When the doors opened at 9.30am I was given a card with the number 13 on it, there were two more people behind me. By the time we had all passed through the doors into the chilly room, all the seats were full and someone was occupying the floorspace near the only bit of wall without a door in it.
The atmosphere was tense. Everyone in the room needed attention, urgently. There were 10 appointments and 15 clients.
Within a few minutes a man came out of the office to address the whole room, explaining the system; a five minute interview with each person in the room to identify need and then an interview to deal with the problem, if you were lucky...
Number one was called, an older man, with the look of an 'Old Sea Dog' about him, large misted eyes and possibly hard of hearing, he stood and entered the interview room.
I went to sit on his seat and waited. I read the posters around the room, domestic violence, help with debts, racial violence, teenage pregnancy... It was a depressing place. The tears stung my eyes, and rolled silently down my cheeks as I fished for a tissue in my pocket to hastily mop them up.
When the old sea dog emerged from the interview room I offered him his seat back, it took him a while to understand me, but he refused my offer, I was glad I had offered.
Number 2 was called in, a large woman, very large. She waddled towards the small room. I wondered how much of the room she would take up with her vastness. The sea dog sat in her chair.
The room was still full, and twitchy. In the corner was a radio blaring out the local station, lots of jolly tunes in such juxtaposition to the mood of the room. It wasn't until sometime later that I noticed the thick chain that secured it to the radiator cover. Above the radio was a clock on the wall, it said 9.30 am, the time that the doors had opened, when I left four hours later it still said the same time in the waiting room. . .