Saturday, 17 March 2007

Whooooooo Are You? WHO WHO? WHO WHO?

I really want to know.

I've been thinking about you Anonymous. Who are you? Where do I know you from? Did I give you a nick name by any chance?

YouTube. Hmmmn. I think you're just trying to lead me astray. You naughty boy, you.

At least I think you're a boy.

I got a text about a job from Brook Street. I signed up with them in November and they finally got round to me on Monday evening. I called back, said I was interested and I called in on Tuesday.

The temp desk was being manned by a new guy and he'd sent out fifty random text messages after being told of a vacancy and having a computer full of total strangers to pick from.

My life always seems to have depended on random chance, so what was new there?

There was a filing job. A hospital filing clerk. Was I interested? Um, yeah. £6ph and it was purely filing. On a trading estate outside Dudley. Starting Thursday. Terrific. He even sorted out the two buses I needed to get there. Two buses? Hospital filing clerk? On a trading estate?

The trouble these days is that individual hospitals aren't self contained little townships all on their tod. Hospital trusts are the modern way. There could be four or five hospitals within a trust, each specialising in their own fields of medicine. Patients are ping pong-ed between them according to their physical ailment and not their geographical nearness. This means that everything is centralised or done on an industrial scale to reduce costs.

Dudley is what would happen if one started building on Teletubbyland. Instead of earthworks to flatten the place, strange building techniques have been used to accommodate the hills and hillocks in a still geologically active area.

In some streets there is a 10 to 20 foot drop from the front door to the pavement with steep slopes and/or staircases zigzagging between the two. Bricks are routinely used to park cars on the drives, some strange gardening methods are used to dig the front gardens as each 'flowerbed' resembles a plant trough and simply walking up the garden path requires some perseverance.

In other parts, what would ordinarily be a two story house has a basement garage beneath it. The drive is an alarming slope down from the pavement. What would, on flat land, have been a path beside the drive is replaced by a causeway from pavement to front door with a vertical drop of at least 10 feet from the front door to the bottom of the drive. If you're feeling really brave you don't put a fence along the path to prevent falls.

There are a number of estates with "landscaped" lawns. These really do look like the The Shire of Middle Earth. Disappointingly, the inhabitants are the same as everywhere else around here. Tracksuits, baseball caps and trainers. No Hobbits or Teletubbies.

These past two mornings the weather has been good. There are daffodils nodding in the breeze and, as the buses wend and weave their way up and down (and up and down and up and down) the hills and bends along the way, one glimpses picturesque views of countryside. Hills, fields, pylons and distant towns all fading off into a misty blue green haze. Then it dawns. That's where you're going.

Sure enough, the estate is in the middle of the countryside. Unlike the trading estate in Pendeford, this is huge. There are a series of private roads running through the estate connecting one side with another. To prevent rat running, there is an awesome collection of speed humps seemingly modelled on the local landscape.

One small industrial unit has been converted to a Greggs the Baker. There's a post box on the corner by Greggs and a BP station, a MacDonalds and a Travel Lodge all within walking distance. That's cash, junk food and a regular bus service that doesn't stop in the middle of the day. Luxury.

I was told that the place is kept anonymous for reasons of confidentiality. The bus drops passengers at both ends of the estate and there's a stop in the middle. At each end, stuck to the signs for the estate are flip top perspex boxes containing maps of the estate and guides to the tenants. There was my bunch. Clearly listed with a map reference. Very anonymous.

The hospital file store is a massive warehouse, bigger than a football pitch. It's no place for claustrophobics though. There are aisle upon aisle of shelves stuffed with files in numerical order. Virtually the whole floor is turned over to what's called library space.

There is a massive turnover of files. They are returned by the lorryload in crates. They are scanned into the building using barcodes and then sorted to make the filing easier. Once sorted into boxes, they are laid out on a clear part of the floor.

The first job of the day is filing. This means taking what looks like a shopping trolley and loading up with a box, finding the section you've got to file in and trolling the main aisle looking for your shelves. The files then have to be loaded onto the shelves in keeping with the number order. The shelves are crammed and some of the files are nearly two feet across. It can take up to an hour to try and get enough space to put a file back.

Then comes pulling. There are a series of clinic lists in a pile sorted according to date. Taking your trolley and your 'shopping list' you trawl the aisles again, this time looking for files that have to be pulled off the shelves and placed in your trolley. Once the shopping list is complete, the files are loaded onto another set of shelves ready for the clinic prep team. They sort and scan the files 'out', load up them up into crates and the crates are then labelled and shipped out to the hospitals for the clinics.

It is mindbendingly boring.

The second day, I got a call from Reed. Was I available for a 7ph night job. I could start Monday, I said.

I called Brook Street about a time sheet and told them I was starting another job on Monday. That wasn't good news for them.

Reed called back. I was going for an assessment on Monday. They'd call me back with the time. AN ASSESSMENT?! Well, yes. The client wanted to see I was suitable. If I wasn't? Then I wasn't going to get the job. Oh terrific.

That job too, is near Dudley. If I pass the assessment, then I've got a 7ph night job Sunday to Thursday. And I start Monday night. If I don't pass the assessment, then I'm going to have to grovel back to Brook Street for the filing job. If they haven't filled it already. If they have, then I'm jobless again.

Whoopee do.