Friday, May 1, 2009

Centrelink and the abyss that lies within....

Now, for the people that know me they know that a certain things brew a primal rage in me never seen since Bruce Banner. Castle Hill basketball referees and their claims of not seeing the elbow that has resulted in me bleeding. Promising my stomach something Hamish Blake style only to have it fall through. People spending so long at an ATM that it would be quicker to counterfiet my own tender. But thanks to the events of today, i can whole heartedly say that i've found something that will forever make me close to combustible in ways that will make Chernobyl look like a mild dutch oven. Centrelink.

Before you label me as something as a dole bludger I will offer you this tidbit of information. I do not own any flannelet. There is a time honoured tradition that i have never adhered to. It must be in the small print of the forms or something, but going back to my TAFE days (where there was one located next door), i had never seen anyone walk into a Centrelink that wasn't in posession of an item of flannelet clothing. I do not own flannelet. Even previous tries to pass it off as some sort of vain Ben Sherman number have failed. But i digress......

As my previous blog will indicate, i have been unemployed for some 3 months now. Entering into the foray of government assistance was something i didn't come to lightly. In the name of all things convenient, my nearest office was 10kms away. So i did what any normal person would do.........i walked there. First mistake. I entered their office to be greeted with a line that nearly hit me as i walked through the front door. Given that i'm a veteran of other govt establishments like the RTA and the Dept of Immigration, i expected nothing less than a quick and streamlined experience surrounded by people with perfect queue etiquette and impeccible personal hygiene. Thankfully i was not disappointed.

My trepidation was well justified. The queue in front of me was termed 'General Enquiries'. The much much shorter queue to my right was called Form Lodgement Looking for Work. There is no greater indicator of public laziness that this. The time is 1.05. I may be way off here but since Centrelink is driven by the almighty form, i would expect that this line would be just as long as the one that i am in. You will never see Centrelink be a candidate for the paperless office. I'm sure the culling of the Amazon rainforests was but a misdirection to you not finding out just how much paper they go through. The wait continues. I see a sign. All arrows point to the one queue i.e the queue that i'm in. Great sign usage there. I scan down the list of the categories at the valiant attempt to streamline my waiting experience and what do i see? An option called 'Waiting'. Yup, waiting. This option displayed a fork in the road with an arrow pointing in either direction (suspiciously like a person shrugging going 'I dunno' with their hands). You can wait left. You can wait right. Now this impressed me greatly. I got the distinct impression that just by walking into this establishment, i had to submit all control to these people. But in a blinding beacon of hope, i have been given the option of where to wait. Huzzah!

At this stage, the sheer speed at which they are dealing with people would make the RTA/DMV look like Japanese public transport. The time is 2pm. I am near the front. It was at this point in time that the couple behind me turn to critisism of the people who are being served like it's their fault. In a ten minute span i'd heard that two people were told incorrect information by the call centre, one person would need to fill out another form, and two people that there would be a 3 minute wait on their nuggets. I did however like the anger management angle that they tried to employ by having two 34cm tvs beaming channel 9 and 7. It may have just been timing but The View and Deal or No Deal just seemed to make people more angry. The View seemingly fixated on 5 rich women banging on about things that no person in 'normal' society would have to deal with and, in what i can only put down to sheer irony, watching someone get paid for doing virtually nothing on Deal of No Deal........a concept no doubt conjured up by the wizards of the Australian Govt and Milton Bradley.

Some would say that I am being unneedlessly harsh and perhaps that's true. I mean, in these dark economic times i'm surprised that Centrelink hasn't had a look down the queue and thought about how to sting us for a bit of money whilst we attempt to claim it from them. If their business plan was to inflict massive amounts of force to people's load bearing joints then mission accompished. Build a chiropractor next door to every office.
Or perhaps speed the whole process up with a lucky door prize so that when you get to the front of the queue you would at least win a meat tray or a complimentary assessment at the local mental institution for the anguish and frustration of having to deal with such cretins.

The time is 2.00. I'm up next.......or so i think. A woman is 40 seconds late for her 2pm appointment so she feels the need to jump the queue to announce her arrival. After unsuccessully looking round to see if there are any trumpets to announce such an arrival, I give her the evils since the couple behind me have resorted to not being bashful about voicing their displeasure at having to wait this long. They do the 'Oi, excuse me' on my behalf. I then walk up to the counter only to be cut of by a short, Ukrainian woman who was an interpreter. It was at this point that i had to check my skin for green patches as i was sure i was going to ruin a nice pair of jeans and shirt through busting out of them with Hulk like proportions. She waves me away like she's here on military business which leaves me in a state of severe WTF-ness. To quote the great Sid Widdel, i was about as happy as a penguin in a microwave.

I am supposedly not on 'the system', a term floated around for what can only mean that Sandeep in New Dehli didn't put me in the system when i rang TWO MONTHS AGO. I let this slide, i mean how hard can it be to put me in the system? I didn't see an Mensa emblems as i walked in (although maybe i missed them in my confusion with the arrows). So I'm not in the system - i apparently need to make 'first contact' with them over the phone which will then organise an interview at a later date. For my 'first contact' i will for shits and giggles ask for them to take me to their leader in exchange for schematics of superior weaponry and the secrets to anti-matter, hydrogen storage and how old Joan Rivers really is.

The time is 2.20 and i leave with a phone number, a piece of paper and an annoying pulsating sensation behind my left eye which i can only attribute to a plethora of burst blood vessels in my head.

So there you have it. When i come to power i will make my first order of business to systematically (and without a skeric of compassion for the contents or staff) carpet bomb every Centrelink.

Chin up everyone. It's only life.

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