A Day in the Life 2

So the meeting went well. The client was very pleasant (which is rare) and the advisors in the Job Centre were pleasant, helpful, and patient (which is very rare). Don’t get me wrong. I have nothing against the Job Centre in general, it’s just that their staff seem to have some kind of mental block when it comes to Deaf clients. Here are some classic examples of Job Centre staff behaviour:

  • The front desk staff assume I am the Deaf client’s brother / friend / uncle / charity worker, and ask me what the client looks like. I patiently explain that I have been booked by the Job Centre, and so I have never met the client in my life.
  • The advisor puts two chairs next to each other opposite her at the desk: one for me and one for the Deaf client. I patiently explain that the Deaf client needs to be able to see me when I’m signing, and that they’ll probably get a crick in the neck if they have to keep looking sideways at me.
  • The advisor speaks to me, as if I’m the one applying for the benefit; or she asks me about the Deaf client as if she can’t see them, and they’re not really there.
  • The advisor rattles off the information at breakneck speed, giving the client no chance to ask questions or request clarification. If I ever do stop her to check something or interpret a question from the client she acts as though I’d just asked if I could eat all the fingers on her left hand.
  • The advisor makes no eye contact whatsoever with the client, or me, or anything apart from her keyboard and computer screen.
  • Happily, none of these things happened today. This is a bonus, in my line of work. Actually, the meeting was very pleasant and over quite quickly. Job Centre jobs can be funny like that. We’re booked for a two-hour slot (minimum booking time for interpreters), and sometimes the job can take the full two hours, or it can take ten minutes. The joy is, when the job is finished my time is my own until the next job (in this case my next job is on the other side of London at 12.45).

    Now, in theory I could use this time for any number of things. I have church work to be getting on with, and chapters I could be writing. But a lot of the time (to my shame) I don’t. I’m not sure why. Sometimes I’m brain-shattered after interpreting for an hour (yes, it is a lot harder than it looks, folks), sometimes just tired from going to bed too late.

    Today I’m using the time to write to you good people, and also (hopefully) to do some writing. I should be working on the next-but-one instalment in Colin’s story. It’s a matter of bringing some tricky plot threads together, which is maybe why I’m struggling. I find it a lot easier to write for Jason. Maybe I like him better.

    Anyway, I’m off to get a tube—

    * * *

    It takes all sorts to make a world, doesn’t it? As I was writing that last sentence one of the security staff in the Job Centre came up and informed me that, “You can’t use that in here, love.” (Yes, it was a woman.) When I politely inquired why not she replied, “Because all them things has got recording equipment in them.”

    Well, all credit to her. I could indeed have been an info-terrorist seeking to record confidential details of people’s mind-numbingly boring benefits interviews for use in a nefarious identity theft plot.

    So well done. In theory, at least, she saved a lot of needy people some serious heartache.

    Now I’m on my way to the tube station (subway to my American friends, which is confusing as we use ‘subway’ to mean a subterranean walkway under a road, or a fast-food shop that sells sandwich rolls of the same name — although we also use ‘tube’ to mean any cylindrical object. I should cut my losses and refer to the tube as the underground, which is a pleasingly literal and uncomplicated name for a public service).

    Also, I saw this:



    * I’ve realised that picture is a bit small: it’s a Pringles vending machine.

    No, I didn’t get any.


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