I’ve sat in this plastic chair for about an hour, holding my ticket – number 047 – and watching the counter on the wall approaching: 033 now.
I’d woken quite early due to feeling the springs in the mattress I was sleeping on, pressing in my back. I’ve only got one thin pillow which I’ve folded in half but it’s still a little bit uncomfortable, although it was good to get up early.
I had to wait for one of the other people in the house to finish in the bathroom before I could use it. When the other person had finished in the bathroom I went in, locked the door, went to the toilet, shaved and showered before drying myself and brushing my teeth and hair. I then unlocked the bathroom door and went back to my room, shut the door and took the shirt out of my bag that I had folded really carefully after using one of the other peoples iron to smooth the creases last night. It wasn’t as neat as last night but I gently shook the folds from it and it looked fine. I took out clean underwear and socks from the small box next to my bag and put those on. I pulled on my trousers, but then took them off again, went to the bathroom and sprayed some of that Febreze spray on them because they didn’t smell too fresh I thought. I shook them a bit and pulled them on again, did up the button and pulled up the zip.
Then, I’d picked up yesterday’s underpants which were in the small pile behind the bedroom door where I put my dirty clothes. I bent down and spat on my left shoe before rubbing it in and cleaning off a bit of grit and dirt and then doing the same with the right shoe. I stood back up and smoothed out a couple of small creases from my shirt and took my jacket from the bedpost at the opposite end of my bed from where my pillow was. I’ve already decided I’ll get a new pillow soon, I think. I pulled on my jacket and zipped it up as it had looked like it might be cold outside when I’d opened my curtain this morning.
I’d opened my bedroom door, stepped outside, pulled it closed behind me and locked it with the key that was in my jacket pocket. As I turned around to go down the stairs one of the other people in the house came out of their bedroom, so I said “Good morning” and they said the same back. They went into the bathroom and I went downstairs, running my hand over but not quite holding on to the handrail.
The counter has moved to 038 now so some people who had taken tickets must have left before being seen. I don’t have much longer to wait so it’s probably best to be patient.
I’d got to the front door when I saw another of the others and said “Good morning.” He asked if anyone was in the bathroom so I nodded and said “Goodbye” before opening the front door, stepping outside and turning around to close the door behind me. After I’d closed the front door I walked out into the front garden, through the gate which was already open, and onto the street where I turned right. I walked all the way to the high road, passing a lot of bigger and smaller houses than the one I was staying in. Just before the traffic lights on the high road I stopped, crossed the road by the new small trees in green wire cages that the council had recently planted, then carried on to the high road and turned left. From there I walked for around 10 minutes.
The counter says 043, so it’s nearly my turn.
I was a bit early so I stood outside for around 15 or perhaps 20 minutes with a lot of other people. A man I didn’t know offered me a cigarette, but I don’t smoke so I said “No thank you.” When they opened the doors we all walked really slowly, taking one step then pausing, before taking another step as the people in the queue went inside. When I got inside I took my ticket from the red box they came out of on a sort of roll. You have to sort of tear it to get the individual ticket, but I only tore the bits that were supposed to be torn so the ticket was still in one piece.
I waited for about half an hour before someone near where I was standing saw their ticket number and stood up, so I could sit in the seat they’d been sitting in. I watched the counter click up and at that time it had said 017. Now it said 047.
I got up and walked to the desk which had a red digital display above which also said 047. I sat down and said “Good morning” to the woman who was sat there. She was older than me and had grey and blonde hair. Her white shirt was a bit creased and I looked down at my white shirt which looked less creased. She said good morning to me and looked at the paper I had handed her with my name, address and birthday on it. She turned the page and sat back in her chair.
“Are there any jobs for me today?” I asked her very politely and smoothed my shirt down under my jacket. It was quite warm and I thought I might start to sweat soon so I took the jacket off and folded it on my lap. The lady looked at me and smiled, looked at the next page of the paper I had given her and then put it neatly on the desk in front of her. She said my name, Christopher, and then said that she was sorry but that there really wasn’t anything new in that I might be suitable for. “I’m happy to try anything” I told her and that “I am quite good at time keeping and would really like to have a job to give me something to do.” She looked a bit sad and so I said “sorry” and she said no not at all. She was the one who was sorry, she said, but she just didn’t have anything that was suitable. She handed my paper back to me and so I said “thank you” to her as politely as possible and then “I will see you again tomorrow and hopefully you can find me something suitable then”. She said OK Christopher, goodbye, and I got up and walked away from the desk.
I walked back past where I had stood and then sat earlier and passed the red box which had another ticket, 103, poking out of the front of it. I opened the door and stepped outside, holding the door open for a lady and a small boy who were coming in at the same time I was going out. I walked back along the high road for about 10 minutes and turned right onto the road where the house I was staying in was. I crossed the road by the small caged trees and walked along a bit more until I got to the front gate which was still open. As I walked up the path from the gate to the front door of the house, another of the people who lived there – the one who had leant me his iron yesterday – was leaving. I said to “hello” to him and asked “can I borrow your iron again this evening, please?” He said yes that was fine and said my name, Chris, which wasn’t my full name but I didn’t mind.
I went through the front door and started walking up the stairs and thought about buying a new pillow again. Maybe I would wait, just until they found me a suitable job. I unlocked the door of the room I was staying in, walked in, closed it behind me and locked it with the key in my hand.