We've been seeing reports about the Census Bureau's address canvassing exercises popping up all over the Internet, but this blog post from Ryan Pope, who trained to check addresses for the Census Bureau's upcoming 2010 decennial count (and the writer behind Ryan's Ridiculous Real World blog), probably takes the cake. His account of his training with the bureau in Oceanside, Calif.:
The questions really got out of hand once our CL [Crew Leader] distributed handheld computers for us to train with. We were supposed to have one HHC (handheld computer) per student, but it just so happened that after we all finished being fingerprinted on the first day, my CL's Supervisor showed up and whisked away 18 of the devices, leaving us with four for the entire class to share. For some reason I am yet to understand, my CL chose to assign each of these computers to four of the oldest people in the class. Since these septuagenarians can barely use a cell phone, they were totally lost at sea: a group of chimpanzees would've been more tech savy [sic] than these people. Thus after every single step of the training, one of these geysers [sic] would shout, "WAIT, how did you get that!" or "My screen doesn't look like that, I think my computer's broken," or "Where's the 'on' button?" They always asked these questions with a certain amount of panic and desperation in their voices, as if they were asking for directions to the exit of a burning building.
I highly suggest you read Pope's account of his Census training, particularly considering that he was being trained for a job that he would admittedly never do, since the Census Bureau's address canvassing was set to conclude just days after the training session.
He also is careful to point out that he doesn't blame the older users for their difficulties using the handhelds:
They were totally tense and stressed out about using the computers before we even got started, and their intuitive skills (in terms of technology) were for shit, thus there wasn't a single time all four of them were able to follow along and successfully complete the next step without any assistance. As you can imagine, this made for some riveting action for those of us who did not have handheld computers and had to just listen and try to follow along while the greatest generation suffered a nervous breakdown. The thing is, this wasn't really their fault; they were all nice people who just didn't feel comfortable with new technology. My point is this was easily predictable and thus could've been easily prevented. Unfortunately, once we started trying to guide the four blind mice through the lesson, we couldn't stop because the Census Bureau training had to be followed verbatim.