Census complaints continue to arrive, especially from those who had to cope with the long forms.
Edward K. Bryant lives in the Maryland portion of Chevy Chase but notes that the form sent to him was addressed to "Chevy Chase, D.C."
He points out that if Census thinks that "all the residents of the Friendship Heights high-rise enclave (The Irene, The Highland House, The Elizabeth, North Park 4615, The Willoughby and 4620 North Park Avenue)" live on the Washington side of the line, this year's census count will rob Maryland of some 5,000 inhabitants and award them to the District of Columbia.
Dear, dear! That could have some interesting consequences. Averaging the incomes of The Irene's residents into the District of Columbia's column could cost D.C. some federal goodies.
Three mothers found the instructions for counting children who are away at college "confusing." In one place, they said, you're told not to count children at college, ("which gave me the impression they would be counted in their dorms"), but in another place the family was asked to list anybody who had been left out of the previous listing."When I phoned for help," one woman told me, "the man said I should have listed the boys who are at college in the place where the instructions said not to."
A Southeast resident whose handwriting is so distinguished that I could decipher neither his name nor his address wrote:
"You should check out the test prepared by the Commerce Department that has been given to applicants who apply for temporary work with the Census. There are questions on it for which there is no correct way of marking. That is, multiple choice questions where NONE of the choices is a correct answer (and there is no such choice as 'None of the above')."
A Bethesda man said: "My wife owns a few stocks and has a little money squirreled away in the savings and loan. Every year I have to threaten to report her to the IRS before I can get a worksheet out of her as to how much she collected in interest and dividends. She never, and I do mean never, has compiled this information before April 14, and this year is no exception.
"Yet in filling out the Census forms, I had to supply not only my own income figures but hers as well, and mail in the completed form by April 1.
"Don't use my name in the paper because the only choice I had was between getting a divorce and giving Census her income for 1978 instead of for 1979.
"It's no big deal -- the difference wil probably prove to be less than $100 -- but it seems to me that it was unreasonable for Census to pop this thing at us with an April 1 deadline. April 20 would have made much more sense. By the 20th, people would have been finished with compiling their financial records, and would have been able to fill out the forms with much less wasted motion."
Comment from Hannah Wexler of Falls Church was short and bittersweet. She wrote, "Does your wife want a good laugh? Tell her to look at page 13 of the Instruction Sheet, where it says, and I quote, 'Do not count as work "housework."' You might know that form was compiled by men."
You and my wife must be sisters of the skillet, Hannah. After I finished filling out the form, she went over it, of course. When she came to the part about not counting housework as work, she did not laugh. All she said was, "Men!" She is the only person I know who can make a three-letter word sound like a four-letter word.
You might also be interested to know that she was irate to find that I had answered "Yes" to the question that asked whether she suffers from any physical or mental condition that might make her unsuitable for some kinds of work. "Why did you tell them I'm handicapped?" she demanded.
"I didn't," I said. "They asked a foolish question and I answered it as accurately as I could. I answered 'Yes' about my condition, too."
"Oh, of course," she murmured, somewhat mollified to learn that I had given the same answer for myself but still not getting my point. "What condition do you suffer from?" she asked.
"I'm too old to work as a stevedore and too stupid to be a nuclear physicist," I said. "And so are you. Almost everybody suffers from some kind of condition that makes him unsuitable for some kinds of work. Wes Unseld is about as healthy a specimen as you can think of, but would you hire him as a jockey?"
"Sure," she said gleefully. "He'd make a great disc jockey."
The woman simply will not let me have the last word on anything -- even the perfectly obvious point that some questions were poorly worded. To the question, "Do you suffer from a physical or mental condition that makes you unsuitable for some types of work?" only Howard Cosell would feel honor bound to answer, "No."