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Our Tax Dollars At Work, Folks

, , , , , , | Working | June 28, 2022

I work in city infrastructure. One of the jobs we have to do is to essentially calculate the traffic and vehicle density of an area for city planning purposes. We go about doing that by taking satellite images of the place over a period of time and manually counting how many cars there are in the area. Then, we log the results on an Excel spreadsheet to identify trends. The satellite images are placed into an imaging software, and we later box out chunks with the number of vehicles inside the box listed in the label, e.g., 50 x vehicles, 100 x vehicles.

Now, the count isn’t accurate. If we went and labeled every single car individually, we’d never get done. So instead, we’re told to estimate the rough number. The bosses don’t mind as long as the results are more or less in the right ballpark.

One day, I do the task and log the number of vehicles in a suburb. It’s not one of those high-priority areas, so I make three big boxes over the whole thing and call it a day.

The next day, my manager tells me that I’ve grossly overestimated the number of cars present and demands a recount.

Me: “Dude, you’ve known me since we both started here. I’ve done this task over fifty times. I don’t make mistakes like this.”

Manager: “It’s not that I don’t trust you, but 1080 vehicles is just too much.”

Me: “[Area] has loads of cars. I’ve logged numbers of over 700 before. You’ve definitely seen over 900 before.”

Manager: “700 is one thing — I can buy 700 — but over 1000 is another. I need a recount.”

I shrug and do the job. I recount and slice my three big boxes down to seven smaller ones.

Me: “[Manager]! I’ve counted again. You were right. There weren’t 1080 vehicles.”

Manager: “Ah, good. What’s the new number?”

Me: “1190.”

Manager: “You s***ting me?”

Me: “No. I counted them all.”

Manager: “Look, man, this is getting out of hand. Can you recount again?”

Me: “I’ve sliced my three boxes into seven smaller ones. They’re accurate.”

Manager: *Clicks on a box* “These are all neat and pretty numbers. Did you round up?”

Me: “I rounded down, actually.”

Manager: “Sorry, man. Not buying it. Recount again, please.”

I shrug and do it again. Normally, for a “non-priority” region, it’s rare to see more than one or two boxes. For higher priority regions, six or seven boxes are considered good enough.

I slice my seven boxes into way smaller chunks, each no more than forty cars each, rounding down.

Me: “Final count is 1206 vehicles. And I counted it carpark by carpark. The number is accurate. I refuse to recount a third time.”

Manager: “1206?!”

Me: *Shows my screen* “I cut the place into way smaller chunks now. There’s no way you can argue your way outta this.”

My manager actually tries counting all forty-plus boxes individually. He gets the same number I do. 1206.

Manager: “S***.”

Me: “As I said, I’ve done this place over fifty times. Have you ever considered this wonderfully weird idea: that I actually know what I’m doing?”

Manager: “But 1206!”

Me: *Shrugs* “There’s a first time for everything.”

He didn’t argue any further with me.

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