Thursday, December 01, 2005

So, I think I owe y'all a story...

...about my trip to the VA Employment Office, no?

(I will out-of-chronological order point out that I filed for the first two weeks today online, and the process could not be simpler. Curiously (or not) it won't let you file for the week we're in until the end of said week...)

So after filing my initial "paperwork" online, I had received -- I forget when -- I think back in the week of the 13th, which contained amongst other things, my last days at CPI -- a notice telling me that I needed to appear in person at the Alexandria office on Monday (11/28) to answer some questions about my claim.

Okay, reasonable enough (and hey, it's not like I have anything else to do), so I plan to do that Monday morning, which being me, winds up being about an hour and a half later than I'd figured, but it was still "a.m." when I got there. Of course, getting there was part of the fun. I'm looking at the address, thinking Cherokee Avenue... why does that sound familiar to me? I can't recall. So I look at a map and I head down Duke Street to where it becomes Little River Turnpike (which technically puts me out of the City of Alexandria, I thought, but hey, I'll never understand how they divide the boundaries down here in the Commonwealth...) and just about most of the way to my chiropractor's office (shout out to the gang at Pinecrest Wellness Center!) I take a left and head down Cherokee Avenue. Which seems to be entirely residential. And drive and drive and drive. By which I mean, less than five minutes later...

I come to the end of the road. But it's okay, because I've also come to a small office park. Okay, 5500, 5510... waitaminute, the road's ending in a T intersection... and that's it over there... to the right. That's not even the same road... Oh, well. Look right, look left, look ri... Hey, that BP [gas station] back on the left looks familiar, in fact... [looks over left shoulder] Crap, is that my gym? *chuckle* The VA Employment office I'm "searching" for is across the street and vaguely around the corner from my gym...?

So anyway, I go in, check in with the flamboyant info clerk (bright lime green sweater... which considering it was like 70+ degrees on Monday may have been a poor choice), and he tells me to have a seat, and so I do and I had brought a book, and conveniently, just as I get to the end of a chapter (been waiting for less than 20 minutes) this guy, who I'll call "Carl" (because that was his name) comes out, and takes me over to his cube.

And he's all, "So what can we do for you?" And I'm like, "Well, um, I got this letter... You wanted to see me with some questions?" And he's, "Well, we just like to see people in person with their IDs." (Which, in retrospect, he never asked me for...) But he was really nice -- and I'm not just saying that because he complemented me on my sports jacket, to which I replied, "Thanks. Costco." And he said, "Costco?! Really?" And I'm like, "yeah, sometimes they have good stuff there." And then we got into a whole involved discussion on how difficult it is to shop if you're an unusual size that isn't "big or tall" (because, well, it is... and apparently Carl can where a normal size 42 or 44 jacket, but then he has to get the pants altered because the waist or seat is too big, etc., etc. I heard where he was coming from...)

So anyway, he had me sign a couple of forms about the two days I worked the one week, and about the unused vacation they still need to pay me for, and he gave me some handy instruction booklet on how to file a claim by phone. Seriously, you can file by phone. And of course, via the Internet.

So points to the Commonwealth for their highly organized and efficient system and staff. Made what I feared would be a painful process quite the opposite.

Okay, my back is hurting (I have to bring the "six million dollar office chair" upstairs to the office yet), and so I think it's time for bed. More tomorrow, I'm quite sure.


Jado said...

So, even though the are the "VA Employment Office", no actual help with the whole employment thing, huh? Just a bunch of chitchat and some forms.

JAM said...

Well, that's not entirely fair or accurate. The waiting room area is actually set up like a library with PCs setup for the public's use. (Admittedly, it seemed as though a third of those were "out of order," but hey, that's what happens when you let the public loose on things...) The PCs could be used to file a claim online (if you didn't have a PC at home) or for job searching, etc. They also seemed to have binders that were updated regularly with jobs in various categories: engineering, construction, etc.

I think the fact is that they provide some of the tools and then it's up to the individual to use those tools. Also, it seems set up for towards people in... um, I'm not sure how to put this... trades? Like, "Hi, I'm a carpenter, can you find me some work" would be more successful than someone in my sitch. It more or less seemed to me like Carl was like, "Oh, well, you use a resume, so clearly you're competent enough to handle things on your own." But he did say that if I was searching their job databank and came across any jobs that seemed interesting or that I had questions about to send him the job code and he'd get right back to me. So in general, I'd give them a positive review...