Meeting people full of hope and trying, trying, trying

Off the bike…

I’ve met more people in the past several weeks than I probably met in the previous 20 years. Hundreds of people.

Two things I have learned:

  • None of us is very far removed from poverty.
  • Hope springs eternal, to steal a phrase.

Most of the people I’ve met don’t have jobs or they badly need some extra income. They’ve come to churches, libraries, unemployment offices and other places that have meeting rooms to apply and take an exam for a job with the U.S. Census Bureau. Temporary, part-time jobs.

I have one of those jobs myself at the moment, recruiting people and administering the exams. It’s a fill-in thing for extra cash as I prepare for my new career, which could be just around the corner. Hard to say. I’m on hiatus, I tell myself, semi-retired young and learning new things before I smash back soon into something new and different.

As I did last night in the illusory privacy of Twitter, I will rant on occasion about some of the people – young, old and somewhere in the middle – who take the exams I administer. Most are polite, friendly, hopeful people, who bring the required IDs, who listen attentively to instructions and who put their pencils down when you tell them the 30 minutes for the test are over and it’s time to put their pencils down.

It’s the exceptions that cause the rants, of which I am ashamed.

It’s the guy who has to be told three times, firmly, to put the pencil down. He doesn’t get more time than everyone else, no matter how much he wants it. It’s the people who forget to bring everything but themselves to the test site, so you arrange to meet somewhere later to get a look at the passport, or the driver’s license and birth certificate (and I’m really sorry, but I can’t accept a color photocopy of the passport and sign the I-9 under penalty of perjury that I saw the real passport – no matter how much I would like to help you, young man). You complete paperwork on the hood of your car as you leave the test site and the guy makes it back, just barely, with the real deal.

Ashamed? Yeah.

A few weeks ago, I was in exactly the same spot these folks are in. I filled out the I-9 Homeland Security form to prove that I am who I purport to be. I filled out the BC-170D. That’s the blue form, folks. I remembered to bring my DD-214 to support my claim of veteran status. I took the 30-minute test and wished I had just one more minute to check it over. I needed some more work than I was getting as a writer.

So if I start to feel a little bit superior to anyone, or when I score a test for someone who didn’t get the minimum number of correct answers to get a job, I remind myself: You passed the test, but otherwise you were just there.

They’re trying, often against much, much tougher odds. Some try again, given the opportunity to retest and improve their scores. They need some work. They have hope. They still have faith in themselves.

Oh, the stories I could tell about what some of them have shared with me.

We are the same.

In a few days, I have to fill out another I-9 in another situation. I will make a special point of bringing my passport or other acceptable forms of ID.

Carry on.

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1 Response to “Meeting people full of hope and trying, trying, trying”


  1. 1 Hidama February 5, 2009 at 9:31 am

    The “illusory privacy of Twitter” is often a fault of my own. Sometimes we do have to humble ourselves and remember our genesis. But what is great is that you outwardly did it in writing. Bravo!


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