June 2010 – Northbridge, Perth, Australia
It’s easy not to notice. Like living in a houseshare with a crack addict, computers and equipment, essential to Jobsearch have gradually disappeared since I started attending.
Not that it really matters – the Jurassic equipment and software is so shite here it often impedes Jobsearch rather than assisting.
One only has to overhear the profusion of expletives that erupt form every new recruit who naively sits at the vacant end terminal of a quintet of widescreen workstations (all of which have affixed warnings that Google Docs, not Microsoft Word is installed). Every regular knows the end terminal is a dud – renowned for spasmodic episodes and a penchant for crashing, with an innate sense of timing to do so right when the user has completed a job application and is about to hit send from their email account. Hence, the following reactions are typical of users on the end computer.
‘Funk piece of shit!’
‘Fuuuuk!!! It just crashed again!’
‘Useless piece of shit – that’s the third time I lost my résumé.’
The row of five booths project the only aura of current technology in the centre, solely by way of the lustrous flicker of the cheap widescreen monitors. The rest have been slowly dismantled, cables cut and tied (so I can’t even use the desk space and connect my laptop with a spare internet cable) then stacked in a forgotten corner for some time, before eventually vanishing altogether.
Two computerised relics remain in a vestibule between reception and the primary Jobsearch room. The only programs installed on them (or that can function without total operational failure) is Explorer and Wordpad, which turns any Word document saved after 1991 in to gibberish digital hieroglyphic script – thus making them utterly redundant.
Two more prehistoric exhibits of technology, replete with 3½ inch floppy drives, tube monitors and enfeebled cabled mouse devices are in the main Jobsearch room – at the far end of a long lonely bench where a salubrious enfilade of their brethren used to be. Each computer terminal is adorned in bold A4 warnings.
The two fossils in the main Jobsearch room come with the rather confusing warning:
COMPUTERS ARE TO BE USED FOR NO MORE THAN 30 MINS
Given mandatory Jobsearch appointments are nominally one or two hours this contradictory message does carry some credence – as these two terminals are the only the only ones in the building with licensed copies of Microsoft Word.
In fact anything that isn’t glued down in my Job Network Provider’s centre is proliferated with a halo of posted threats and warnings – giving depth and texture to the crack addict houseshare ambiance with darker notes of a militant YHA hostel, and lingering acerbity of Australian airports customs and immigration areas.
I not sure why we need these somewhat condescending instructions. I mean we’re not in school – well not literally anyhow. I wonder if some attendees might be deliberately flaunting the rules because, well subversion might the only unticketed way to feel a bit better – especially penurious people deflated by unemployment and dependant on handouts.
Or perhaps unemployed people simply turn into inconsiderate arseholes.
So if you think it’s somewhat absurd spending over two hours a week travelling to and from a place with my laptop to engage in two hours Jobsearch, you would be right.
There is a $2.20 public transport fee each time I travel into Northbridge, which under previous systems was reimbursed to clients. And it may not sound like much to gainfully employed folk but it equates to 6.8% of my daily allowance, which rested steady at $35 a day – with an adjustment a dollar per annum (for inflation I presume) since the last time I was on the dole in 2009.
Also, I’m achieving precisely the same tasks of job seeking that I would be doing at my own abode, minus any creature comfort, yet with the added despondency and distraction of supervised Jobsearch.
Of course there’s very little comeuppance for a client enrolled in mandatory weekly Jobsearch to complain about this situation, because of course the response is all too inevitable,
‘What else have you got to do? You’re unemployed.’
And I appreciate this, it’s just that Jobsearch isn’t really supervised at all which makes a big bloody waste of my time. Right now next to me a careworn woman, appearing to be in her mid-thirties is sparking a friendly rapport with a reticent young man after recognising each other from same train station at Belmont Park.
‘He was my man until I found him cheating with my friend.’
‘He slept with my sister before he went around with her.’
‘Yeah I was with him since I was 16… to about 20 – yeah I’m twenty-eight now.’
[On the benefits system predicting age game is a difficult game to play]
Over in the far corner by the window at one of two telephone cubicles reserved for job inquires and cold canvassing is Jobsearch regular, Mr Less the Stable Chilean Guy. Even if there is a warning about personal use I doubt it would dissuade Mr Less the Stable Chilean Guy, who sounds suspiciously and indiscreetly like he’s making less than professional inquiries.
‘Yes – I’m engineer.’
‘Is this a place to go?’
‘And the girls are nice?’
‘Yeah I’m from America.’
‘ So can I pick one, or… how it work?’
‘Can I looking by internet?’
‘And the ladies are-’
‘Ahah… yes… dot com dot au.’
‘And it’s open 24 hours.’
‘Ladies there is nice?’
‘How much cost there?’
Not that I would dare to telephone a prospective employer at my Network Service Provider given Mama Baboushka’s explosive temperament is never far from a phone line. And since none of the services are monitored the telephones attract a lot more reluctant, shiftless and disruptive jobseekers off the street, who aren’t particularly engaged in Jobsearch. They typically have mobiles but no credit – like Mr F’ing and Blinding, who last week spent half an hour cussing down the phone line at a tenement of neighbours in his apartment building in an attempt to wake his housemate.
‘Just fucken bang on the window.’
‘Oh, right – fucken fat piece of shit.’
‘Yeah I tried five times – the useless fucken barstard’s phone’s not on.’
‘Yeah okay – thanks.’
‘Hey mate. Can you do us a favour and go downstairs and see if that fat fuck is awake.’
‘Yeah I know-’
‘He’s really got my choler up.’
‘The lazy fuck probably forgot to charge it.’
‘Yeah – I’d fucken smash that fat fuck in face if I saw right now.’
‘I told him before I went to sleep.’
‘The fucken areshole was passed out on the couch when I left.’
‘Yeah, thanks Neil mate-’
‘Yeah, sorry about all this mate.’
‘Yeah, I’ll call you back in five minutes.’
Another strong correlation and derivative trend of unemployment is homelessness. And it turns out my nominated Job Network Service Provider also supports a number of homeless clients.
On the first Thursday I attend Jobsearch I had the unenviable dispensation of overhearing a young man stationed at one of the telephone cubicles calling around overstretched hospices for a spare bed for the night, while he filled his belly with warm sweet cosseting tea. Six weeks later due to both theft and mess tea and coffee have been banned.
However, I’m not here to judge the desperation or fortuity of our Bushells and Nescafe pilfering clientèle – or the shite state of the tea and coffee area (when we did have tea and coffee). I do believe humility and pride come from both ends of the spectrum of how you act when you have nothing, and how you behave when need nothing.
However, I do have to assign the sharp sting up my nostrils right now to the old homeless dude that’s just sat down on the cursed end computer terminal with his chattel parked beside him in a wheelie suitcase. He attends every second Thursday, imbuing the Jobsearch area every second Thursday with the mephitis of hard living that impregnates dank dark buttresses under bridges, alcoves behind shop fronts, and disused portals to derelict buildings.
My two hours are up. I make a short visit to the toilet before leaving. On the way back to pack my laptop and work B, the receptionist is returning to the front desk and sees that I have left my belongings unattended.
‘You don’t want to leave your stuff like that or it’ll go.’
‘Oh right – thanks.’
‘If no one is out at the front someone will just come in – and yeah, it’ll go.’
‘Cool, thanks for that.’
I sign myself out at reception. His smile is blunted by loose change pity.
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