Chapter 5: Staying Alive
Footnote: Public Transport circa 1993-94
Outside a major city, public transport cannot provide one with the service required for finding a job. It simply does not go most places, and where it goes, it does not go often enough, and usually takes too long to get there. In any case, for job seekers on state welfare it is impossibly expensive.
Our house is 30 miles (48km) from the City of London. For all practical purposes, London is the closest place to my home where I am remotely likely to find work or pick up business. Rail is the only practical way to travel if one wishes not to be too fatigued to be at one's best. It costs about 15p/km. A return rail fare to London (1993-94) is £17.50. This is equivalent to over 10 days' personal subsistence at £1.69 per day. If I go after the morning rush hour has finished, I can travel at a cheaper rate of £8.75. But this is still equivalent to over 5 whole days' personal subsistence. To go to London and back once, I literally have to fast for at least 5 days. As an unemployed job seeker I receive no concessions for rail travel.
In the past it was normal for a company to reimburse interviewees for travel expenses. This has become less and less so. The government has a scheme for reimbursing travel to interview costs. However, this involves them checking up that you have been to the interview. This tells the prospective employer that you are currently unemployed. This can never be other than a disadvantage. In the IT industry it undoubtedly guarantees rejection. On such low income, the consequences of not being reimbursed are hard, if not impossible, to bear. One is therefore loathed to take the risk. If you are pursuing a part-time or self-employed opportunity, you are your own salesman. No prospective customer ever expects to have to reimburse salesmen.
Rail travel - or travel by any other form of public transport as it exists today - cannot provide me with practical access to most of my nation-wide potential market. This is because a growing proportion of my potential market comprises small high-technology companies. These are increasingly locating themselves on out-of-town industrial sites and in country retreats which are inaccessible by regular public transport. Yet their expectation is that I can be at any given place at any given time and can bring with me items of portfolio which would be too bulky and heavy to carry in person.
I cannot fulfil this expectation without a car. They assume without consideration that any candidate for the kind of position for which my background makes me suitable would own a fairly new and presentable car. Most do. However, I do not know for how much longer I shall be able to afford to run my car at all.
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© July 1994 Robert John Morton