There are two kinds of census-takers: those who like getting the heavily-populated areas with well-travelled roads and lots of people answering their doors, and those who like the sparsely-populated areas with the logging roads and the feeling of dread as you walk up to an old shack praying that nobody will actually come to the door, if in fact someone could even really live there. I fall into the latter catagory. It maximizes my driving and music-listening time and minimizes my human-contact time and makes me feel like I'm getting paid to explore parts of the country that have never been discovered before, except of course by the people who live in those particular parts, who probably live there for exactly that reason.
There are of course those people who live in those parts because they're doing something, or various things, that they do not want people knowing about. They're not adventurers or explorers or one of the dedicated few who feel philosophically obligated to live off the map and support themselves by hunting and gardening. They simply do not want to be found out and they are the ones, though they seem to be surprisingly few and far between (I, of course, figured everyone who was living 50 miles from any significant population center fell into this catagory), that make my job particularly scary. And I stumbled onto one of these residences the other day, I think.
It was actually in a kind of neighborhood, as in there were neighbors, not in the kids-playing-kick-the-can-and-backyard-barbeques sense. I was at the house next to the normal-looking but instantly creepy house when the "lady of the house" was taking the trash out. Usually if people see me driving slowly and squinting to read addresses behind my dash covered with maps and papers that are too big to balance successfully on a dash they will stop and smile and ask if I need help or at least acknowledge me in a friendly, if somewhat amused, way. This woman looked at me, saw me pulling out of the neighbors driveway and pulling tentatively into hers and walked right back into the house only to emerge seconds later with a man who followed her to the suspiciously nice looking black Prius directly behind which I was then parked. In my friendly "I-work-for-the-government-but-I'm-still-one-of-you" voice I asked the woman what her address was and she rattled it off without looking up or breaking stride. I told her that I was just dropping off her census packet and thought maybe she would come get it, as I was holding it out the window offering it to her but the couple just got in "their" Prius and actually started backing up. I had to throw my car in reverse to get out of their way to keep from getting hit. So after they left I pulled back into the driveway, outraged, resolved to drop the damn thing on their doorknob, just to show them I was mad and not to be trifled with. If they did not want to fill it out, fine with me but they were going to get the envelope.
As I approached the house I realized that it was they who were not to be trifled with. The first alarm bells atarted going off when I noticed that the garage had its own electricity box, which in and of itself is not too weird but the windows were all covered with dark paper and duct tape so that it would probably have made a wonderful little meth lab. Then between the garage and the house there was a huge pacing, growling Rottweiler, which scared me enough to quicken my pace to a kind of goofy trot. When I got about ten feet from the front door the smell hit me and I really was scared. I've never smelled a dead body before but I've driven through that smell of recently dead things starting to turn and this was something like that only about 100 times stronger and it hung in a thick fog around the whole house. No longer propelled by anger or spite but out of simple inertia and my brain being gummed up by whatever it was that I was breathing I made my way to the door and hung the envelope on the doorknob. Then in a moment of clarity, no longer caring how goofy or terrified I looked, I turned and raced back to the safety of my car, shoved my maps out of the way and headed off to the next house on my block.
That's it. Kind of anti-climactic, eh? You're probably left wondering if I've reported this or have made any attempt to investigate further and the answer is: I haven't. I'd love to give you some amazing story about how I snuck back in the dead of night and climbed in through the chimney and discovered it crammed with old skeletons but I'm just not capable of that kind of bravado. I've got kids and I figure it's none of my business anyway. I watch the news now and then and Forensic Files religiously and if I see that house or those people on either of those shows I'll probably lean forward and say something like "Oh my Gosh! I knew it!" And I'll tell the story for years about how I stumbled upon a house that contained a dead body and it will never occur to me to be embarrassed about not doing a thing about it. I'm like the characters of Seinfed in the last episode. Why does my mere presence require me to take some sort of action, right? Of course I say all that while sitting here wondering if there is maybe something I should have done...too late now...