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Job Centre Waiting Area

Several years ago when I was addicted to unemployment, my general existence consisted of signing on every week for the chirpy folk in the DWP Illuminati in order to get my weekly ration of spit and bile then be talked at by someone who would slowly and methodically outline my failings as a human being simply because they happened to be paying income tax and I wasn’t.

I subconsciously improved my vocabulary in elaborate swearing based on the amount of general expletives in the air, and the collective atmosphere in the job centre was something that brought to mind being part of a cult whereby every one of us knew a suicide pact would soon be coming to fruition. It was a jovial little community to be a part of and included a smorgasbord of the great and the good from a small section of England’s underclass.

One week, having turned up on time at the correct job centre, I got a dressing down off one of the DWP fuhrers for being too punctual. Moments after I was castigated and hauled off to sit in the holding pen with the other non-conformists, a bloke dressed in a Newcastle United football kit sat next to me drinking from a can of McEwan’s Best Scotch with another bag full nestled comfortably at his feet. He offered me one in what I could only describe as a desperate show of unemployable solidarity. Attempting to maintain my rigid exterior of confident underclass chic, I declined citing flamboyant bowel movements, and he simply shrugged and continued chugging.

I kind of admired his balls-out brazenness in a mindless sort of way until he let out a discreet burp in which a calm gust of hot alcohol breath violently plundered my nostrils causing me to quietly dry heave under my breath for several minutes. To this day I can’t look at a can of McEwan’s Best Scotch without developing symptoms similar to that of a stroke.

There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t wonder what’s happened to him though.

Job Centre Waiting Area

(Observations from the dole queue)

The Bitter Benefits Adviser

The adviser sits behind her desk
And deals with all the unemployed.
She finds this part of work grotesque;
She hopes she won’t get too annoyed.
A different face on different days,
All with troubles much the same.
She must advise that working pays
And offer guidance with their claim.
But she cannot summon strength
To interact with the inane.
She keeps this rabble at arm’s length,
And holds her nose high with disdain,
For they all want to sit and waste
Their lives just living off the state.
It leaves a bitter aftertaste;
Why can’t they just pull their weight?
Get employment; earn their keep.
Stop scrounging off hard working folk.
Her taxes pay for scum this cheap,
This welfare state is such a joke.

The Unlucky Jobseeker

Bless his heart, he tries his best;
His rejection letters will attest.
Punctual, smart and very keen;
Always heard but never seen,
For he can’t get one interview
And on the dole for now he’ll stew.
He’ll sign each week and won’t forget
His mantra: ‘I’ll be a worker yet!’

The Riff Raff

He’ll saunter in an hour late
Dressed in tracksuit, cap and shoes.
Unkempt and loud and quite the state,
Reeking of three-day-old booze.
He doesn’t care to find employment,
In fact, to him, this is a job.
Full time work brings no enjoyment;
He stays at home: a benefit slob.

The Carefree One

Unemployed but none’s the worry,
Just a victim of misfortune.
It’s early days. There’s no hurry;
Unemployed but none’s the worry.
Jobs tend to come all in a flurry,
Something good will crop up soon.
Unemployed but none’s the worry,
Just a victim of misfortune.

The Over 50

The over fifty is calm and meek;
He knows he’s worth a rightful role.
He’s worked for years, six days a week,
Never having seen the dole.
Retirement is just in sight,
Even minimum wage would do.
Redundancy was such a fright,
For now he hopes he’ll muddle through.

He takes his place at the back of the queue.

The First Time Unemployed

Dismissive and above it all
With no time for this rigmarole.
‘I’ll be back in work inside a week’ –
The only words he cares to speak.
Twelve months on and still no joy;
He’s anxious, broke and paranoid,
And cursed as long-term unemployed.

The Conflicted Part Time Worker

Nervously he’ll sit and wait…
He must create a good smokescreen.
Declared five hours but worked sixteen;
He needs to get his story straight.

Terrified they’ll burst his bubble;
He sweats, he lies then signs his name.
Next week he’ll stop this stressful game
Is it really worth the trouble?

His poverty requires it so;
His morals simply tell him: ‘no’

The Sympathetic Benefits Adviser

The adviser sits behind her desk
And deals with all the unemployed
She finds this part of work a test –
But work that she will not avoid.
So many different faces here;
With each she talks their problems through.
She reassures, and with little fear
Exclaims: ‘There’s work out there for you!’
For she once sat on that other side,
Hopeless and with meagre aid,
Many nights she lay and cried:
The cuts were called, and cuts were made.
These days it’s true some want to spend
Their time resisting daily grind.
It’s hard for her, she can’t defend
The attitudes of the disinclined.
But most just want to earn a keep
The desperate and the poorest folk
Are hurt the most; their lives are cheap:
This welfare state is such a joke

Written in late 2011 on the back of cereal box with a burnt out match because I couldn’t afford a notepad. Or a quill.