Wednesday, March 03, 2010

the fifth circle of hell or weird wednesday gets even weirder

descending to the fifth circle of hell (wrath and sullenness)

my morning found me trudging up a staircase, following a fifty-something woman who had clearly eaten loads of garlic for breakfast, or perhaps just used it instead of perfume. i prayed frantically silently to odin that she was going somewhere else, but no, she was headed to the same classroom up on the top floor that i was. apparently odin was otherwise engaged.

because there is a gap of time between old job and new job, i have applied for unemployment benefits and one of the hoops one must jump through is to attend a two day "competence assessment" course during which one ends up with an online "CV" in a government system (the one which, if you recall, suggested after analyzing my education and experience that i do telemarketing). thus, you know that i have already placed my CV in the system on my own and am, as it were, well aware of my competence(s). so anyway, that's why i found myself following the clearly-afraid-of-vampires woman up the stairs early on a wednesday morning.

myself and 17 others were attending the day's sessions, which opened with the most patronizing 30 minutes of instructions and warnings i've witnessed in as long as i can remember. we were referred to as "unemployed welfare recipients" (very motivating) during the entire spiel, which included a whole lot of references to the apparently given fact that we were looking for jobs as chauffeurs and nursing home attendants (not that there's anything wrong with those things, but i didn't spent nine months on a fulbright in the balkans to lift old mr. hansen from his bed to his wheelchair). anyone who came in late was subjected to cutting and even more demeaning and patronizing remarks about their ability to tell time.

once i realized that i was making serious fingernail marks in the palms of my hands from holding them in fists to keep from screaming, i tuned out the capri- and thigh-length "sporty" boot-wearing woman's patronizing droning and looked around. nearly half of my fellow participants were in their upper fifties, four were clearly carpenters or bricklayers or the like, there were two who looked a bit like me and a few young women who looked like candidates for channel 4's the young mothers program.

the capri-clad woman with her asymmetrical haircut turned us over to an energetic bald man who told us straight away about his messy divorce and life with his three kids, who only spend half the month at his house. for otherwise cold, closed people, the danes surely do share some all-too personal details rather easily. he proceeded to throw every remaining scrap of political correctness out the window in what i eventually decided was a charming way (after i recovered from the shock that he outright called me an asshole for joining that more general union instead of the one for people with master's degrees). he actually said to a young girl who worked part time in a church, "what the hell does a kirketjener (her job title) do?" not really appreciating the irony of swearing about a church. i had to actually cover my mouth to restrain outright boisterous laughter at that one.

one of the women, who i thought i had spotted as a fellow academic, turned out to be a former computer programmer turned papergirl turned failed nursing student who left her 4-year nursing program after 6 years without finishing due to "ideological reasons." i came to feel real empathy for her, because i think she had a soft heart and it caused her to be unable to take the overwhelming reality of the world. on the other hand, i do think there are meds for that.

once i arranged not to be forced to go back for day two (i was clearly in the wrong room and apparently the wrong union), i sat back and enjoyed it. some of the more amusing stories that came out during the day:

~  a girl in her late 20s with two kids and no husband who wanted to be a mechanic because she liked cars (but had no training or skills in being a mechanic whatsoever and no idea how to get them. and she didn't even have a car).

~  a sweet (and very talkative) man of nearly 60 who had spent a lifetime as a salesman and had already applied for 500 jobs (he had a stack of documents to prove it).

~  a boy in his early 20s who said his ambition was to become a garbage man (after he attained the correct qualifications, including a driver's license, which he currently lacked).

~  a real asshole of a (self-declared) dyslexic bricklayer whose phone was in his coat pocket and kept ringing every 15-20 minutes all morning and who actually refused to turn it off or on silent when asked to do so (turned out he didn't know how to do it, so the future garbage man helped him out, but not until it had rung 4-5 times).

i'll admit i didn't get a whole lot out of the day, other than 11 pages of notes in my "blog about this" notebook. so perhaps it was worth it. but thank odin i don't have to go back tomorrow. so i can stay home and write some more about it, because there's so much more to share.


OneGirlCircus said...

I just had flashbacks of sitting in HR training and then 6-sigma training at Ford!

Here's hoping Odin's on your side.

will said...

Suffering the fools ... not the best of hobbies.

Elizabeth said...

Aren't you very happy, you:
* know what you want
* have an education
* have life-experiences who reach further
* and know that this is just a phase

Otherwise you had to depend on these people, who only break you down and force you into a life they would never choose themselves.

xoxo e.

Anne said...

Ditto what Elizabeth said. I know it's an eye-crossingly frustrating experience, but at least you know that at the end of it you'll have jumped through the appropriate hoops and can go about looking for jobs you actually want to do (and for which you're not so very overqualified).

This might make me a bad person, but I'm finding your writing about these things awfully entertaining. :)

Also: love that spiral staircase photo.

Pamela Terry and Edward said...

I used to have an elderly neighbor who hated like crazy to have to get her driver's license renewed every year. She called it standing in line with "the great unwashed".

Bee said...

This is fascinating. In some ways, it is one of the most interesting glimpses into the Danish culture/psyche that you have ever offered.

Anonymous said...

Weird. When I became unemployed back in 2006, I was forced to attend something very similar. And I also scratched out a good 3 or 4 pages of disgusted notes on the downright outrageousness of it. I was in with some other veterans and we were all told to face the reality that manning the drive-thru at McDonalds was as good as it would get. I knew I could do a much better job of preparing these fellow veterans for a job search...if only I'd been hired for that job, but how ironic.

It's terrible what can happen to civilizations at the hands of humans. ; )

Numinosity said...

You prove that there's rich material everywhere. Thanks for the glimpse.


Anonymous said...

Well, to the business world I'm a technical writer. No one ever knows which box to check for that - or even if you can get money for doing it.

Persevere. Sooner or later your job will come.

Just Jules said...

ahh the joys of people, and unemployment. I am excited for the 11 pages of ideas though... maybe odin did konw what he was doing.

Meri said...

Doesn't the Danish constitution forbid cruel and unusual punishment?

Kim said...

meri - LOL :)

Hope the "dole" is sufficient to compensate you for the experience! At least you got some good writing material!

julochka said...

just one clarification: i have a new job, it just doesn't start 'til april!

and clearly there must be something the danish constitution that actually promotes cruel and unusual punishment. :-)

Suecae Sounds said...

1 + for the Dante reference.

Sammi said...

I really wish that method was used to get unemployed benefit in this country. As demeaning as it is, it might actually get some of the lazy scroungers off their asses and do some work (not that everyone on the dole is lazy some are genuinely looking for work, just not all)...