I’m nothing but a bum. A dirty, good for nothing bum. A wastrel, a miscreant who sits alone in his flat daily, wearing nothing but soiled underwear, shovelling microwave meals into a fat open mouth, cramming it in with both hands, slobber running down my chin, while piggy little eyes stare vacantly at the TV screen as it beams an endless procession of mindless images directly into my soul. I’m an outcast, a work shy free loader who deserves nothing but your contempt. If i was on fire, you wouldn’t spare the water to put me out, in fact, you would probably find something even more flammable to put on me, like jet fuel or something? I am an insignificant human being, and that is how you, yes you, society, view me, as you sit up high in your ivory white tower, all dressed in your top hats, monocles and brandishing canes, as you lean over your porcelain balcony and scrape the leftovers from the gourmet meal you have just scoffed into your posh faces over the side, as it falls to me, and others like me, as we lie writhing in our own filth and excrement below, and howl, howl to the moon!………..
I’m sorry; I don’t know what came over me there? What was I talking about? Oh yeah, that's right. I’m unemployed.
I am an unemployed human being. I am……. one of them!
I used to be employed, and now I’m sadly not. And the best thing, the thing that really does make it that whole lot more interesting and fun, I am unemployed during quite possibly the most severe recession known to man, where we basically are surviving by wearing clothes made out of our own pets, and boiling our own shoes for a nourishing meal.
It’s not much fun, believe me.
I used to have a routine. I would wake up, go to work, come home, go to sleep, and then do it all over again the very next day, just like everyone else did. And it was comforting, that routine. True, it was monotonous, you would probably moan about it continuously as you struggled with the crowds on the tube, all of you packed in like cattle on the way to the slaughterhouse, but I tell you something, you really miss it when its gone.
I used to be in banking. And then I woke up one day and found that I wasn’t in banking any more. But it was OK. I had my police application that was nearly completed, I had done the hard part, passed all the exams and interviews, just the medical next, and then it was only a matter of time before I was given my placement. I could ride out a month of being unemployed.
And then I failed the medical due to my hearing issues.
Now things were serious. Suddenly a ticking clock in my head started to count down like in Jack Bauer’s worst nightmare. I was unemployed!
A cold clammy hand was now clenched tightly around my heart. What was I going to do? How was I going to live? What the hell was I going to do for a new job?
Lucky for me, I own my flat outright. I had no mortgage on it, so at least the roof over my head was safe. And I have basically survived by living off credit cards, a massive blow as I had only recently (and quite proudly) declared myself debt free. But I had no available savings to hand, so sadly I have been funding myself from my nice new shiny plastic cards. My flexible friends, who at some point are going to come back and bite me on the backside. Hard.
So now my days consist of this. Wake up, go to the computer, and spend hours looking online for jobs that thousands of others are currently looking for as well. And handily for me, most job adverts have a lovely little counter in the corner of them to tell you exactly how many other people have looked at the same advert as you. And let me tell you, its many.
Now the strange thing is, after time, my whole daily routine has suddenly taken a slow slide into the realms of the unusual. I am naturally a night person, a combination of suffering from the aforementioned insomnia, and the simple fact it’s just a part of my genetic makeup, I found over a period of time that the moment I was finally getting off to bed was getting later and later, and I was also now waking up around the same time that most students were. I had turned into a nocturnal vampire, but minus the inherent sexiness and thirst for human blood, I just hungered for chocolate biscuits.
I was basically turning feral. Everyone I knew was at work, so there was no one to talk to. It was just me and the cat. Now normally my cat isn’t the most social of creatures. Unless there was some form of food in it for her, she wasn’t really interested. Suddenly the flat has started to seem much smaller, and the world outside much, much bigger. I resisted the urge to cover up my windows in black bin liners and make a loincloth from stale bread, I wasn’t quite at the Lord Of The Flies stage just yet, but needless to say, I am now forcing myself to take nice walks outside more often.
And then there came the moment that I hoped wouldn’t come. The day I had to……oh god, it pains me to say it……I had to……. (Deep breath)……sign on. (For others not living in the UK. When you sign on, it basically means you claim benefits)
I really didn’t want it to come to this, I really didn’t. I hoped that I would find something before then, but after countless rejection letters, and ever mounting bills, I had to swallow my pride and go down to our local Jobseekers office.
It was hell, and basically brought the inner snob in me racing to the surface. Imagine if Paris Hilton was dumped in the middle of a leper colony, that was me the first time a signed on. I know it doesn’t paint me in a particularly shining light, but it was true.
“I don’t belong here, I really don’t” I would whine to myself, as I faced the utter humiliation of lining up with all the other lowlifes, those who were just claiming because they couldn't really be arsed to work, not like me. I was a member of society, I wasn’t really meant to be here, this was all some horrible mistake, and someone was going to offer me a job any minute now and take me away from all of this.
This rather awful thinking stayed with me for my first few times of visiting the offices to claim my money.
And then something changed.
I wouldn’t really call it an epiphany, more like someone giving me a massive slap round the face and screaming at me, “You are an arse!”
I was lining up as usual, when I saw a rather smartly dressed man looking at me with obvious dislike. I couldn’t really understand his thinly veiled contempt for me. And then I managed to catch my reflection in the glass frame that contained one of the many motivational posters that were dotted around the office. I was beardy, my hair was scruffy, and the collar of my shirt was sticking up. I looked like all the other people I was stupidly dismissive of the first time I visited the office. I looked unemployed. And that was obviously why the man was looking at me like I was nothing. He thought I was scum.
And that forced me for the first time to really look around me, to take a long hard look at my fellow job seekers. And I could finally understand how painfully ignorant I had been. I didn’t know anything about these people, their lives, their problems; I was just making blind assumptions due to my own misguided views.
There were a few that you know were just abusing the system. They stuck out like a sore thumb, openly bragging about it in fact. I even had one man do a drug deal over his phone whilst waiting to sign on one time. You were always going to elements like that.
I also saw young mothers come in with their children, overheard many frustrated conversations about whole families with no money, asking how they were going to find work, any work, and also survive. These were people that were probably in the same position as me. Safely in work one day, and then sadly not the next. And the worst thing is, the only person I have to worry about is me (and the cat) I don't have to worry about where the food for my children is coming from, or how I am going to keep the roof over my head.
It was a grim eye opener, it really was. At least I have a decent work history to go in my favour; I will be employable at some point. I now know that others might not be as fortunate.
When I do find work, and please god may it be soon, I know now I will have a better understanding of the state of this country, we have let an awful lot of people down in the way things have been run, and sadly, there are far too many people that are going to struggle out of it.
I just hope I’m not one of them.