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.
When she reappeared from the interview room, she took four paces forward, towards the seat she had occupied earlier. She shuffled forward again and stood, almost toe to toe, with the Old Sea Dog. She stared at him in silence. The tension in the room rose, a pin could have dropped and crashed to the ground. I could see the poor mans confusion. It took him a while to realise what was going on. Eventually he stood, gave up his seat, and walked to the centre of the room as she sat down heavily, filling the seat as before.
I wondered to myself if I should ask him if he would like my seat again, then person number 3 was called. Obviously the third seat became vacant, but the Old Sea Dog remained on his feet. One experience like that would be enough for anyone in this less than comfortable environment. I felt the tears again. There was no kindness in the room.
Then another man, sitting two seats down the row from where I was sitting, stood and motioned to the Sea Dog that he should take his seat instead. I had noticed this man earlier mostly because his mobile went off every few minutes, sending a jolly Middle Eastern tune, or perhaps it was more 'Bollywood', around the waiting room. He was a short stubby man, dressed from head to toe in black, I couldn't make out the language he spoke into his phone.
The Bollywood ring tone man gently insisted to the Sea Dog that he should use his seat. The Sea Dog gratefully accepted. The Bollywood ring tone man then sat in the seat belonging to the person in the interview room. Woe betide anyone who expected that seat back again!
The right thing had been done. There was kindness in the room, it wasn't totally a 'dog at dog' world.
We sat in silence, the rest of us, avoiding gazes, only the occasional mobile phone conversation added interest to the icy room. One by one the seats became empty, people moved on, the tension drained but the coldness remained. Outside the snow fell.
Was the wait worth it? No, not really. I learnt nothing new about my position. No financial help was available. Joint funds mean no help, despite my low income. I am lucky, I guess, to have any savings at all. It's still a tricky 'on the edge' type of existence alone though. When I am penniless I can live rent free. I hope it never comes to that.