Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Elementary Counting

We had quite a robust debate in our house last night about the census. Now, you might think that we were discussing the infamous Question 14. Are we white or black? Travelers or non-Irish white? African or other black? Chinese or other Asian? Should we even answer it at all?

We were not discussing Question 14. We were not debating the finer points of ethnicity and national identity, of potential government intrusiveness, of the nation's new found diversity. No, we were having a knock-down, drag-out barney over the freaking instructions.

On what day should you fill out the census? On the face of it, this seems easy enough.
Sunday, 23 April. Right? Right. But when, exactly is the night of Sunday 23, April?

My logic is as follows:

  • You are meant to count all persons alive at midnight on Sunday, 23 April.

  • You are meant to count all persons who slept in the house on Sunday 23 April. The directions, in fact, say "all persons (including visitors) who spent the night of Sunday 23 April in the household.

  • You should complete the form on Sunday 23 April.

  • The enumerator will collect the form on Monday 24 April.

To me, these directions mean that everyone who is sleeping in the house at midnight on 23 April (the exact moment that Saturday the 22nd becomes Sunday the 23rd) are counted. You should tot up who slept in the house at 12:00 am and then complete the form at your leisure, perhaps as you're watching "Fair City" or the scores for "Celebrity Jigs 'N Reels." (Not that we'd watch such things personally, I am just giving a sense of time.)

Peter probably wouldn't argue with me on the timing of filling out the form, but he would (and in fact did, mightily and repeatedly) that the count should be of people who were going to be sleeping in the house in the evening hours of 23 April, perhaps the ones who are dozing through the dancing results or the film on RTE 1.

As is our wont, we have dug into our foxholes and are refusing to come out or concede any ground. I'm not conceding ground because I think the directions are flawed and are open to too much interpretation. Peter's not conceding ground because he thinks I'm being overly pedantic and fussy. But guess what, I pay our bills by writing instructional matters. I've sat in classes where we've discussed at great length the difference between "I leave my money to John, Paul, and Mary" vs. "I leave my money to John, Paul and Mary." Directions should be exact, precise, and not open to interpretation and these just are not those things.

This would all be a rhetorical question, but for the fact that we're going to a wedding on 22 April and will be sacking out at the a nice guest house in County Kildare at midnight on Sunday, 23 April. Besides, intellectual debate is so much fun, isn't it?


At 11 April 2006 at 20:31, Blogger Terri said...

Uh, I'm afraid I'm gonna have to side with Peter on this one. I read it as the night of the 23rd, as in the 23rd going into the 24th. The night before is the 22nd... which means that when it becomes the 23rd it will be the morning of the 23rd. Yes? No? Of course then one could argue how the heck are you supposed to fill it in on the 23rd when the night of the 23rd won't have happened yet. I mean, you could get a late and unexpected visitor on the night of the 23rd, after you've filled in the form.... aargh! I think I might arrange a trip abroad for that weekend

At 12 April 2006 at 09:34, Anonymous Sliabh said...

You could ask the enumerator? Ours has been loitering in the area all week as she tries to catch the rest of the people in our apt block.

And didn't she leave you a card with a phone number as well?

At 12 April 2006 at 14:31, Blogger Arbusto said...

How about you just say you're both there not matter what and make it a moot point.

At 17 April 2006 at 02:21, Blogger Career Guy said...

I'm with terri. If you are spending the night of the 23rd, you can't very well fill it out on the 23rd at the same time.

"Celebrity Jigs and Reels"? There is really such a show?

At 18 April 2006 at 06:14, Blogger -Ann said...

Terri - See, this is exactly why I have a problem with these instructions. It would have been much better if they said something like "Count every person who wakes up in your house on Sunday 23 April."

Sliabh - I barely saw the enumerator when she was here. She gave me the booklet and pamphlet and then scampered off.

Arbusto - Where's the fun in that? Plus, if we get counted in Kildare then we'd be counted twice if we followed your plan.

Dad - Yep. http://www.rte.ie/tv/jigsnreels/


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