Anna C discovers the reality of looking for a job in the credit crunch

At least it’s not raining, I think, as I cycle to the bus stop. After running backwards and forwards across the apparent main road of the small market town I have found myself living in, I am already cursing the government (local council this time for not updating their bus-timetable on the website). The bus pulls up in front of me and I ask for a return ticket to my destination, only to be told that I have to get on across the road. So I run across the road again, dodging the people who can only be described as looking as desolate as I am increasingly feeling. As the bus pulls up on the apparent right side of the road, the same bus driver who has just driven up the road and turned round (which couldn’t possibly have been done with one passenger on the bus, could it?) informs me that the fare will be £5 for a fare to travel about four miles. I give him my last five pounds and jostle amongst the OAPs who are crowding the bus, looking at my phone (I can’t afford a new battery for my watch) as I see that time is ticking on as the bus stops every minute or so to pick up another little old couple.

I am going to be late. I was told when I signed on that if I was late then I would miss my signing appointment and my benefit could then be placed in jeopardy. The thought of £60.50 per week being put into jeopardy is enough to make anyone run a little faster. I still haven’t received my first payment yet, two weeks and counting, and living on fresh air is beginning to get a little flavourless.

I catch my breath as I power walk through the green door, to be met by two people standing at the “Welcome” podium dealing with the same person (it was a record three members of staff the first time I was here). I notice that I am actually two minutes early, but that doesn’t stop the woman I am meant to see keeping me waiting for ten minutes. As I wait, I check through the computers, which tell me that there are apparently no jobs in the field of my expertise (even though I know there are on other websites which I would be accessing online elsewhere if I was not standing staring at this fruitless information in a jobcentre). Two men behind me stink of stale whiskey as they slur to each other about throwing a man in the nearby river and I start to think that full-time alcoholic might make me a more likely candidate for a pay-rise. I wish I could afford a bottle of whiskey. So many hours spent in front of my computer job-hunting with Jeremy Kyle in the background means I have become less than sympathetic.

The woman with the tight perm and 70’s specs looks up and beckons me over. As I sit down, I’m not sure if she is staring at my chest or at the emblem on my sweatshirt which, yes, proffers that I have ironically just completed an MSc. After being informed that, as I missed my signing day yesterday due to having a job interview. I may be unable to claim for that day as it was in an area 20 miles away and I should really be looking for work in the local area. After asking me if I am local to the area (well, duuuuuuuuh), she makes a joke that most people wouldn’t see that as local and that they would only consider local as being able to throw stones at their windows. As I break from my daydream about throwing a brick through their window, I notice that she
a)hasn’t even looked at the paperwork I have been asked to fill in every time I do anything to look for a job
b)still keeps looking at my chest for whatever reason and
c)has not even asked me if I need any help with anything.
I ask her about a few temporary waitressing jobs which she again points out are not in the local area (thank God, I think to myself) and am then told that my benefit claim will not be backdated to my original application as the reason was not worded well enough.

As I trip over the previously mentioned drunk on the way out, I realise that after fifty minutes and five pounds on a bus, I have been seen for as much as five minutes and it will be the afternoon by the time I actually get round to doing anything remotely useful today. On the way home, the bus smells of dirty nappy. I figured that, as the morning is already utterly wasted, another half an hour couldn’t hurt…