I have a very fuzzy memory of standing in line at the Welfare office with my mother as a young child. I remember playing with those movie-theater ropes that swung like hammocks as we slowly made our way toward the impassive face behind the glass-fronted window. My mother had a stack of papers in her hand. Most likely she was wearing her burgundy-colored Levi's Bend-Over slacks (when read as a command that sounds awfully dirty). I was probably in my bright yellow Big Bird overalls, the very first piece of clothing I remember caring about.
My mom was not on Welfare for long. Just in those first bleak years of single motherhood in the early '70s. Soon she would be donning her polyester dickie and her lab coat and heading off to clean people's teeth while I went to the house of that scary babysitter who washed kids' mouths out with soap (child abuse! my mother claimed), and tried to feed me egg salad with sweet relish.
She's still at it! But with better clothes
Then today, I was back. Ok, not Welfare exactly, but the Unemployment office. More specifically, the buzzing, fluorescent-lit Employment Development Department, where I had to take a class this morning to satisfy the requirements of my $440-a-week checks from the government.
Sitting there in that windowless room, listening to Jack walk us through how to fill in boxes (no check marks! God, please, no check marks!) I couldn't help but think of The Full Monty. Since watching that movie is the closest I've come to this type of place since the Big Bird overalls days, it sort of made sense. And besides, my entertainment choices were pretty much whittled down to daydreaming about British working class male strippers, listening to Jack make stale jokes about the Govenator, or gnawing off my own hand.
Please watch this extreme charmingness in action:
And I have to say, aside from the fact that today's visit was seriously lacking in good disco music and pelvic thrusts (would a little Donna Summer kill them?), it wasn't really so bad. In fact, I'm actually quite grateful for my government handouts. And believe me, I've done way worse things for $440 a week.