Through the Wringer …
Based on WordNet 3.0, Farlex clipart collection. © 2003-2012 Princeton University, Farlex Inc.
Noun 1. wringer – a clothes dryer consisting of two rollers between which the wet clothes are squeezed
But it was not the washing that has gone through the wringer … it was me!
I had an appointment at Job Centre Plus at 12:05 today (well that is what the text had told me when it came a few days ago). To be fair I was asked to indicate non availability but I decided that “lunch with an ex colleague” was unlikely to be acceptable as a reason to be unavailable. So I asked the ex colleague whether she would it for me to be late or did she want to rearrange and she decided to wait.
I decided since I needed to get to Dundee for lunch and had to therefore buy the day version of my usual ticket that I would go to the Ferry this morning to see if I could just catch those wading birds a little nearer as the tide approached high water. I set off and the wee bus was a touch late and then got caught by those traffic lights at the hole in Dog’s field (I should add Dog had done his morning inspection and marked his disapproval on their road sign again). So as we arrived at he High Street as the clock changed to 07:33 guess what? that is right Early Bird had flown already.
I caught the college bus at 07:40 and headed for Forfar and the connecting services to Dundee. Toxic greeted me as I boarded the Dundee bus, was politely thanked when I got off and then sent me a text asking what he had done? It is about standing by your friends you see; one of Toxic’s issues is that he needs to be liked by everyone which sort of works while everyone is okay with everyone else but fails miserably when anyone is in the wrong and Toxic cannot decide which side to take. Don’t get me wrong I am not telling Toxic he has to choose me – he can choose which side he likes – but then he cannot expect me to be all fun and bubbly if he doesn’t stand my corner?
So feeling hurt that Early Bird had effectively stolen some of my precious time (the tide was too high for waders by the time I got there) and even more hurt that a friend could not just for once be supportive instead of dismissive … I sobbed my way along the beach to Barn Hill. The sea almost caught me out a couple of times by suddenly lunging up the beach at me but it was a nice bright and non windy day to be on the beach even feeling miserable.
I had calmed down and then Toxic tried to get himself out of a tight corner by saying he was joking; to which my reply was “yes because my life is a huge joke right now … perhaps laughter can be turned into food and warmth?” That resulted in a contrite Toxic trying to lend me money and being asked simply for the empathy his friendship claims to include.
It was at this point that I realised that although I had missed breakfast I had made a cup of tea … which was sitting cold and stewed by the computer; so I went and got myself a litre of water in an effort to avoid dehydration.
I returned to Seagate and caught a bus so I was at Job Centre Plus in plenty of time. I arrived by 11:50 and at the ‘welcome’ desk I advised why I was there and the time of my appointment. Paperwork was duly extracted and the man said “oh yes 12:15” I queried that to which he replied “oh they do that because everyone is late”
- I am me (not everyone)
- I was clearly not late
Then he asked for the various bits I had been asked to take including evidence of my mortgage. Now since they will not help me with my mortgage at all I consider that this is not data they need to see or collect, it is none of their business. I said so.
He was lovely, very polite and professional … but the system is just awful!
I sat and waited in what amounted to a sauna … they could save an absolute packet if the sorted the heating out in that building. Eventually I was called at around 12:20. Again the member of staff is lovely, polite and very professional and none of the following is personal to her.
- We arranged a time for my future signing on visits – I asked if it was possible to have a first thing appointment, explaining that one of my preferences is to start a business and it made better use of my day if I wasn’t having to come for an appointment at lunchtime. I got the explanation that the days and times are allocated on a national via NINO and then by balancing the workload of three teams. Eventually we settled for 15:00 – at least I get most of a day. I am not just being a diva about this – if I have to spend money on bus travel on that day each fortnight then I need to make the bus ticket work for me.
