Today is Census Day in Chile.  Chile doesn’t do their census the way we do in the United States.  Apparently, someone will come around and count us in our homes.  Logically, then, we have to be home to be counted.  And, so, nothing – and I do mean nothing is open.  Rumor has it you can be fined if you’re out walking around but, presumably, once you’re counted you get a receipt or a mark or something and you’d be free to go.  Supposedly restaurants will re-open around 8pm.

Of course, we’re also told that no one will be fined and that a lot of people have taken off to beaches for one last fall fling.  But all non-essential businesses are shut.  They would absolutely be fined and shut down if they tried to contravene the order to close.  I’m staying in preparing for a trip to Mendoza, grading papers and watching tape delay American sports on ESPN Chile.  I await with interest who may come to my door.

But the city IS very quiet.  There is usually a lot of traffic noise when I have the windows open and there is basically none.  An occasional car but the roar from Providencia and Bilbao are quiet.  I can hear dogs barking all over the city.  I imagine they’re unhappy about how quiet their humans have gotten.

I also don’t see roving bands of census workers.  Santiago has 8 million (give or take, we’ll find out exactly today, I guess) people.  If one census worker can count 250 people (requiring them to count a person every 2.5 minutes given a ten hour workday) that would require 32,000 census workers.  It stands to reason that they’d work in groups so double that and give a cushion:  75,000 census workers.

I’d think I’d see someone out there walking around counting people but I only see the occasional person walking their dog.  My building’s janitor is outside sweeping the sidewalk.  I suppose that is non-essential?  Perhaps they can be counted at work?  I asked our doorman if he would be here and he said yes.  So, I’m confused.  But that is a pretty common feature of my time in Santiago so everything is normal.

I will keep you posted on if, when and how I am counted.


Postscript:  I have been counted.  The census worker was a very nice lady, on her own.  She is still on the floor (there are seven apartments on my floor and I saw more of my neighbors in the last 10 minutes than I’ve seen all year, everyone is stilling their heads out).  It was a quite detailed survey.  I think I gave reasonable answers.  That is, I think I understood her Spanish and she mine.  I did confuse “sesenta” and “setenta” which I have done since my very first lesson and I have no idea why.  I’m actually quite good with numbers in Spanish (and English and just as numbers).  But those two I screw up.  So when she asked my age, bang, gave it straight away.  She then asked my birth year, bang, gave it straight away.  And she’s looking at me suspiciously and I see she has written down a year in the 60s and I know right away I messed up.  Ah, well. 

The process took about 6 minutes.  She’s going to have a long day.  If she averages 5 minutes per person, she’ll count 120 people.  That will require a little less than 70,000 counters. 


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