‘Don’t forget!’ The promoted tweet twatted at me, ‘That is it census night tonight. Fill in your form.’
Nice of them to remind me, I thought, even though it was not census night tonight. Tonight for me was ten pm in WA on the 8th of August, but it was midnight in the eastern states so technically it was August 9th. The powers that be had clearly decided that everyone would still be up in Sydney and Melbourne, because that is the way these crazy cats roll, but the hayseeds in Perth would long be in bed.
Well I was in bed as it happened, but that did not stop me noticing, because I read the Internet in bed.
A while ago, my father started to trace his family tree and got a few generations back. He saved the information on a spreadsheet with all the names filled in, but then unfortunately decided to upgrade his computer. He thought he was OK because he had his hard drive backed up on an external disc. The file, however was never copied over for some reason, so all that work was lost. When his memory started to fail, we would sometimes find the new PC had been reset and I eventually worked out that he must have been looking for the family tree document and then performing a restore to see if he could locate it. Now I don’t think he would be able to complete the task even if he started again, and he would have to start again because the external back up disc failed to do its job and the data was corrupted.
I was thinking about this as I filled in my census form today. I was thinking of the fragile handwriting that I had seen on photo records of previous census documents, which sent a message to the future from my ancestors. Little did they know as they wrote, ‘mechanic’ or ‘housewife’ under Profession that someone they would never know, but who was related to them, would one day read that text on a machine they would likely never have imagined.
I was able to fill in my form online, further proof that technology is robbing eager retirees of the opportunity to door knock people in their neighbourhood. Apparently I was lucky. Apparently doing the census is not a nice optional thing to do if you want to contribute to the future anymore, it is something that you do unless you want to get slapped with a fine of $185 per day for every day you are late in submitting it. A bit harsh, I thought – and optimistic as it turned out, because the first thing the website had declared on arriving at its homepage, was that it was experiencing ‘unexpected heavy traffic’ so people would not be fined if they could not get on the site today.
Heavy traffic. If you know the population of Australia, maybe from the last census? And you know you have issued a threat to that population, and you know you have instructed them to lodge their details on the same day, just how unexpected can that traffic really be?
So back to the future, and in view of a ghostly arm that I may extend to relatives I will never meet, I took a little extra care to leave a tiny breadcrumb or two when filling out the form. It is highly unlikely that anyone will search me out. We have little immediate family – I have some cousins in Wales but they would not know me. My husband has a bigger extended family thanks to his two sisters providing their mother with a gaggle of grandkids, but we are hardly The Waltons.
My status for August 9th 2016 will float about in the cloud, or wherever things will be stored in and retrieved from a hundred years from now and maybe someday someone will see it and wonder how anyone survived on such a tiny salary, how cheap it was to buy a house, or why there were so many bloody project managers in Perth in the early part of the century.