blistering guest post by ‘Rattlecans’
‘THE MAN WHO STARVES ME IF HE FEELS LIKE IT’
I don’t think it matters whit age you are.
Imagine you are 40 years of age, and flee the fists, efter years.
Or with the banking crisis, you lost your job. And then the bank took your flat.
Or the landlord put the rent up and you couldn’t pay, so you’re evicted and homeless.
Whit dis this country dae fur ye?
Whit will the next 10 years look like fur ye?
If yer lucky, ye’ll get B&B, and the hell of benefits. The streets are full of souls who have not been that lucky. But you have.
Yer on yer knees, lost, scared, and a total wreck.
Ye’ll be sent roon the charities who will help ye tae find work. They claim.
Here’s whit happened tae me after 2 years of desperately trying to find a job, aged, 43-44 and they’d written me aff as no-hoper.
Sent me to a charity.
I goes in. I’m taken into a big open plan office, staff rammed intae it like stuff wis always rammed intae What Every Woman Wants… need privacy? Well yer no effin gettin any… yer only a pov and ye don’t dare ask.
All the staff batterin away at their keyboards.
The guy ye’ve tae see checks yer name.
Cheery voice… “We’ll get you a job, don’t worry.. lots of opportunities” he tells ye.
It’s the usual sales pitch they’ve been pitching since the late 1980s.
“And to get you a job there are so many training options” he says, smiling at ye, like he’s a holiday sales rep. We have a training course for cleaners. Trust me. You will not be able to get a job cleaning the shops in town without this training certificate and it’s very good.”
“You need training to hoover a carpet?”
“Ehm, I think you should read my CV.”
“I’ll read that after yer gone, thanks.”
“I think you should read it now.”
His face shows he’s furious with me. He’s boss. I’ve dared to be his equal and he disnae like it. That’ll be me, being aggressive again. Obstructive again. You do all realise that ‘aggressive’ is anything that is not agreeing with everything that is said to you, when you are poor in Scotland, right? Well, of course it is. Getting above yersel! Ye’ll obviously be stabbing somebody in the next 2 minutes! Completely out of control, that’s poor people. If only we learned how to behave respectfully, learned from the more respectable members of society. Like those who work for the poverty industrial complex?
“NO! There is computer training. We’ll train you to use a computer. We do that downstairs.”
“I think you should read my CV. You need to read it.”
He’s furious, aggressive and beetroot red in the face “I said NO! I have TOLD you I will read it after you are gone. I will NOT tell you again, is that clear?”
Everybody in the office has stopped what they are doing to stare at me.
I switch to primary one, naughty child in big trouble mode. I sticks to yes, no thank you responses hoping to get through without being told I’m being punished with 6 months hunger. That’s what thinking you are an equal when you are poor in Scotland gets you. Punishments of hunger, more severe hunger than you are already subjected to for the crime of being poor.
It’s the same poverty factory they always are. I’m the commodity, he’s the processor of the commodity. There’s a whole conveyor belt and at the end of it, there will be a different poverty factory to be re-processed all over again. It’s a very sustainable industry in Scotland. We used to do it wi sheep. Noo, well, we dae it wi us poor folk. Poor people have low life expectancy. But there’s much more processing they can do to us than sheep. They only live for 10-12 years.
I escape oot into the autumn dusk. Leaves are everywhere and it’s been raining. I start the long long walk home home. I hiv tae cross a bridge tae get home. I stand on bridge, tears streaming, wondering why bother going any further.. whit’s the point…can’t do this…don’t want to do this anymore….no way out…I’ve slogged ma guts oot all my life. Nothing I’ve done is good enough. Not good enough to be able to pay the bills, look after myself. It’s no got better, it’s got worse.
A fortnight later, I’m back tae see the man who will starve me if he feels like it. He comes to reception to collect me, like he had the last time.
“Hi! Let’s just get a coffee from this machine. I’ll pay. Why don’t we just sit here at this table in the hallway, instead of going into the busy office upstairs.”
“Before we go on, I would just like to say I’m very sorry. I shouldn’t have spoken to you like that.”
“Oh, you’ve read my CV then?”
“I’ve never seen a CV so good..I had no idea. It’s excellent. Outstanding. I’m sorry.”
“NO! You looked at the postcode… you looked at the label “unemployed”, you heard the Scots language and you decided you could treat me like fuckin dirt. That’s whit you did and you know you did. You decided how you treated me was appropriate for someone wi my postcode and no job. Like I didnae matter. Like I was rubbish. That’s how you treat everybody who comes in here. You treated me like dirt in front of all your pals, knowing you could starve me if I didnae accept it. And then you shit yourself when read my CV. Didn’t you? Because you thought, for once in your life, you’d stepped way out of line. I hope you enjoyed it. I spent a week in tears. You did that tae me.”
“I’m really sorry. Your CV is excellent. I can’t apologise enough.”
“And you thought you’d train me to use a hoover? And a computer?”
“I’m really sorry. I’m not going to be able to help you find a job. There are no jobs. There are only 250 part time jobs in the whole of Glasgow. That’s all there is. And with a CV like yours, it’s.. there is nothing anybody can do to help you. All I can offer you is coffee and encouragement. I’d be too embarrassed to send you into that computer room and put you through that course”
You imagine going back to your B&B efter that. Or, in your 40s, back to the room in a flat ye share with a bunch of strangers and having tae explain tae them ye still don’t know when ye’ll hiv yer share of the electricity bill.
Or yer wee flat you cannae afford on the dole, wondering how on earth you’ll find the money tae put money on the leccie card, so no, you cannae hiv a cup of tea. No milk. No electricity.
The dark nights are coming in. And you’ve no even a chair tae sit on. So you sit on the floor and you greet yer heart oot. Because you are home noo. And ye know ye should hiv jumped fae the bridge ye had tae cross tae get there. But you didnae and ye don’t know why ye didnae.
It disnae matter if yer 18 or 50, if ye’ve no a bean tae yer name.
A lot of people think it dis matter whit age ye are.
They think you don’t matter, that people like you don’t matter, and they are making sure you know you don’t matter.