Archive for November 20, 2013

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20 November 2013

Chuck said he wouldn’t be coming out this morning, but there he was in his usual spot.

“Hi Chuck, I wasn’t expecting to see you today.”

“Well, I talked, on the phone, to my lady friend last night. I told her I’d  meet her for coffee this morning. I did. We had our coffee and talked for about fifteen minutes before she had to go to work. Then I figured,  I’m down here anyway. It’s not that cold out, so I might as well try to collect some money. So here I am. As a matter of fact, I just arrived. I’ll probably stay until about ten thirty, then I have to get some more groceries. I got my stewing beef and chicken, but I need some Oxo for stock. I think I’ve got the beef, but not the chicken.

“I had a hell of a time last night. I was talking to my son on the phone. He’s been getting calls from Bell about his phone service. I could barely hear him, so I called Bell. I could hear a faint voice on the other end. I shouted my phone number and said, ‘Please call me back.’ About an hour later I got a call back. The woman said they were checking on the problem and would call be later when they had it fixed.

“About two thirty in the morning I had to get up to go to the bathroom. The phone rang. I picked it up, said, ‘Hello!’  There was no answer. I didn’t want to get woken up in the middle of the night, so I turned the phone off. I went back to bed, then I heard this loud busy signal. I shouldn’t be hearing  a busy signal if I had the phone turned off, so I took it off the charging stand. I don’t like doing that. I usually move the phone to my bedside table because, you never know, it might be a family tragedy. Anyway, I still haven’t got that sorted. I have my cell phone though, for emergencies.”

A garbage truck turned the corner. Chuck said, “Did you hear about the man who went to the employment office to get a job as a garbage man. He got the job, but they told him that he’d be classified as a Sanitary Engineer. He got home and his wife said. ‘You may be a Sanitary Engineer, but take a shower, you smell like a garbage man.’

“That reminds me of when I worked for the government. I had some fancy title, but basically I was a ‘gofor’ –go for this, go for that. If the front desk got a request for a file she’d fill in a form, have it signed by her superior, who would have it signed by the top brass. Then, I’d be given the requisition and would be sent to pick up the file. Below the Parliament Buildings are a series of tunnels connecting Building A, to Building C, to Building B. That’s for security, so that in case of invasion, the intruder wouldn’t be able to find his way around. Anyway, once I got the requisition it would need to signed by a guard in the tunnel, he’d get it signed by someone else, who’d gets it signed by someone else, finally it gets signed by the top brass and I’m allowed to pick up the file. What a load of bullshit. It would be the same process returning the file.

Including me there were four men and four women, doing what two men and two women could have done. I remember the women. Rebecca was a big red-headed lesbian. Gloria was married and had a couple of kids.  Ellie, I don’t remember so much about her. Dorothy was the tough one. She wore her hair pulled back in a bun; very severe looking. She got me in trouble one day. We weren’t supposed to look out the windows into the courtyard. Well, one day Dorothy caught me and reported it to the higher-ups. I was called on the carpet and asked to explain my self. I said, ‘It’s true, I was looking out the window. What caught my attention was two men arguing loudly. One reached in his pocket for a gun.  I saw the gun. I didn’t know what to do.’ They reported it to security who conducted a search. Nothing came of it. I was off the hook.

“Sometimes, I’d get a request to pick something up at the Jackson Building. They’d give me a bus ticket for the fare there and the fare back. Well, National Defense  is just a block from here and the Jackson Building is straight down here, at the corner of Bank. It’s a ten minute walk, so I’d pocket the bus tickets pick up the package, go for a coffee, read the newspaper and wander back about an hour later. That was the stupid part of the job, but I got to meet the Prime Minister.  Diefenbaker was in office at that time. He was a decent guy, we even had a coffee together, one time.

“I didn’t like what he did about the cut backs though. We were told our wages were frozen, no raises for two years. This didn’t affect the big shots. No sir, they got back pay and bonuses for thousands of dollars. I was the guy who delivered the checks. Boy, was I pissed off. The next day I quit.

