Thursday, December 30, 2010

A most unpleasant task

The time had finally come so today I had to register at the unemployment office, a most unpleasant task.

Since I'd never been there before and wasn't sure exactly where it was, I entered the address from the website into mapquest before leaving the house. However, when I got to the street the addresses didn't match up. The bldg numbers were 5 digits and the one I was looking for was 3 digits. Since the numbers were getting smaller, I continued driving up the street. When I realized I was no longer in the same town, my suspicions were confirmed that the mapquest directions were sh*t. Fortunately I was able to reach a friend on the phone who gave me the correct directions. I arrived at the office at 10:30.

As if your spirits aren't low enough to begin with heading into the unemployment office, the office itself couldn't possibly be any more bleak. Large fluorescent light fixtures, dingy beige walls and asbestos tile floor, and hard plastic chairs appropriately sized for 9 year old girls placed too close together for anyone's comfort, the legs of which were latched together so they couldn't be moved. A sign on the door instructs visitors to take a number and complete the paperwork while you wait to be seen.

They were serving number 95 when I arrived, and my number was 55. When they reached 100 the numbers started over again, which meant there were 60 people in line ahead of me. Apparently the recent extension of unemployment benefits had resulted in a boatload of people coming into the office to apply for extensions. F*ck. Me. Hard.

Being the eternal optimist that I am, I told myself that there were 6 clerks working today and that the numbers would go by quickly. I was wrong. I waited 3 hours for my number to be called, despite the fact that several people apparently gave up and left. There were several times when numbers were called and no one got up to be served.

A private security guard milled around, occasionally chatting with the clerks and occasionally informed applicants that they were not allowed to stand. That's right, not allowed to stand! Several applicants were told by the security guard they would have to take a seat.

Some applicants brought their children with them, and at 1 point the children and some other non-related adults were apparently talking too loud for the comfort of 1 of the clerks who stood up and make a loud "Ssssssshhhhhhhh" sound at them.

I was completely appalled by the cavalier, lackadaisical attitude of 5 of the 6 clerks. Only 1 clerk processed the applicants quickly and efficiently. The other 5 would process and applicant, then get up and disappear for 10-15 minutes. 1 clerk did this, then returned to her desk, shuffled some papers around, put on hand lotion, walked over to the window and looked out, then returned to her desk and had a personal conversation complete with laughter with the clerk to her left. Another clerk would process 1 applicant, then slide over behind the cubicle partition (out of sight) for 10-15 minutes, then slide back over and take another applicant. It was as if they felt absolutely no urgency at all, despite the room full of applicants waiting hours for service. As if the 3 hour wait wasn't long enough, this terrible inefficiency made the wait excruciating.

The processing of my claim took barely 2 minutes, as I had filled out the paperwork completely and legibly. The clerk just needed to ask me some questions (which could have been on the paperwork for me to fill out myself) and the process of calling in weekly was explained to me. Then as I was about to breathe a sigh of relief that it was all over, the clerk notified me that I now needed to go to the office across the hallway to register with Employment & Training! F*ck. Me. Harder.

I filled out more repetitious paperwork and was then instructed to sit at 1 of the computers and follow the tutorial for entering my info into the system. This appeared to be so that employers could search the unemployment applicants and vice versa to fill vacancies. Once this was completed an hour later, I was instructed to wait for a counsellor to call my name. 10 minutes later I was escorted into the counsellor's office who confirmed my address, SSN, and asked if I wanted to stay in the same industry. I lied and said yes even though my intent is to become a realtor, but I want to collect unemployment while I'm in school and not earning money so I figured it really didn't matter. She gave me websites to use for job searching and signed off on my application, which took an additional 20 minutes.

I arrived at 10:30 am and left at 3:00 pm: 4 and 1/2 f*cking hours to register for unemployment benefits! Thank god I only have to do it once. I'd have to be severely medicated to go back there again.


D said...

In PA, you just do it online. Gone are the days of actually showing up, having someone ask you any questions, etc. They make it way too easy. I'm a landscaper under contract from April thru the end of November. I pay employer taxes as an independent contractor and was denied for 3 months. Fun times. Meanwhile, people who watch Oprah get it year after year. I did a similar thing as you years back when I went into massage school.

Victor said...

Your description of the lackadaisical attitude of the clerks hit a chord with me.

It annoys me intensely when staff behave so unprofessionally whilst clients look on helplessly.

John Going Gently said...

so sorry it was a shitty experience
well done for doing it though

Cubby said...

So nightmarish.

cb said...

Here's wishing you all the best in 2011-- including finding a new job that you love!

anne marie in philly said...

spouse gets his stuff online here in PA. his benefit is deposited online into his bank account. and he has never watched oprah, but was laid off in october due to his employer closing up shop in PA.

he has also been going to careerlink, a PA job training office down the street. this is where he will find out next month if he is going to be given a grant to go back to MCCC (comm college) to get an insurance certificate he needs to further his career AND get a new job!

my sympathies to you, sweetie, that DE is so f-ing far behind the times!

Anonymous said...

Unbelievable experience! Thinking that those so-called clerks have a job when I am sure many of the ones sitting there would have taken theirs in a heartbeat.

Anonymous said...

Sorry you had to experience the hassle of getting UI compensation.

Here in RI, as backward as we are about some things, you can file a UI claim online. They'll then call you and tell you what your benefit is, and basic instructions. Quite nice actually.

The process for SNAP (Food Stamps, highly recommend you get on even if it is on a $200 a month benefit) can be completed online here too. You do have to visit to prove identity but that's it.