Sometimes in life, I feel like I just don’t count. Don’t get me wrong, I really do love my life. I enjoy my home, my family and friends and even what I do for work. I also, OBVIOUSLY, love where I live. But sometimes it just feels like even after all the things that I have and have done, I just don’t count. I’ve had this creeping feeling for the last year or so especially, and I think I’ve finally figured out the reason why. It’s nothing that I’ve done, or haven’t done for that matter. In fact, I don’t feel that my feelings of not counting have anything to do with me or my actions. I blame the United States Census Bureau.
In the year 2000, I had just begun college and was considered a dependent to my parents. They lived in an average home in Illinois with their own personal mailbox. This is a luxury that those who live in Goodland do not have. We are a post-office- box- only community. Regardless, I’m sure that when my parents received their 2000 census packet in the mail, they remembered to include me, their daughter, in it. I was an official U.S. citizen for at least the next ten years.
As the 2010 census rolled around, the intense media coverage on the importance of the census was everywhere. “Remember to fill out your whole questionnaire when it is mailed to you and be as precise as you can. Please send it back as soon as possible. Blah, blah, blah,” said the television. And so, I was ready. I waited for my packet. It never came. Not that I was checking my P.O. Box every day or anything, but it was exciting to be able to speak for myself for the first time when it comes to what I want the government to know about me.
It is now the middle of 2011 and I have somehow finally realized that I never got a chance to tell our government all about me. It must be that whole “living on island time” thing. Anyway, I guess my point is that I finally decided to look into it.
According to Robert M. Groves, the Director of the United States Census Bureau, “post office boxes can be used to retrieve mail in any place one wishes to receive the mail. The boxes can be far away from the home of the owner of the box; boxescan be shared by multiple people who live in different housing units; some boxes are not attached to households but to businesses. For these reasons, the Census Bureau does not mail census forms to post office boxes.”
Then how is it that Goodland is counted, exactly? I went back to the Bureau’s website and continued to read what Mr. Groves had to say about the issue. Basically, for areas such as Goodland, employees of the Census Bureau will go door-to-door to conduct the interviews. The census was sent by mail in early 2010. Those who do not have a mailbox at their home should have expected their at home interviews some time during the middle of 2010.
But, alas, I never received my interview. They never counted me.
I asked around to my friends and neighbors to see if I was the only one who didn’t seem to count in Goodland. Many, but definitely not all, of the people I questioned received an at home interview. Those who were interviewed said it was short, sweet and to the point; only a few minutes. Just a five minutes out of their day and they are now counted as United States Citizens.
But what about the rest of us? The U.S. Census in 2000 reported the total population in Goodland to be 320 people, but in 2010, a mere ten years later, the total population in Goodland dropped to 267 people. There was an overall rise in the amount of people living in Collier County over the last ten years so it seems highly suspicious to me that our town would decrease by 53 people. If I knew anything about math I would say that’s almost a 17% decrease in our overall population.
So, what exactly am I saying here? I guess I just never expected that I wouldn’t be counted as a U.S. citizen. I wanted to have that chance to tell our government about me and where I live. I would like to make sure that all Goodlanders have that chance too. So those of you, who were also forgotten, join in with me! Let’s demand a recount! The United States government should understand. After all, isn’t that what Florida’s known for?
Natalie Strom has lived in Goodland for over two years and has worked in Goodland on and off for more than five years. She is a graduate of the University of Iowa and is also a former Buzzard Queen of Stan’s Idle Hour in Goodland