Is there a place more steeped in gloom and the stink of misery than the Job Centre? I hardly think so.
Today was my first day, my first day of signing on to the dreaded “dole,” or for some people, easy street. I am not one of these people, and I am sorry if I have just generalised a lot of people who have genuine need to be on “the dole.” I still stand by my reference to gloom and misery stink though.
I’ve been putting this event off for about a week, as many of you will know from one of my blogs about “The First 5 Days,” of being unemployed. What was my reasoning for putting it off? One, I didn’t want to go there without my dad, my moral support, and he has been on holiday for 2 weeks (the lucky bugger). Two, I couldn’t bring myself to accept that I had to go to the Job Centre. Finally three, really I am just a big chicken, and quite frankly that place gives me the creeps.
With my moral support back from his holiday, there was no getting around the fact that I had to visit the Job Centre sooner or later. Dad insisted that I do it sooner. We planned to do it today, and as we walked ever closer to the front door of the building, I found myself stating things like “I will not go back to retail!” and “I refuse to stand behind a till again, I am past all of that now.” Looking back on the things that I said, quite profoundly, I’m a little embarrassed, but I stick by those things.
As soon as we entered the building, we were met with this weird smell. I couldn’t quite place it at first, but then it came to me. The Job Centre smelled like weak disinfectant and old carpet; really old carpet, like carpet that had been in an abandoned building for years on end and had gotten a little damp. That smell.
We were greeted by quite a cheerful fellow from being the reception desk. This kind of surprised me a little bit that this guy was actually cheerful, but I soon got over my shock and just accepted that he had a pretty easy job. He printed me out a ticket and I went to wait in line, except there was no line. The place was empty, and this, to me, was great! I got seated straight away and started talking to the man behind the desk who would “sign me on.”
This man, what can I say about him? He was pleasant enough, but there was just something about him that made me cringe a little. I thought when people worked in a place like the Job Centre, or even in an office in general, they would dress a little better. There were two ladies sitting either side of him, and they were dressed appropriately, in my view. They wore black trousers, modest blouses and nice cardigans. This man however, whose name later turned out to be Richard, was wearing a really old black jumper, so old in fact it had turned grey. He was also wearing jeans that didn’t really fit properly, and the whole time he spoke to me, he had a wad of chewing gum in his mouth. Maybe every Tuesday is “Casual Tuesday,” for him, or then again maybe that is just him in general.
As I sat and listened to Richard explain everything to me, the Job Centre started to fill up with people. The noise level increased by several hundred decibels, and I did find myself having to strain to hear the instructions I was being given. When it turned out that Richard’s computer wasn’t working the best (big surprise there) I was asked for my personal phone number and told to expect a phone call later in the day about making an appointment for an interview. Honestly I was glad to be getting out of there, however my moral support decided it would be a good idea to have a look at some jobs on the way out.
The Job Centre has touch screens, and even though they seem to work better than the staff’s own computers, they are still pretty horrendous. Slow isn’t even the word, and you actually had to apply force to the screen to get the little mouse to do anything at all. As we whizzed through the jobs, I could feel myself getting more and more depressed. A black cloud was descending upon me as I looked at jobs that I either had no interest in, or didn’t have the qualifications for. I gave up pretty quickly and rushed out of there.
As I sped towards the exit, I passed a lot of people that could have been grouped together into the “Tracksuit and Sportswear” category of any catalogue. Half the people waiting to sign on for the day looked presentable, and just about as miserable as I did. The other half, well they had an air of “Not Bothered,” about them, in both appearance and attitude. Many had prams, and two or three children tagging along. I hate to generalise people, I really do, but to me it felt like many of them were there to use and abuse the system. We know they’re out there, but I think I’m maybe judging people on the way they look, which I know I shouldn’t do. Maybe my next time will be a bit different, and I’ll see a different crowd of people.
My torment of the day is over, but I still have “homework” to do, in the form of filling out booklets with my personal details and “willingness to work.” Hopefully I will get all of this completed before I finally succumb to the insanity of the Job Centre, and lose the will to live.