Notes from the Dole Queue: Signing on

Most of these people are probably on Bondi Beach by now (via Irish Mirror)

Most of these people are probably on Bondi Beach by now (via Irish Mirror)

Marge Simpson: “Three hundred dollars for doing nothing? I feel like such a crook!”

George Bush: “Don’t worry, it’s easier every week!”

I am one of the quarter of Ireland’s under 25s who are unemployed. The ones who are trying to figure out what to do with themselves, the ones working up the courage to emigrate, the ones who are thrusting CV after CV into the faces  of employers, the ones rotting brain cells in front of Jeremy Kyle every afternoon.

I’ve been on the Live Register (isn’t that a jolly term? I mean it implies that you’re alive at least, which is something to be grateful for) since September, but ironically enough, I’ve been too busy to start these articles until now.

Well, first there was the moving down. Trying to organise five years of college stuff into a room which I’d only sporadically resided in since Leaving Cert was a challenge. I’d always worked at home during the summer so by the time September rolled around most things were still just in a suitcase somewhere, never having had the time or inclination to unpack.

Isn’t it funny how you end up with two of everything in college? Two toothbrushes, two alarm clocks, two hairdryers, eighteen phone chargers… the list goes on. Some duplicates were easier to shed than others. I donated the spare alarm clock to my mother who was glad to take it.

Then there was the book situation. I spent the last year in Galway, which is home to the most enchanting bookshop of all- Charlie Byrnes. Charlie Byrnes is heaven for anyone who loves books. It is filled floor to ceiling with second-hand and new volumes, most of which sell for under a fiver. I came home with more books than I could read, and spent weeks annoying my poor mother, who tripped over them as she tried to walk around her own house.

Moving in and settling back took up a week or two. Then, as I have been working in one form or another since I was 17, I used my last month’s wages to buy myself a TEFL course and an online creative writing course. I also volunteered at the local community radio station and got involved with the local creative writers’ group. You know, just to keep busy.

But man cannot live on typing alone (I should know). It was time to… dun dun dun… sign on.

It was surprisingly easy. I’ve heard horror stories of people who had to wait months to hear if they would even get dole. But I went down one day, was told to come back the next day, filled out some forms, was told to go to Kilmallock (a pain in the posterior as I am currently learning to drive- another project- and don’t have a car) and fill out more forms.

This was where it got annoying. I’d a taxi on the metre outside and there I was trying to remember the addresses of everywhere I’d lived in the last two years. Elm Park… no wait, it was 189 I think, not 184… No it was 201… Then home…

“Why did you live at home in the middle of 2010?” the nice lady at the social welfare office narrowed her eyes.  Clearly I was trying to con the system. I explained that if you had ever stepped foot in that house, you would run home to mammy too, and besides, Paddy Power needed me for the summer.

I should have probably explained that I worked there, and not that I had a chronic gambling problem.

Then Oaklawns, Castletroy… Then Laurel Park in Galway… Snipe Avenue in Galway…

I felt like Jimmy Magee trying to recall the 1948 London Olympics by the time we’d finished, filling a whole A4 page, FRONT AND BACK, with addresses (most of which mentioned trees, making them sound a lot more salubrious than they actually were).

Then the verdict was in. €147.50 a week…. And a trip to the post office every Wednesday to collect it.

Next time: Why the post office and why actually, you know, the money isn’t bad…

In the first of a new series, The Daily Shift’s Roisin Peddle takes a look at life on the dole… 

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