Written during Work for the Dole Day 1, St Kilda Community Newspaper, Thursday 8th Aug, 11:01am (possibly in blood) :
What the hell am I doing here? I’m in a room with a group of people I’ve never met before, with whom I have only a random possibility of finding common ground, wondering how exactly chucking a bunch of strangers together and giving them nothing specific to do is supposed to achieve anything. There is nothing binding us. At least in a doctor’s waiting room, people have pain and malingering in common.
According to the government, forcing we unemployed scum to sit around a table staring blankly at pieces of paper all day will make us more attractive as potential employees. So far, I’ve eavesdropped on small talk; read a 32 page tabloid format community newspaper from cover to cover five times; tried not to engage the attention of the rather volatile chap across the table who has expressed an interest in breaking the jaws of ‘nerds’, and surreptitiously checked my email three times. I like to keep an open and empirical mind, and I am pleased to further greater knowledge by recording the outcome of any experiment. In the interests of science, I can confirm that I am no more employable now than I was two hours ago.
The first hour was OK – chatting with new people, forging transactional and transitional alliances, each of us establishing ourselves as a rightful personality in the room. With that now done, the ability to feign interest in people I’ll never meet outside of this situation has depleted itself. I am in the stunned, waking semi-coma that descends upon you an hour into a bus trip. All I want is for everyone to shut the fuck up. Unfortunately, though, I am the only writer in the room. Everyone else’s coping mechanism is to continue talking about celebrities I’ve never heard of for the remaining five hours that we are stuck together.
Instead of wasting the day here, we could be dealing with the thousands of small, time-consuming, frustrating basic tasks that poverty inflicts on the unemployed. We could be ringing utilities companies to beg another week’s reprieve. We could be out sourcing food, or scouring our houses for coins to feed to our starving Mykis. We could be trying to create meals out of a week-old cabbage and a tin of tuna. We could be (outrageous as the suggestion is) looking for jobs.
If this goes on, if my frustration levels escalate any further, the nerd crusher and I will end up punching it out in the kitchenette while everyone else stands around cheering and placing bets. At least it would be something to do. Who knows? I might even win, and then maybe everyone will pool their resources to buy me a prize.
I could even score a second cabbage.