SCENE opens on an 18-year-old girl, Beth Coleman, rushing to answer the door – ‘coming!’ she shouts as the doorbell chimes a second time. She opens the door to find a meek man in glasses and a somewhat nerdy-looking suit, holding a leather messenger bag under his arm. He greets her nervously and introduces himself as Milton James, and holding up an ID on a lanyard across his neck he explains that he’s a census taker – her parents failed to fill out the latest census and so by law he’s required to come in person to interview someone from the household.
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We cut back to a few moments later, after Milton has since let himself into the house and taken off hiss hoes. The two emerge in a large cozy living room with wood paneling. Clearly the Colemans do not lackfor money. ‘Do you want a glass of water or something?’ Beth asks, in an effort to be polite despite her discomfort. Not right now, thanks, Milton says. He seems trying to sound more warm than he was at the doorway, but comes off as awkward more than anything. He waits for Beth to choose her seat, and then picks a seat across from her, and pulls out a fancy-looking folder, some forms, and a nice pen from hisbag. As he does this, he tries to make awkward small talk with Beth, but her answers are very curt andhe soon gives up. He clears his throat and says ‘Well then, let’s get started.’He asks her a series of mundane questions – do you currently reside at this address? How many people besides yourself reside at this address? Please list the names of all persons who currently live at this residence, and their relationship to you. What is your marital status? When Beth answers ‘single’, helooks up from his paper and coyly asks ‘what about a boyfriend?’ No, no boyfriend either, Beth answers, averting her eyes as she says it. Milton smiles and says ‘Good, good’, as he moves on to thenext questions.
What languages do you speak at home? Do any of your household speak any other languages at homeon a regular basis? Were you born in the United States? Are you presently a citizen of the United States? Have you attended school in the United States? Throughout these questions, Beth’s body language becomes less hostile and more bored. She relaxes and spreads her legs somewhat, at which point fromover Milton’s shoulder the camera catches glimpses of upskirt panty shots. After the latest question, Milton pauses, his attention lingering on Beth’s legs – the pause alerts her to him checking her out and she very uncomfortably clears her throat, as she tries to pull her skirt over her legs as much as possible. Milton continues as if nothing happened.
What is the highest degree or level of school you’ve completed? Beth reluctantly answers that she dropped out of high school. In the last week, how many hours of paid work did you do? Beth answers none, she doesn’t have a job. In the last week, how many hours of volunteer work did you do? Also none. Milton asks condescendingly – no job, no volunteering, not even a high school diploma? Beth’s parents must not be very proud of her. Beth looks at him angrily – that’s not really any of his business is it? Are your parents sexually active? He blurts out. She looks at him, disgusted. How is that relevant? He explains that it’s to forecast whether or not the census bureau should expect new births from this household in the next few years. Grossed out, Beth struggles to find an answer, she doesn’t know, shetries not think about it too much, but she guesses they might be. Are you sexually active? Milton asks, with obvious interest. She looks straight at him, and says ‘No’ very slowly and angrily. ‘Would you liketo be?’ Milton asks. Beth stands up – ‘I think you should leave, Mr. James,’ she says nervously. Milton doesn’t move though – he’s almost done, just a few questions about their house and utilities and then he’ll be out of her hair. Beth doesn’t sit down, she just crosses her arms with renewed discomfort. Does the family own the house or are they renting? Does the house have landline service or just cellphones? Does it have complete kitchen facilities – sink, stove, and refrigerator? Does it have complete plumbing facilities – hot and cold water, a flushing toilet, and a tub or shower? He makes a remark about how he bets Beth’s plumbing is fully functional, and the innuendo further discomforts her. How manyrooms does the house have? How many bedrooms?
‘Can I see?’ Milton says innocently. See what, Beth asks through gritted teeth. ‘The number of bedrooms the house has. Can you show them to me?’ Beth looks like she’s about to say no, when headds ‘After that, I’ll be out of your hair.’ Beth raises her hands in the air in exasperation, and then says fine, follow her.
The camera tracks the two as she leads him to three bedrooms, with the focus being on her backside asif we’re watching her walk from his male gaze POV. First she leads him to her parents’ master bedroom,then to a guest bedroom that doesn’t get much use. Milton pokes his head in when he’s lead to each,but he doesn’t express much interest in either. Finally she leads him to her bedroom, and before she can react he brushes past her to walk inside.
He moves around the room with eager curiosity – peering intently into her drawers and closet, poking acouple of her belongings with his pen. He even stands in the centre and takes a deep breath. Beth waits at the door to the room impatiently, reluctant to go nearer to him but getting more upset and insistentas he intrudes. Finally, he moves to stand up straight rather formally in front of her, and adjusts his glasses. ‘Satisfied?’ Beth asks uncomfortably. Milton chuckles. ‘Oh, very satisfied. Although I’m afraid YOU’re in a bit of trouble, Miss Coleman.’ Beth stiffens – what does he mean? He explains that he found birth control pills in one of her drawers. But she said in the census she wasn’t sexually active, which suggests that she lied to him. Does she understand what the penalty is for giving false information to agovernment official?
Beth pleads – she only said that because he was acting completely inappropriate. She doesn’t even think all his questions were part of the census. She’d already asked him to leave. Why can’t he just leave heralone? Milton explains that he’s only doing his job, and it’s a thankless job, meeting with tons of ungrateful people who don’t want to give him the time of day. Ungrateful people like Beth. Maybe all hewants is some thanks in return. Beth sees an opportunity and tries to appease him. If it’s just a matter of saying sorry and thank you, she can do that.
But Milton elaborates, she was so rude to him. She didn’t even give him a chance, tried to slam the door on him if he recalls correctly. If she really wants to make it up to him, she has to do better than a halfhearted apology. ‘Like what?’ Beth asks nervously. He pretends to think for a moment. How about… a kiss? Beth is scared, but hopeful that that’s all he’ll ask for. ‘O-ok,’ she agrees. She leans in and they exchange a quick peck on the lips. Encouraged, Milton asks for another – this time she should really mean it. Hesitantly, she says OK and leans in again, and this time he kisses her much more aggressively -we can see that she’s not very into it and is rather stiff, not moving her lips much, while he is going really eagerly at it. Several seconds of awkward smooching later, he pulls away from her. He seems to have enjoyed it, but he wants more. He knows she can give him what he wants – he knows she’s not a virgin after all. If she shows him a good, appreciative time, he’ll be on his way. She swallows hard, and thenputs on a fake smile and reaches for his belt buckle to undo it.