I work in the Social in town. Every day they come, either weekly or monthly, depending on circumstances, so that they can sign on. Hundreds of them, lines going all the way back across the street, especially since times are bad, but even then you get to meet one or two who stick in the mind.
There’s Alfred, A bricky who had a bad fall eight months ago that left him with a searing pain in his back. He complains to me about how his doctor still won`t sign off to let him go back to work even though his still powerful frame cannot lever itself out of the chair without a wince.
Janice is only 21 yet she is pregnant for the third time. “Sure! I”m a late bloomer!” She says referring to friends who boast even larger families. She doesn’t know or really care where the fathers are of her little brood and not in the least concerned that she is in the same situation that her mother previously. Not that I would say much anyway.
James had finished college two years ago. Problem was, he was overqualified and under experienced. He even was unable to get work cleaning tables in a take away. He’s now on some sort of work scheme where he still gets benefits and the company gets free labour. Not quite sure how that will go, but James seems happy.
Derek has never worked a day in his life. He spends a remarkable amount of his time seeking all the loopholes in the regulations and enjoys every stroke he can get. Strangely he is also the first to complain to me about how the “Foreigners coming over here, stealing all our jobs”. I guess they don’t have a definition of irony in the regulations.
There is Martin, who was once a high roller. Gambled everything on one big bet and lost it all. He wears a suit when he comes, the edges already starting to fray. He rarely says much past what is required but at occasional unguarded moments he let slip now badly off he now is. Home repossessed, wife and family gone. Just himself, barely surviving. Though still walking tall, if only to sign on.
There are all kinds of people there. Sometimes: the same person can be different depending on when they come. On whether they have been accepted or rejected on the criteria set for them. The only constant is that as soon as they have signed that piece of paper they are gone. Out into the city on whatever business they choose. The street again empty, only the occasional piece of flotsam, a wrapper or half-empty bottle to tell who had been there before.
Picture Lyssa Medana
Written for The Light and Shade Challenge of Monday July 28th 2014