Day 17 — Grrrs and Growls

The most humiliating thing I did today was to take the X2 bus from the Gallery Place Metro to attend D.C.’s “job club” in Northeast Washington. I had failed to appear on two other occasions because I couldn’t face going down to the unemployment office again.

The office is depressing and smells like Pine-Sol. Everything is the color of dirty laundry water, signs are handwritten and the computers are often down—for days. People look at me like I don’t belong. I imagine because I am the only white person.

The job club is not really a club. You go because you have to if you want to qualify for TANF, short for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families. TANF replaced the country’s welfare program in 1997 and teaches recipients skills to get a job.

I applied because I could use the assistance. I’d do anything to stay out of bankruptcy, which is where I feel I’m headed again if I don’t keep up with my bills. But I just couldn’t stomach the job club after the instructor said I needed to attend for three solid weeks, six hours a day.

I was one of three women sitting in fold-out chairs at a long rectangular table answering questions about my intelligence. Math, multiple choice and reading comprehension questions comprised the bulk of the test, which was supposed to be timed, but I don’t think anyone was watching the clock.

It was like a bad dream, so bad that my mind prevents me from recalling many of the questions, which I’d readily share with you. The one question I can’t forget was about whether I knew the difference between a dog that growled and one that barked and what I would do if I encountered the growling dog. In case you’re unsure, you want to run like hell if a dog growls at you because that means the dog is angry. A barking dog, which doesn’t lower its neck like a growler but still might scare the shit out of you, is more apt to be friendly.

I don’t know what possessed me, but I finished the test, though I did get stumped on some of the math questions, which embarrassed me. Luckily, this part of the test was multiple choice, so I used deductive reasoning to figure out some of the answers.

While the other women were finishing up, I asked to use the ladies’ room. I grabbed my purse and pretended to head to the bathroom. Instead, I turned left and out the door. I ran across the street to catch the X2 back to Gallery Place. I was so flustered and disoriented (road construction) that I missed the bus and ended up on the D4 to Union Station.

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