I FILLED OUT MY CENSUS questionnaire last week. So did you, probably.
Some households got the long form, but mine got the short one, which was a bit like opening War and Peace and discovering it’s the Reader’s Digest condensed version.
My census didn’t ask me much at all: age, marital status, what languages I speak. I wanted to answer the language question with a story about getting confused and ordering half a railway with potato salad in a restaurant in Lindau, Germany, or the time when I was 17 and got decked in a broomball game in Quebec because I didn’t know the French for “wanna go?” (“Pardonnez-moi?” I replied brightly in my best B.C. junior secondary school French. It went downhill from there.)
Alas, the census people didn’t allow for such answers, just brusquely moved me along to the next question, which had to do with my gender at birth and how I identify now. That’s new, but not necessarily on my list of Top 10 Things You Want To Know About Your Fellow Canadians.
That’s the thing about the once-every-five-years census. It does a nice job of measuring how Canada changes over time in terms of age, family make-up, religion, ethnicity and so on, but isn’t great at answering the questions that spring to mind at beer o’clock.
To really gain our attention, the questions should go something like this:
1) What’s the worst lie you have ever told?
2) What is your greatest regret?
3) Do you believe in life after death?
4) How dopey will you feel (or not) if you’re wrong?
5) Are you happy? If yes, jump to question 7. If no, proceed to question 6.
6) When people ask how you’re doing, do you answer A) “Fine, thanks” or B) “Truly we lead quiet lives of desperation. How about them Canucks?”
7) How much did you drink during the first year of COVID?
8) Your mother’s not here: How much did you really drink?
9) Do you still love your spouse? (Remember your answers are confidential.) If yes, proceed to answer 10. If no, jump to question 11.
10) How about your neighbour’s spouse?
11) We were lying about the confidentiality. Give us $50 or we’re telling.
12) Don Cherry or Kevin Bieksa?
13) Starbucks or Tim Hortons?
14) Innie or outie?
15) Ryan Reynolds or Ryan Gosling? Ginger or Mary Ann?
16) If you understand the Ginger or Mary Ann reference, jump to question 23.
17) Do you know what “cheugy” means? If so, jump to question 20.
18) Did you or anyone in your cohort ever have a haircut like Rachel from Friends? If yes, jump to question 22. If your answer is “Rachel Who?” jump to question 24.
19) Where do you stand on man buns? If you think they’re not cheugy, jump to question 21. If your answer is “at the base, with both feet” go to question 24.
20) You belong to Generation Z, which means you say “OK boomer” to millennials. Question: Do you ever expect to move out of your parents’ home?
21) You are a millennial. Your chances of home ownership depend on A) frugality and a strong work ethic, or B) your parents being hit by a bus.
22) You belong to Gen X, which means every dollar you earn goes to housing so you have been reduced to eating carpet underlay and selling spare children but that’s OK because you’re still living in Victoria, right? Right?
23) You are a baby boomer. What are your children most likely to inherit from you: A) the family home, or B) a large collection of fanny packs and Tilley hats?
24) On a scale of 1 to 10, how hot are you? If 10, how long have you written for the Times Colonist?
25) Should Trudeau shave his beard?
26) What is your greatest fear? A. Climate change B. COVID-19 C. The loss of a loved one D. Bike lanes. If D, how long have you lived in Victoria?
27) Have you ever faked a sick day?
28) You have 30 seconds: Sing O Canada all the way through without botching the words.
29) Great. Now do it in the original French.
30) Do you use the census to see what sets us apart from one another, or to see what we have in common?