Quelling nerves, the first thing you need to do is say, loudly and clearly, “I want to sign off” to the man at the desk. If the man at the desk knows what he is about, he’ll send you upstairs to Will. If he doesn’t, he’ll take your bits of paper and go off with them while you stand there puzzled, until he comes back – having asked someone else – and THEN send you upstairs to Will.
Will is a nice bloke who sits behind a desk with whom you once had a funny conversation about the weather. You were soaked to the skin at the time and the sky was looming black and dangerous outside the JobCentre. But you didn’t often get to see Will. In fact, you’ve seen so many advisors over the last two years, you can hardly remember their faces, let alone their names.
Once you get your breath back (from climbing the hill AND the stairs), you tell Will you are signing off. He offers you congratulations, takes all your bits of paper and, well, that’s it really. He says it’ll take 7 to 10 days. He asks if you get housing and council benefits and writes down what you think you might earn in a week. At this point, you think you are probably going to earn nothing but a figure has to be reached. Minimum wage is probably best but naturally worry that you have overestimated and will be taxed horribly while you starve to death. And naturally, you forget to ask about those Back to Work type benefits that have been hung like a carrot in front of you for the last two years. Perhaps they don’t offer that carrot anymore.
Then you go home. You float somewhat. You might even find yourself flying. Your body will feel very light and the chains that have choked you for so long will miraculously have vanished. The air will feel soft and mist will wrap itself gently around the St Pancras station clock. The autumnal trees will glow like fire down the hill.
By the time you get home, all your nerves will have returned because you’ve just taken a giant step into the abyss.
Next week: what the abyss looks like.