Chapter 10: Social Work.

Don't mind me, I am in a serious man-hatin' mood today.  I just heard from my old boss.  One of my old homeless clients, the one who attacked me when I called Child Protective Services on him (he was pimping out his daughters, ages 14, 12, 11 and 9) is out of jail.  His wife, somehow, got custody of the girls again, and surprise, surprise, since he's a wife and child-beating drunk, went back to live on the beach with him and their little moneymakers.  The nine year old is now twelve, and she is pregnant.  At twelve.  Lisa (my old boss) says my old program is pretty sure who the papa is, and he's a 32-year-old man who just abdicated his right to be called a man as far as I'm concerned; he's now Mr. Pedophile.
Yeah, I know, making Mr. Pedophile infertile wouldn't have kept him from molesting little Nani, but at least he wouldn't have gotten her PREGNANT.  Nani's mom (my old client's wife) is sanguine about the whole thing.  Hey, with a pregnant daughter in the family, she's eligible for WIC food (Women, Infants and Children food... free or low-cost high-protein food), and when Nani actually gives birth she will be eligible for her own welfare and food stamps.  These people are Hawaiian.  They make me ashamed of my race.
And Child Protective Services in Hawaii is so overworked and underfunded that they don't even come out on calls involving children aged twelve and over.  The presumption is that if things are that bad at home, they can take care of themselves by running away.  They have to save their energy for little kids and babies.
I don't think I understand what drives people to behave like this.  I suppose it must be some sort of desperation.  Perhaps a sort of greed fuelled by omnipresent images of wealth and beauty.  I just can't get my head around that mindset. 
In this case, it's drugs.  Mom and Dad need money to feed their habits.
That is another issue.  I can sort of understand that.  If we could deal with the drugs problem then many other problems would magically go away.  It has a terriffic dividend, but we need a lot more understanding of the social mechanism of drug abuse.  I really don't think much is being done to tackle the roots of the problem, just pruning at the visible branches.
I say legalize it all, tax the hell out of it, and sell it through government centers with boring little booths.  You can buy all you want, but you have to use it in a boring little governmental booth and pay the tax on it.
In the last few years child abuse has been coming out of the woodwork.  Some suggest it is present on a vast scale and probably always has been. That's what I believe. I wonder, how can we know.  How common are clear cut cases like you describe, and how many are amplified by teenage imagination and lawyers' greed. 
I know.  I found some notes passed in class by a friend and I when we were innocent little high school sophomores - at the age of fourteen.  In it, I am carrying on about putting a leather mask with nose and mouth holes on our history teacher's head, and "teasing" him with a feather and some hot candle wax.  I was shocked.  Where did I get such knowledge?  At fourteen?  I like to think of fourteen year olds who are romantically entangled with thirty year olds as the innocents, but I certainly wasn't at that age.  Though I hadn't Done It yet, I certainly knew what It was all about, and was looking forward to It.
It seems OK to think of fourteen year old boys stealing cars, breaking and entering, commiting acts of vandalism but to think that some girls might achieve similar levels of creativity is not.  Sexist?
Absolutely.  In the U.S., girls' arrests are up, but girls are still much more likely to get arrested for status offenses, such as being out after curfew, being in a bar while underaged, etc.  Boys are not arrested for such things.    
So prosecuting the offenders is not easy or reliable.  Once again we need to tackle the problem further back and try to create a culture where such activities are just unacceptable.  This is difficult but I am encouraged by what the police and government have achieved here with regard to drinking and driving.  In my student days, going out in the car to get pissed was a 'laddish' thing to do, and dodging the cops on the way home was considered a game.  "Watch the kerb, watch the fuzz, and hold her steady!".  Over the last couple of decades the effects of this behaviour have been impressed upon the public to the extent that most people, even the 'lads' think it a stupid thing to do.
If only we could achieve similar results with drugs and abuse.  As long as we remained, as a public, unaware that it was a problem, then the perpetrators believe their situation is a personal individual thing, like the drinking drivers think "Well -I- can drive OK after a few drinks."  The first step is bringing the problem out into the open and dissecting it in public so that those involved recognised that they are on a well beaten path and can give a name to what they are doing.  That makes a resistance to proceeding along that path, and many would then shun it before they got hooked.
And if it really is so prevalent, what can be done about it.  This is not a matter of punishing individuals, much as I would like to, but of changing a culture. 
I think it would help if we stopped eroticizing children and childhood.  I am sick of opening up the Sunday paper, which has the color Target, Kmart and Wal-Mart supplements in it, and seeing pictures of little girls and boys in underwear adverts with coy little smiles on their faces.  Do the advertisers not know that this kind of material is invariably found in pedophiles' possession in large quantities, right next to the dirty videotapes?
Probably not, and probably don't care anyway if it sells kids clothes, or even better just gets customers into the store where they can be brainwashed properly.  Think about the guys that work in advertising agencies and create these adverts.  They don't usually have a background in social work (although they probably know quite a bit about drug abuse).
