Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Signing on...

My Name is Rachael, and I am Unemployed... 
There, I said it... I have no job. No paid employment. And whether I am bothered about it or not, I find there is a stigma attached to being unemployed.

 Today I have had to go to the unemployment office and sign on. I do this every two weeks on a Tuesday at 10:36am. Not 10:35 or 10:37...10:36am, 
On the dot... Unless they are running late...  

A while back they changed the signing times. This was because the unemployment office became too busy during each half hourly slot. So they spaced out the times you have to sign-on.. 
They don't like you to be early, they like you to be on time. If you are five minutes late, there could be a chance that you loose your entitlement that week.

I make sure I am early, I stand outside and look through the window at their clock inside on the wall. Waiting for my time. Their clock's time is different to the time set on my mobile phone. The mobile phone that is set to the BBC News' clock's time. The mobile phone that is set to the pips before the news broadcast on Radio Four, the one that is set to GMT....
(GMT being the time at which all clocks in the universe are set) 
The employment office clock however, is set three minutes fast...

As you walk in, you instantly realise that this office is much warmer than your own house after the heating has been on all day..... and night. 
I hand in my booklet in it's little plastic cover to the flustered lady at the booth. She is flustered because this simple task is done amidst a full scale argument between a man who has come to sign on and the two security guards, BJ and Clive... 
He has been told he is late, and that there could be a chance that he will loose his entitlement this week.

I take my seat just round the corner on the large red pouffe seat. Opposite me is Pauline Fowler, Pauline Fowler with far too much Avon at her disposal... 
She seems nice but by her expression, she clearly wants to be somewhere else. That, coupled with the fact that in the last minute, she has huffed heavily three times... 
We make eye contact, which is not always a good idea here, she gives me a weak smile and I smile back, she huffs again and Says " I wish they would ****** well hurry up". I smile weakly.. 

A man has been standing to the right of our pouffes and is looking to catch someone's eye who can help him...
Doesn't he know you have to stand in a line at the booth??... 
The security guard spots him and escorts him to the line in front of the booth... He tries to explain that "All I have to to is to get someone to take this letter from my bank and put it in my file, I don't need an appointment... No I don't, I just want to hand it in.."

 He huffs and then takes his place in the line with his letter, he gets to the booth and is told he needs to make an appointment, alternatively he could post it to the person the letter is intended for. Neither they nor he know who that is...

A young lady is talking loudly on her mobile phone, she is sat under the sign that asks you to refrain from using your mobile phone whilst in the unemployment office. She says to her friend on the other end..
"I knooooww, reeeallyy? what an idiot..Why?....yeah...waiting in-I....Takin ******* ages man" The security guard silently motions to the sigh above her head. She slowly turns her head to read it. She tells her friend on the other end "****, I've gotta speak aatside, for ***** sake...." 
Not removing the phone from her ear or pausing the conversation, she wanders out the automatic door. She stands just close enough to the door outside that every time she takes a drag on her cigarette, the door opens...

A large man, 6 ft 5 or more sits on the blue pouffe to my left, he is wearing a blue beanie and his dreadlocks are so long that he has to re-adjust his seating so that he doesn't sit on them. He sits back, confident and relaxed. He smells of an exotic shampoo or shower gel, he looks casual but clean and tidy, he certainly doesn't belong here...

A lady walks in, she is tall and slim, she is wearing a long green wax jacket, she is wearing a faded green hoodie underneath the coat with the hood up and tied up under her chin. She stands at the seating section and begins to empty the contents of her bag on to the red pouffe in front of her... 
Doesn't she know she should not do that here, doesn't she know she is not allowed to wear a head covering in the employment office...?? 

The security guard spots her and explains that emptying her bag out is not allowed and she must remove her hood....
She turns to speak to the security guard as he walks away, as she does this, I realise she is wearing a full length pink towelling dressing gown under her coat...
 I actually think to myself, "maybe it's wash day??"

She calls to the security guard as she takes off her hood, "I'm not exactly a terrorist am I ?" " Yeah look, I've got a knife in my pocket..." 

OH DEAR....Doesn't she know that she's not....
never mind, clearly not...

Both security guards approach her quickly and quietly, in hushed tones they explain that "You cannot say things like that in the unemployment office", "You cannot suggest that you have a weapon. If you do, we will be forced to restrain you and the police will be called"...

"Mrs Plummer??" I am called, I dutifully walk, not run, to the signing desk, without my hood on, on time, my phone is on silent, the time on it is correct but we won't argue about that today, I have no weapons, I have washed, I am clean, the only make-up I have on is clear lip gloss and haven't huffed once.....

Oh yes, every single day, for the past two weeks,
  I have scoured the job websites for work, read every inch of the vacancies section in our local paper, asked at two local primary schools for vacancies and applied for three jobs on-line. 

We talk while I sign on about how cold and hungry the signing-on lady is, she has had cornflakes and a crumpet for breakfast, I suggested porridge may keep her full for longer, I also mentioned that it might not be the best position for her desk, by the automatic door, she said it keeps opening but no one comes in. She also said she doesn't drink very much and maybe she is thirsty, not hungry, I agreed, I said that I think you are supposed to drink 8 glasses of water a day, we agreed that neither of us do that. She thought that not eating porridge and drinking enough is probably why she is cold and hungry... I agreed, we laughed, we said goodbye and then I came home...












2 comments:

  1. I think that your ability to accept what cannot be changed, in the interest of self-preservation, is admirable.

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  2. This is the best thing I have read all week. You have captured completely the tedium and humiliation of unemployment and the bureaucracy that goes with it. Really, really good. I hope you find something soon.

    K xx

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