Onwards and Upwards

The early trials and tribulations of life in the slow lane…

September 2003 saw the fourth month of unemployment after my redundancy with life becoming something of a struggle as developments on the job front were virtually non-existent. Despite having registered with countless employment agencies, progress with potential vacancies was painfully slow. In fact, the cynical side of me began to wonder whether many of the advertised vacancies actually existed as job sites still advertised potential vacancies which were at least three months old! The daily monotony of not having a strict routine was enough to drive me mad and provided plenty of time for self-analysis and reflection.

Not all was doom and gloom though. After suffering from a particularly virulent chest and throat infection for over ten days, I decided to make the most of some unexpected but superb weather and met up with a friend in the city of Salisbury. It had been several years since I was last there, and not surprisingly, quite a lot had changed. The city now has a European feel about it; several streets are traffic-free enabling customers to sit outside bars and restaurants and simply watch the world pass by. However, I feel that there is still room for improvement in relation to the centre’s pedestrianisation as one can suddenly emerge from traffic-free areas on to main thoroughfares without warning! Maybe seven years on, some improvements have been made… I drove round the city recently but avoided the main city centre!

Salisbury, of course, is dominated by its majestic cathedral. Nearby, grounds and parks adjacent to the river are well-maintained, and provide pleasurable walks. Yes! Salisbury is well worth a visit except for one thing…trying to find somewhere to park the car! Driving around the city centre, an absence of car parking signs became very apparent. Eventually, a multi-storey car park was located, but this was designed for short stay use with prohibitive charges for stays in excess of four hours. A central car park in the market place was charging £1.40 (€1.65) for each period of thirty minutes! Whilst walking around, more car parks were discovered, although from where these were signposted is anyone’s guess. Passing buses also advertised Park and Ride but no signposts for this facility were evident on my approach to the city. Heaven knows what the parking charges are now in 2010.

The car park I used operated a pay at machine prior to exit system. There were ample signs telling drivers about this, so why on earth do some people try to leave the car park before paying and validating their ticket? Needless to say, this was just the scenario I encountered upon leaving, as vehicles queued behind a car which could not proceed beyond the barrier. Eventually, this queue was able to pass by exiting via a second barrier whilst the dumb driver simply looked bemused as to why his barrier would not lift. I have a simple suggestion for inept drivers like that…read the bloody signs first!!

The ‘hightlight’ of the month was a 13-week interview at the Job Centre. According to their official bumph, the purpose was to review what an individual had done with regard to finding employment, and to explore further ways in which they might help to secure a new job. As I anticipated, I was confronted by a clerk who simply followed a virtual check-list, and she was completely thrown on the numerous times I interrupted and challenged her. When she asked me what I expected, I suggested that a little empathy would be appreciated. This was obviously a stupid thing to say as she did not understand the meaning of the word. Instead, she kept saying ‘sympathy’ which was not what I was looking for at all. She then said that a search had to be done for possible vacancies that would match my profile. I lost count of the number of times I had tried to explain that my profile was not very accurate, but it appeared that their systems can only fit people into certain categories. The result of the search was two low-paid positions, both of which they had referred to me some four weeks ago!

I make no apologies for admitting that I almost lost my temper with the clerk. All she was interested in was following set procedures and she failed to acknowledge or even comprehend what I was trying to say. The only positive comment she made was that my records showed me to be highly proactive in my search for new employment, although proactive was not the word used…I imagine it didn’t feature in her limited vocabulary!

All in all, a humiliating and demoralising experience but c’est la vie!