Friday, June 25, 2010

This Could Be The Beginning of My Novel. Its Mostly Accurate.

Disappearing houses are no surprise to the U.S. Census Bureau. About 15% of housing units have disappeared from the time they were mapped, until the time someone goes out to find it. They get demolished, moved or yep, just disappear. It was my "job" to either locate these houses that have disappeared or find someone who could concur that there was no house.

Here's an example:  I have an address listing I am supposed to locate, but the street numbers don't go as high as the one listed on my form. So I do some investigating (I like this part!) I determine its not a misprint. I knock on a neighbor's door. ( I look for one that has a big, friendly dog. Owners of big, friendly dogs, contrary to popular belief ,are generally friendly...though not necessarily big.)

I ask the neighbor if they see a house across the street. They say "no".  I ask if they remember a house ever being across the street. They say, "I just moved..." I interrupt, very attorney-like.

"Just answer the question please. Do you ever remember a house being across the street?"


"Thank you. May I have your name please to confirm there is no housing unit on that property?"

I thank them again, pet the dog, engage in small talk, and I'm on my way. Or something like that...

Sometimes (as in this case) I would get a form with no address, just a description of the house. Those were really tricky!  This one in particular was fun: "Yellow house, green shutters, near 130."  That of course is not the actual street number, that would be some sort of breach of confidentiality and I can't blog from jail ( I think...).

I went to 130. No yellow house anywhere. There was however a beekeeper's house. I got out and quickly got back in my car.  I drove up and down those five blocks, hunting for anything that could have been mistaken for yellow or green.

I drove further down the street at a snail's pace. The cars behind me began honking and I forgot to put my sign in the window that reads "Get Over Yourself Or Go Around! I'm Doing Government Work Here!" or something like that....

I happen to live on this road but about seven miles down, so for several days I drove up and down this highway looking for ANYTHING that might be mistaken for a yellow house with green shutters. I finally stopped at a dirty white house (Could possibly be mistaken for pollen-yellow) with dark blue-green shutters. Nobody answered so I left my handy-dandy notice. But I was doubtful. It just didn't feel right.

I talked to my supervisor about it. We looked it up on the map. (Oh yeah, I forgot about the map.)
It was "spotted" (Census jargon) between two roads that were outside town. I had been looking near 130 on the INSIDE of town (did I mention it wasn't really near 130? Just checking.)

Great. That's on my way home. I'll check again. I drove slowly, I mean I was almost going backwards! I looked on both sides of the road. NOTHING. No yellow house with green shutters. I turned around and retraced the path. Still nothing.  I went back to the supervisor. We had a great laugh over these ridiculous instructions. She said find a neighbor to confirm it. I did. I turned it in and headed home, hot and sweaty from a very long afternoon (this was one of many houses I had visited that day.)

I was determined not to even look side to side as I drove past this block. I was done. Finished. Heading home for a cool bath.

I SLAMMED on the brakes! I threw my car in reverse and backed up ON the HIGHWAY!
I heard music playing from a dramatic movie scene. The trees parted and I think an eerie glow was surrounding the most darling, most quaint cottage-like home I had ever seen. It was a lemony yellow with evergreen shutters and seemed to say, "Welcome home. Come stay awhile."

I turned up the diminuitive drive, that I couldn't have missed earlier. There were no cars present but there were cats. Lots of cats.Other than that there was no sign of life. I peered into the sky to see if the mother-ship was still hovering. This house was NOT here a moment ago ( I shook my head to clear it). I looked up slowly and it was still there (the house, not the mother-ship)

I got back in my car and pulled back into the street. I drove several blocks away and pulled through at a normal speed thinking, surely it was hidden by foliage. But it wasn't. It was off the road a little further than the neighboring houses but it was definitely visible from the road. It was tucked into the trees like it was being comforted between warm blankets, but the trees seemed to be parted so that passerbys could admire the misplaced cottage.

I was freaking. I called my supervisor. "You're not going to believe this. The house just appeared. I mean it wasn't there and now it is."

"What about the neighbor who confirmed it?"

"He's gone. Poof! Can't find him."

"Any signs of life there?"

"Just cats. But otherwise it appears vacant."

"Shhh. Don't say a word to anyone. This will be our secret."

"Okay" I whispered, not knowing who was listening.

So don't tell, okay?
This is NOT a picture of the yellow house cause they may put me in jail, but here's A yellow house that looks very similar to the one I told you about.

I drive past that area every day. The mother-ship has indeed returned and taken the house home.


  1. Okay, I have two possible exclamations.

    1) This house closely resembles the house in Disney/Pixar's UP, which means it may have floated away via thousands of helium balloons and then landed safely back in place, or

    2) You're in TV Rerun Land, in an episode of Bewitched. Actually two episodes combined - the one where Endora and Uncle Arthur had an ongoing battle and kept making a house across the street appear and disappear, and the one where Serena turned Mrs. Stevens into a cat and Samantha found her next door at Miss Parsons house full of cats.

    Or you just might be working too hard.

  2. The forest is playing tricks on you....Better becareful a nice friendly witch might invite you in for some treats just befores she opens up her oven door!!

  3. again... what a story! who knew being a census worker would be so mysterious and entertaining!

  4. You know, there is a house like that around here.
    Old rickety Ma and Pa kettle type house. It is almost covered by trees.
    But every time I think to get my camera and go find it so I can take a picture...I can never find it.....

  5. Doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo.

    Also, that's Twilight Zone music, not me just writing "doo doo" all over your blog.

  6. OMG I'm laughing at some of the comments almost as much as your post! Are you sure you didn't smoke a little "something something" before work that day? Hee hee. ;-)

  7. That is so strange! My husband just told me a crazy store about the house he grew up in...that people couldn't find it from the street because the previous owner had put a spell on it and the cottonwood trees acted as guardians....protecting it. He had to come remove the spell so people could find the house!

  8. Here's the answer: the yellow house with the green shutters is a mobile home. Did you get I lost a trucker the other day who moves the doublewides I sell to local locations...something is fishy here.

  9. Ohmyword. ... I think the first comment is on to something, did you see any helium tanks??


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(No she didn't...yes she did.)