I got my first welfare check in summer last year, just before I went on vacation with my parents.
There are some demands placed on those applying for welfare; one is that one must not unduly refuse suggested interventions. No interventions were suggested for about six months, but hey, cash money. Then I was summoned to a meeting, where I was given a plethora of options, except eight tenths of them were second hand shops and cafes and fuck anything where I have to do customer service. Also, everything had long waiting times anyway.
There were only really two options left: go back to the environment & ancient remains conservation agency where I worked in late 2013 / early 2014, or this other place that did carpentry – more specifically, in-shop manufacture of wooden items. My counselor was not particularly subtle in recommending the woodworking shop, claiming it had both rave reviews and, amazingly, the ability to accept new recruits right this moment.
I left the meeting put in queue for a potential spot at the agency and awaiting a text regarding an interview for the whole wood thing. “To start with you’ll build a box, and if that works out, we’ll put you straight into production.” Well, I’m not a huge fan of handicrafts, but it’s not like I hate it either; guess I’ll check it out and decide afterward.
About two weeks later I was given a tour of the premises, then an interview by the supervisor. I noted the structured approach to the interview; especially a technique used where, before asking about who I was as a person and where my problems lay, the manager volunteered some details about his personal life first – his kids, not enough time, how his work there gave him meaning, that sort of thing. It was pretty transparent; I figured it was likely an adaptation to help people with certain neurodivergences, but also wondered if it was part of the broader style of the therapeutic techniques used.
Earlier during the tour I was told about the “sharing” ritual, where at the start of your shift you sat with the other participants and could optionally share how you were currently feeling, if there were any special affordances you’d need or appointments to keep that day, and what you were working on briefly. This ritual was shielded from latecomers, which served to protect it, but also as a soft punishment for arriving late. I’m not sure how explicit he made any of this; I could feel myself starting to assign greater value to coming in time, realized I had been hacked, and figured that this was fine as the hack was desirable anyway. The boss seemed pleased, but in what might have been another affordance, he wanted me to go back home and think about it before taking any decision.
Two days after my social security contact had said she’d call me she actually did, and I accepted. I was then scheduled for a quick meeting where we would actually negotiate working times and other details. Some time later, I had agreed to work there from Monday to Wednesday, 12:00 to 15:00, with the assumption that I would eventually take on more hours. I was to start on a Tuesday, February the 21st. I was told by phone that day that, umm, I’m kind of sick so can we make it just tomorrow? Okay, fine, my sleep was all kinds of shit anyway that time rip me.
I woke up at like 2am on the 22nd. I had crisps for breakfast. Brewed tea, which is a pretty potent mindhack when you’re not acclimated to it. Biked through miserable snowfall on my mum’s three-speed bike, on which only the first two gears actually work. The front tire was inadequately pumped. It was not a good experience. I arrived twenty minutes early.