.
"Apparently, we didn't receive it, sir," I said to the door. "Can I do a quick interview with you now?"
It was 10:30 in the morning. "I'll come back another time. When would be convenient?"
"Never!" he yelled. "Don't come back."
But I did come back. A census enumerator is required to try three times.
"I'm busy," he bellowed through that closed door on the second visit.
"Stop harassing me," he hollered on the third. "Go away."
I left, thinking, "I should come back every day until he opens that damn door." But of course, I didn't. I had other doors to knock on.
The other 30 percent don't mail in the form because they forgot, or they lost it, or their dog ate it, or they didn't understand it, or they hate questionnaires, or they hate the government, or they just don't give a damn, or ... whatever.