“Remember that fiasco with the Avro Canada CF-105 Arrow? Jack Kennedy said to Diefenbaker, ‘We’re in the business of building planes. You stay out of it and buy from us.’ Diefenbaker  was a chicken shit. He caved in to Kennedy;  so, everything was scrapped. That cost Canada fifteen thousand jobs and millions of dollars. That plane was  the most advanced of all the fighter jets. Cancelling the Arrow cost Diefenbaker the next election.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Avro_Canada_CF-105_Arrow

“On our breaks we used to go to a restaurant on the corner of Sparks and Bank. It’s gone now. It was where Howard’s Jeweller’s is today. It was funny, the women all together on one side and the men on the other.  On occasion, from across the room, mind you,  a woman would open her legs and give us a peek.

I shouldn’t have given up that job. I know that now. If I’d stayed, my pension would be sixty-four dollars a month more than it is now. I’d be able to live on that. I’ve been around for seventy years. I’m too old for this shit.

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What’s Worse…?

Posted: November 20, 2013 in Uncategorized

Reposted from the blog:

From drugs worker to writer

What’s worse than being a woman with a drug problem?.

What’s worse than being a woman with a drug problem?

Thursday, October 31st, 2013

Something which the Government failed to mention in its recent, polished figures is that female unemployment is at its highest for twenty five years. Women’s organisations are pointing out that austerity measures unfairly target women, by making cuts to child benefits at a time when childcare and household bills are rapidly increasing, whilst those that do have jobs still get paid less than men (in 2010, in the public sector – which one may imagine to be the least discriminatory employer – the pay gap between men and women was still an incredible 21%).

An interesting article in Drink and Drug News this month considers the impact of austerity on female drug users. I touched on the stigma faced by women who use substances in Baby wants a double vodka, but this article looks at the effects of the cuts to service provision, given the complexities that often come hand-in-hand with being a woman with a drug problem.

As Caroline Lucas MP points out, women’s substance misuse is often more complicated than men’s, regularly associated with parental and sexual stigmatisation and shame, childcare issues, domestic abuse and prostitution. Yet these specific needs were omitted entirely from the 2010 Drug Strategy, and the ‘bulk-buying” approach to commissioning has meant that gender nuances are now ignored.

The women’s drug service in our area has vanished during the cuts, and their work absorbed by generic drug workers who have less capacity for home visits and parenting work. Many of their clients, who have experienced issues such as sexual abuse, may now need to be seen by male workers, unless they have the confidence to make demands (confidence not being a trait often associated with this group – neither the balance of power when your script depends on it). And whereas having a family may be seen as increasing someone’s ‘recovery capital’, is this necessarily the same when, for women, this may include single parenthood and domestic abuse?

Attempts to maintain and develop best practice are further stretched as fewer staff mean workloads increase – and research into joint-working models has exposed that workers who attempt a multi-agency approach to supporting women often report having to hide this from their managers, as the extra work they do cannot be directly evidenced statistically and so is considered ‘out-of-remit’.

And then there’s what social worker Gretchen Precey has tagged ‘start again syndrome’ – the desire to see every woman’s pregnancy or birth as a fresh start. The dilemma working with this client group is balancing the constant need for motivation and positivity, the belief in the possibility of change, with prioritising the needs of helpless foetuses and babies. As workers, when we see chaos, we often understand vulnerability – and we desperately focus on the glint of positive in the shit pile of someone’s life. But to ignore a woman’s past experiences of motherhood is dangerous, warns Precey – and in a culture where professionals are blamed for any harm that comes to a child (as though, I always feel, they are the perpetrators), workers are left to balance hope against risk. It creates a moral clash. These are the cases that keep you awake at night.

Almost ten years ago, I was involved in a consultation on the Government’s white paper, Paying the Price, which looked at how best to manage prostitution. It seems sad that, years later, the comments I made then ring truer than ever. My point was – the links between child abuse and sex work are well-documented, and yet Social Care are increasingly under-funded and over-stretched. What was once a support service now exists almost exclusively for the purpose of risk management. And so, whether we consider female sex workers, female drug misusers, or women who struggle with motherhood, the common themes remain the same – and as long as we fail to address the root causes of these issues, we are producing the next generation exhibiting these behaviours. The chain continues.

And some of you will know how it feels to see the kids you tried to protect all those years ago arriving at your door with baby bumps, track marks and utter disgust at the world.