DHSS. The Department of Health and Social Security, as it was back in the day. That’s who you went to see if you were out of work and in need of income and help. Now it’s the Department for Work and Pensions. Luckily, George Michael and Wham got to sing about the old institution. Shouting D! W! P! doesn’t work as well in a standard 4-beats-to-the-bar pop song. You’d have to hold the P. Talking of which…….
I’d never been on the dole before. Having been in some kind of employment since the age of 12, I’d managed to avoid that particular badge of honour. (Yes, TWELVE. Breaking the law, BREAKING THE LAW! Long before Judas Priest were singing it).
At first I was told I wasn’t entitled to be on the dole. Talk about kick a girl when she’s down! I just need to add here that I was offered no advice or direction when I was handed my P45. There was no ‘here’s what you need to do next’, no leaflet or phone number, and if you’ve never been unemployed before, apart from obviously look for another chuffin job, how do you know what else to do? I literally Googled ‘What to do when made redundant’. So that’s how I found myself at various ports of assistance (Direct Gov, Citizens Advice Bureau, Job Centre Plus, I Can Has Cheezburger) which all pointed me to, and insisted on me filling out an online ‘Do I Qualify For Any Benefits’ form. Apart from I Can Has Cheezburger which knows nothing about the dole but did cheer me up no end.
I filled in the form. The form said ‘No’. The computer said ‘No’. The man from Del Monte said ‘No’. The cast of High School Musical said ‘No’. but at least they did it via the medium of dance and in dazzly bright costume.
So, there I was. No. Nowhere. No-one. Nobody. Nothing. And apart from BREAKING THE LAW at the age of 12, I’m a goody-two-shoes, so I took the ‘No’ as a definitive answer. Happy New Year to me!
One month later…….
I paid my very first visit to the Job Centre. That may seem tardy and reckless on account of me desperately needing a job, but it actually wasn’t necessary up to that point as every job they advertise is available to view online. In addition my search for work had me pounding the streets, emailing, phoning, registering with agencies etc. The reason for this visit was to meet with a local recruiter who used a desk at the Job Centre for her interviews. I set off early, it’s a 2 mile walk and I knew I’d need a wee when I got there. Wanted to give myself plenty of time to do just that and freshen up a bit. Just leaving the house was all-consuming. This was a trek up Everest. If I’d been going up Everest, I may have packed a She-Wee. In hindsight…….
I was met at the Job Centre by a bank of security men. I’m sure they had riot shields and batons. But they let me in. I asked where the toilet was.
‘You can’t use the toilet here.’
‘But I really need to go before my interview.’
‘You will have to ask them, but the answer will probably be no.’
‘But I’m a grown woman and I need a wee. Why can’t I use the toilet?’
‘Only staff are allowed through that door.’
‘Then escort me, before I make a puddle!’
‘I’m not here to steal your loo roll!’
So. Nowhere to wee. Nowhere to freshen up. Nowhere to flush my will to live.
I did indeed have to hold the P.
As if I wasn’t already about as uncomfortable as I thought I could possibly get, when I sat down to my interview, the lady was so lovely and understanding that I burst into tears. (At least giving a minor outlet to my internal fluid situation). It was the first time I’d spoken honestly and openly to anyone other than my partner about the shock I was experiencing, my downward spiral, and how terrified I was of, well, everything! (And, no, she wasn’t allowed through the secret door to the toilets either). It could only have been made worse if we’d been sat in an open office right by the main entrance complete with the security guards and in plain sight of every visitor. Which of course we were.
I’m looking like an idiot, feeling about 6 years old, so now would be a good time for an introduction to the cheery, sunshiny, positive, people-y work coach who magically transformed me from a snivelling wreck to a bunny caught in headlights. It’s actually very funny. Go read. I’ll wait.
On the plus side, I did find out that the man from Del Monte should’ve said yes. On the down side, it meant I had to return. But at least I now knew that all wees must be performed before arriving at the Job Centre. It’s a wee-free zone.
The walk to the Job Centre was always accompanied in my head by the aforementioned Wham song, a rather upbeat ditty about the dole queue and signing on. So, for your listening and viewing pleasure…….
If you are employed or otherwise content and stable with your work/life/domestic situation, please pop over to Wanted. Not Wanted. where you can have a smug, self-righteous, cosy giggle at my crumbling self-esteem. You’ll find my self-initiated Job Club, my ridiculous misguided applications for ANY kind of work and my redundancy diary, a revealing look into the day to day life of
the lowlife worthless pits of humanity the unemployed. If you are not content and stable with your work/life/domestic situation, then let’s hold hands and stick our tongues out at the rest of the world. But you still have to go read all the stuff.