Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Annals of a +15 Pedestrian Survey Data Collector

All the things you never wanted to know about a profession you didn't know existed.

This position requires that the data collector (DC) in question be able to abstain from any normal bodily functions during a period of time between 2.5 and 3.5 hours in length. Chief among these are actions like urinating, menstruating, and sometimes blinking. If you're keen on the job, try flying from Calgary to Toronto and disciplining your body like you would a dog. "No" is a key command, as is "Sit", "Stay", and the common "You Only Think You Need To Pee, But In Another Two Hours You'll Have Completely Forgotten About That Lower Abdominal Pain".

Step two involves that eye technique employed by pilots and sometimes Albertan drivers in the dark when normal eyesight is at it's worst and you must defocus to focus. You know what I'm talking about! It's much easier to see Japanese tourists in the jaws of a grizzly bear at dusk if you let your eyes relax. Seeing in the dark is like counting the massive amounts of business-casual occupants of the downtown core. Less is more, if you will. This technique comes in especially handy around noon, when absolutely everybody has the same, original idea: to go for lunch. Hilarious you think! How bad can it be. People crossing a bridge to buy lunch at Marcello's, no big deal right! I mean, you're only pressing two buttons! One for south-bound pedestrians, and one for north-bound pedestrians. But just like Dr. Seuss's fabled characters, it's like counting 10,000 South-going Zax and 10,000 North-going Zax, determined to butt heads on the prairie of Prax, otherwise known as a minimal amount of space and time to log all the occupants from the offices in the northern half of Calgary's CBD on route to buy Quiche Lorraine or Pad Thai Salad. Add to this fact this week's frigid temperatures, and you come up with the appropriate Human Stampede.

Thirdly, look as uninviting and unapproachable as humanly possible. In fact, if possible, don't look human at all! Otherwise you will have curious onlookers deviating from the torrential river of +15 pedestrians to stand and completely block your view, look pointedly at your counter, then where you're staring, eyes red and swollen from the lack of blinking for the past half an hour, read the sign that says "Transportation Data Collector On Duty", look at the counter again, still fail to connect the dots, and say: "I have to ask a stupid question."

At this point, your mind is racing with such thoughts as:
Yes, Yes it is a stupid question. Why? Because I already know what the question's going to be, YOU already know what the answer is going to be, and yet you're STILL going to stand there open-mouthed and ask me.

Then the question turns out to be one of the following options:
1. Are you counting people?
2. Can you tell me what exactly it is you're doing?
3. What's going on here?

And after you tell them:
1. Yes.
2. I'm counting people.
3. I'm counting people.

They then ask:
1. Are you counting men and women?
2. Are you counting men and women?
3. Are you counting men and women?

Your mind races ahead yet again with:
Why the f*ck would I differentiate between a man pedestrian and a woman pedestrian. What the hell kind of information would we get out of that? Oh. More women use this particular +15 bridge. That must be because of the availability of feminine hygiene products on the other side and they all got their period at the same time. Oh. More men use this particular +15 bridge. That must be because at 7:30 AM they're all going for a boy's morning out. All of them. At the same time. Together. No. I'm not even going to answer you. No. No no no no no.

After the security guard tells you to put your feet down from the table, you end the day beaten, humiliated, and poisoned from holding your bladder. Repeat three more times and you'll have "successfully" completed a week in the life of a +15PSDC. Congratulations! Your taxes are paying for this!


  1. I laughed at the Dr. Seuss reference, and just about everything else. Except for the security guard, who I would have punched.
    Just read a really interesting article about counting all the people in India, and giving them all ID numbers. I'm sure they'll need help with that, after your two weeks are up, but it sounds like you might have had enough after your two weeks are up.
    One day you'll look back on this with nostalgia. Betcha ten bucks.

  2. hahahaha. i like the women vs. men bit. simultaneous periods vs. boys mornings out.