- We looked at the data on screen – some of which was from last time I signed on 3 years ago. Firstly I was asked again about dependent children (hello I did this in the online form). Then we discussed roles I was seeking – their system does not include plain and simple “project manager” – no we had to find “Manager, Project (specific industries)” … nothing like narrowing the options is there! Project Management is a skill all its own and not dependent on the context of the business one works in.
- Next where am I going to look for work? Discussed the fact I am registered and have uploaded my CV to their new sooper dooper job search thingy portal … the one that won’t let me log back in! It has gremlins apparently but at least I scored brownie points as the first person she has met who has registered and uploaded the CV – and all without Job Centre Plus telling me to! I listed the other half dozen websites I use on a daily basis and which ones I get alerts from and we discussed newspapers. We discussed where I network and whether that would generate work..
- Next how many jobs a week would I apply for – showed her my list of 9 or so for this week but said last week there was virtually nothing – so she has decided I will apply for 4 jobs each week.
- Now to the crunch! I am expected to evidence that I have spent 3-5 hours 7 days a week job searching and applying – that is 21-35 hours every week … but just a minute that is in return for £71; so the Government tell every employer they have to pay minimum wage and now (and it has only been introduced within the past month) they say that people who don’t have work are expected to work for upto 35 hours per week (ie £216 worth at Minimum Wage) …
- Next is the requirement to accept work that is within a 90 minute commute each way – so 3 hours daily of travel on top of a 7 or so hour working day. I did point out that whilst I might not have dependants to care for I do have to consider the dogs. This raised the question of my previous work and I advised that the travel was 45 minutes each way!
- Then we went through some paperwork and I was reminded that they have tough new sanctions and can stop the benefit if I do not satisfy them that I have worked enough hours to find a job – could I just take copies of my applications in as additional evidence. I said no but that all the e-mails could be viewed via my mobile phone – I don’t have any printer ink and I am not getting some just to keep them happy.
- It wasn’t all bad – there is new access to an enterprise allowance for those wanting to start a business and she will make an appointment to discuss that with me and they will look at the cost of things like payment for a disclosure/PVG if not having that prevented me form taking a job.
- She explained the timing of my first payment – usually 10 to 14 days but she has heard there are currently delays – so she slid the crisis loan leaflet across the table … thanks but no thanks; more debt is the last thing anyone needs at a time like this!
After all that she asked if I was heading home for a nice cup of tea and I burst into tears … between sobs I explained that no I was going to contact my ex colleague to see if lunch could be salvaged and that if not I had wasted £3.20 on a more expensive ticket than I had needed. All because the appointment time I was given was what I based my arrangements on. I apologised for being upset and she said it must be an anxious time which made it worse.
I stumbled through explaining that it is the very lack of personalisation in their service that deters me from engaging with them; treating me as if I will be late because “everyone is late”; wanting to see information that is not relevant; being so systemised that they might as well give me a number and be done with it; and all the while having their offices so overheated when many of the people attending to sign on have to ask “can I afford the heating on today?”. She did have the grace to apologise for the organisation … but I left wondering what the “plus” in their name stands for …
I phoned my lunch date and she decided that it would be too late for her to hang on by the time I got there – the delay in my appointment time meant that I was an hour later setting off from there than predicted! I couldn’t really afford the luxury of lunch out but I had really been looking forward to it and catching up. I don’t blame my ex colleague – she has a life too – I just feel disappointed that it didn’t work out.
I popped to the supermarket since Dog was out of food and then had an hour to wait for a bus home … at least Toxic had the sense (and empathy) to simply ask if I was feeling better and when I shook my head he didn’t push it … not too difficult if you try a little is it?
I made beans on toast when I got home – but I think it was too late and I was past eating by then. So I am left with a pounding headache, feeling wrung out … and Mother hasn’t phoned yet to find out how I got on! Never mind I have put in two applications since I got home so Job Centre Plus will be pleased … by comparison to the normal value for money of my bus tickets instead of being around 4p per mile it has cost me 15p per mile today and it really wasnt much fun!