DeWitt column: Dear Mr. Census Man
Dear Mr. Census Man,
I have received your Census letter. All five of them, in fact. I sure hope my tax dollars aren’t paying for all that correspondence, but our multi-trillion dollar deficit isn’t why I am writing to you. I personally take offense to your letter, and on behalf of my people - a people sometimes slandered as trailer trash, but we prefer the term “Trailer Folk” - I wish to protest your culturally insensitive questions.
First of all, your letter is addressed “To The Resident Of” this address. How dare you insinuate that I have a fixed dwelling? My people have been proud nomads since our ancestors deserted from the Confederate Army back in - well, let’s not bring that up. However, my people do have a term for folks who go taking the wheels off their mobile homes and strapping them down: “Too Big For Their Britches.”
In fact, a few years ago the beautiful and eloquent Miss South Carolina, Brooke Mosteller, said it best during the Miss America Pageant: “From the state where 20% of our homes are mobile, because that’s how we roll!”
Before you go judging us too harshly, Mr. Census Man, there are several advantages to having a home on wheels:
Taxes are high in my rural county. So, when the Hampton County tax man comes around to assess the property, having a mobile home makes it easy to make a clean getaway. I mean, if they can’t find your home, they can’t tax it, right?
In our rural area of the Lowcountry, all ex-girlfriends, ex-wives, “baby mommas” and bill collectors tend to know exactly where you live, so having a mobile dwelling is nice at the first of the month when the child support and the loan company payments come due at the same time.
When hard times hit, as they are now, and the bank repossesses your acre of land, the well and the septic tank, you can ride off into the sunset in search of greener pastures and cheaper trailer parks.
When Momma and the wife don’t get along, you can put some space between them for a while and, hopefully, come back in time for Thanksgiving dinner.
Secondly, this brings me to the rude and insensitive questions. Why do you need to know how many people were living with me on April 1, 2020? You sure are nosy, Census Man, and I can’t even remember that far back. Were me and The Old Lady together then or was that the week she put me out? I do know there was one week when she let me stay a night or two - when I got my income tax return - then there was another hot and steamy night when I got my COVID-19 Stimulus Check, but I can’t remember the exact dates. But the government has no business in my romantic life.
As an advocate for my people, we also take particular exception to the question about “additional people” living with us. I better not catch my Old Lady with any additional people up in here! Not while I’m paying the light bill and for half of the groceries, beer, cigarettes and scratch-off lottery tickets! And what if I happen to have a family member or two that keeps the wife on one end of the trailer, and the ex-wife or girlfriend on the other end? While me and the folks on the Hopewell Baptist Church Softball Team Committee personally don’t approve of this; it ain’t none of your business, Mr. Census Man. Let God sort it out.
Then, in your little Census, you want to know if I own my home or if it is mortgaged. While that is also none of your business, Momma said if I finish fixing the transmission on her truck like I promised, and help her do some odd jobs around the trailer park, she would sign it over to me free and clear, and I believe her this time. She ain’t had a drink or a pill in 30 days, Bless Jesus!
Finally, there are a whole lot of questions about how Person 2, 3, 4, etc. are related to Person 1. Look here, Uncle Sammy, I live in the rural South. I don’t have time to be explaining to you how everyone in my clan is related to everyone else, and I certainly don’t have time to go into the dynamics of double second and third cousins, Uncle Grandpas, Step Uncle-Daddies, and all that.
But I see that “my response is required by law,” according to your letters. Frankly, I am required by law to do enough nonsense around here - I have to pay child support, buy a hunting and a fishing license, get a permit before I can sell stolen copper and scrap metal, and pay taxes on my boat even though my ex-wife took it in the divorce and now her new man is driving it. So maybe I’ll return your Census, or maybe not, out of protest.
But send me another one of those nice Stimulus Checks, and maybe I’ll see what I can do to fulfill my civic duty.
God Bless America.
A concerned American citizen
Michael M. DeWitt Jr. is the managing editor of The Hampton County Guardian newspaper in South Carolina. He is an award-winning humorist, journalist and outdoor writer and the author of two books.