August 4, 2014
The following is the second installment of the play, Under the Line, that I co-wrote with a group of women living on welfare, calling themselves No Name Brand Clan, who decided to provide the public with “a witty, down to earth look at life on welfare:
continued from previous post…
Mary: As if they understand anything about my life. They make assumptions about me while they drive by in their comfortable cars.
Sharon: Well, I’m going to go talk to the dragon lady. Maybe I’ll get out of here before my hair turns grey. Then I won’t need welfare. They’ll give me my pension.
(Sharon goes over to the receptionist’s desk.)
Sharon: Will I be able to see my worker soon?
Nora: What’s your worker’s name?
Sharon: Mrs. Popinsky.
Nora: She has a client with her at the moment. You’ll just have to wait. Go and sit down.
Sharon: Well, how come the other woman got to see her right away and I have to wait?
Nora: The other woman has an appointment. You should phone and make an appointment. Then your worker will know when you are coming. When you don’t make an appointment, you have to wait to see your worker. And you might have to wait a long time because she sees the ones with appointments first.
Sharon: I can’t phone and make an appointment. I don’t have a phone.
Nora: Doesn’t your neighbour have a phone?
Sharon: I don’t know them. (PAUSE) Does she at least know I’m here?
Nora: Of course!
Sharon: Where is the can in this place?
Nora: The washroom is over there on your right. Just follow the yellow line.
(Sharon exits. Mrs. Popinsky and Linda enter.)
Mrs. Popinsky: Have a seat. We’ll fix you up with a voucher.
(Linda goes and sits down.)
Mrs. Popinsky: She says her cheque didn’t come. I’ll have to give her a voucher. I don’t want to, but I have to follow procedure. We’ll run a tracer and see if she cashed her cheque. Now I have to postpone my coffee break and go find my supervisor to okay the voucher.
Nora: Oh yes. You’ll probably find that she cashed the cheque already. And it doesn’t matter because one way or another she’ll be complaining. You’d think it was our fault the way they’re always complaining.
Mrs. Popinsky: Oh well. What can you do? Hold my calls. I have to go find the supervisor.
(Mrs. Popinsky exits. Linda is seated in the waiting room.)
Linda: Sure is busy in here. Have you been waiting long?
Rose: Yah. I’ve been here all afternoon.
Linda: My cheque didn’t come this week and there was nothing in the house to eat for breakfast.
Rose: Yah, that happened to me before.
Mary: Same here. And it’s bad now with those new computers. The supervisors can’t issue cheques themselves anymore. So you can’t just come in the office to pick it up.
Linda: Now they’re giving me a voucher and even for that I had to fight. I hate going to Safeway with a voucher.
Mary: Yah. It’s like holding up a sign that says to everyone that you’re poor. It’s real embarrassing.
Linda: That’ll only last me a week and it’ll take two weeks for them to trace my cheque. And it’s their fault. I gave them my new address as soon as I moved. They keep saying how their computer system is so efficient. In a week, I’ll be out of food again and my utility bills will be coming in and I’ll be hassled to pay those. It seems I should have the right to get my cheque the day I’m supposed to.
Mary: Well, you know, last year when I had my baby, my cheque didn’t come at the end of the month. And they said there was nothing they could do. Any every time I phoned, they kept telling me to wait. So finally I phoned that group.
Rose: You mean MAPO?
Mary: Yah. That’s it. They’re called MAPO. That’s short for Manitoba Anti Poverty Association.
(Sharon returns from the washroom.)
Linda: Yah. Maybe I could do that.
Sharon: You know, we wouldn’t have to put up with all this red tape if we had a pile of money.
Cathy: Maybe I’ll win the lottery.
Mary: Yah. Maybe I’ll win at bingo this week.
Linda: I never win. I’m just not the lucky type.
Rose: Me neither. But my neighbour wins all the time.
Sharon: Boy! Why doesn’t she call my name? I’m going crazy waiting here.
Nora: Linda Whitehawk? Your voucher is ready.
(Linda goes over to the receptionist’s desk.)
Nora: Sign here.
Nora: (slightly sarcastic) Oh. You’re most welcome.
(Linda returns to the waiting room.)
Linda: Well, thanks for the tip about that group.
Mary: I hope its helps. Sometimes it’s nice to know that you’re not alone.
Rose: Feels like I’m part of the furniture. I’ve been here for hours. You know, I’ve always said I would never go on welfare, but what can you do if you have no skills? I hear about jobs but how do I get one?
Mary: Yah. I’d really like to get a job. And I tried that work incentive program, but it’s more like a work insensitive program. They make it so difficult. It seems like they’d rather you stayed on welfare because they don’t want to be bothered with the extra paperwork.
Rose: I want to make some changes in my life. I’d like to go back to school. Right now I can hardly read and write. That’s what’s holding me back.
Nora: Sharon Wilson? Your worker will see you now.
Sharon: (Rising) About time.
(They all exit.)
(SCENE 2 opens in the coffee-room of the welfare office. Miss Fox is making coffee. Mrs. Popinsky enters and collapses into a chair.)
Mrs. Popinsky: God! What an afternoon! I’m tired and my feet are sore. Everyone had a sob story today.
Miss Fox: The coffee will be ready in a few minutes.
Mrs. Popinsky: Great!
(Mrs.Livy enters with a pile of files. She drops the files on the table and sits down.)
Mrs. Livy: This is going to be a quick coffee break. I still have three clients to see today. I have to do something to try and get their cheques processed which means I’ll have to work late again.
Mrs. Popinsky: Leave it for tomorrow.
(Nora enters carrying her purse.)
Nora: Finally, Betty came to relieve me. I thought I’d never get a break. What a bunch of complainers we’ve had this afternoon!
Mrs. Livy: Complainers? What are you talking about? These people have waited two days already and their rent is past due. Plus they’re out of food.
Nora: Oh, Corrine! You really do exaggerate. One day here or they won’t make much difference.
Mrs. Livy: These people are just like you and I. The only difference is that life hasn’t dealt them a very fair hand. They’re doing what they have to do to get by. And you would do the same in their position.
(Mrs.Livy gets up and exits, taking her files with her. Mrs. Popinsky fixes her hair, and Miss Fox cleans up the coffee cups.)
Nora: Well. Some quiet coffee break this turned out to be. It was almost as noisy in here as it was out there in that waiting room.
Mrs. Popinsky: I’m going to look into that Whitehawk woman’s file. I’m sure that cheque didn’t get lost in the mail.
(Mrs. Popinsky exits.)
Nora: That’s a good idea.
(To Miss Fox) Jane. Let me give you a bit of advice. Don’t get too cozy with Corrine. She’s a trouble-maker. If word get out that you’re trying to stir things up, well, you might get transferred to another office. — or you might even lose your job.
(They both exit.)
…To be continued in next post.
To read earlier posts in this blog, please go to http://www.writingsmall.wordpress.com
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Confessions of a Tea Leaf Readerby Tanya Lester can be purchased from the author or you can read the first pages and buy it by going to the title and author name at amazon.com