I also think it would help if we embarked on an intensive campaign to deglamorize prostitution.  I am fairly good friends, in a we-used-to-go-to-the-same-conferences-and-say-hello kind of way, with Margo St. James, the founder of COYOTE.  (Call Off Your Old Tired Ethics, a group that advocates for the decriminalization of prostitution).  She had some wonderful stickers that she would put up in areas where runaway children would congregate.  The one I remember the best had two frames:  one had a picture of Richard Gere, saying, "Typical Prostitute's Client?"  The other frame had an obese, dirty-looking older man with a cigarette in his mouth and a ratty old car behind him and said, "Think Again."  Centered underneath the two frames it said, "Who do YOU think has to pay for it?"
And really... the guys I have seen trolling for fourteen year olds of either sex are rarely hotties.  They are generally pretty repellent.
Hmm, yes it needs to be said, but I don't think that most kids that get into prostitution have many illusions about clients by the time they get there, perhaps they do about how much of their takings goes to organised crime.
Oh, you'd be amazed.  The girls I worked with in Waikiki were, on the average, around 16.  They worked a circuit.  They had been lured into prostitution around their homes in the Midwest, and then got taken to Vegas (as promised).  What they didn't know is they then got taken to Calgary, Fairbanks, Nome, and Honolulu.  Then they started all over in Las Vegas again.
Vegas is where they made the nasty discovery that the guy who wanted to take them away for a lifetime of glamor was also the guy who wanted to make money for them.  By the time they made it to Honolulu, they still really, truly believed that some rich guy was going to come along and fall in love with them, la Pretty Woman, in spite of the fact that the tricks they were turning were military personnel. 
They generally started out at fifteen.  By the second time I saw them in Honolulu, when they were sixteen, they had been "sold" to some local pimp, were drug-addicted, and had been taught to mob Japanese tourists and steal their wallets.  They had no clue what was planned for them next.  As soon as their looks started to fade, around the age of seventeen, and as soon as they had gotten thoroughly used to what Asian guys want to do with a prostitute (anal sex, no condom), they got shipped off to Bangkok.  Bangkok is not on the "circuit," and they don't return from there.
We managed to get a few kids out of the life, but still... it just used to break my heart when someone came up to me and said, "Cat, Cat, my old man is letting me go to Bangkok with this rich Chinese guy!"  (To a Midwesterner, all Asians are Chinese.)  We'd tell them and tell them, and have them talk to guys at the consulate in Bangkok, and it STILL made no difference.  They flew off, and we never saw them again.  Now I'd LIKE to think that some bazillionaire German tourist fell in love with all of them and whisked them away to live in wedded bliss in Bavaria, but I have a bad feeling that ain't so.
What did surprise me was how repellent the average prostitute was too.  One would have to be pretty desperate to go with the ones that hang around Manchester city centre.  I always wanted to answer "Do you want a good time?" with "Why, do you know someone who could give me one?".  Mind you I guess the 'hitch-hiking effect' applies: you don't copy the guys standing by the road, they are the ones that can't get lifts; and the prostitutes that approach you are the ones that can't get clients.
Yes.  The ones in Waikiki were always very good looking and dressed (sleazily) very well, but outside of Waikiki... Long haul truckers and prostitutes do a brisk trade around the truck washing centers on East Valley Highway, and THOSE women... toothless, straggly-haired, smelly, dirty... It gives me hope.  I feel ugly being bald and boobless, but at least I'm clean, witty, and charming.
I don't know what to do about physical (e.g. beating) abuse.  I think that has always been and will always be with us, as different cultures approve of different levels of it.  Samoan kids coming to the U.S. start to get into trouble because in Samoa they KNOW their parents love them by how much they get beaten.  Once they get here, their parents are afraid to beat them and they feel unloved, and start being bad.  I was spanked, sometimes enough to bruise, as a child, and I don't recall feeling particularly abused.  Now that I'm an adult, I don't feel as if I would ever need to spank a child, but a) I'm not a parent and b) I am a product of my time and culture.
I think the sanction of a smack should be there for small children, and to be credible it has to be used albeit VERY rarely, once only and immediately in punishment of exceptionally unacceptable behaviour. 
Absolutely.  Like if the child wrenches free of the parental paw and runs into the street.  Or keeps on reaching for the stove in spite of multiple parental warnings.  And it's ONE smack, on the (clothed) bottom.  Never on the face.
I don't think that repeated strokes add anything, except perhaps gratification for the issuer, and I don't think that delayed punishment is much help either.  I remember as a child wondering why parents smacked children for crying "I'll give you something to cry about!". 
 Oh, you got that, too?  We got it in the form of a questions: "Do you want me to give you etc. etc."  I tried both yes and no answers at various times; neither one works, and in fact makes parents angrier.
It was hardly likely to stop them.  I do not believe that one slap constitues abuse, whether by a parent or teacher.  I think a blanket ban on physical punishment effectively condones bad behaviour.  I think that the alternative forms of punishment that are available, ie psychological punishment, are probably more damaging.  I am sure it hurts Natasha more if I am angry at her than if I were to hit her, indeed I am sure that for her the disapproval implied by a smack is more painful than the thing itself. 
Yes.  My parents soon learned that spanking me didn't do much good.  Taking all the books out of my room and keeping me from reading was a hassle for them, but it really worked on me.  GOD I hated that, and I never repeated the behavior that led to it. 
The only time I did smack her it was only a token, to focus her attention on my anger.  I can't even remember what it was for, some wanton act of violence I think.
Teachers I talk to are usually amused by this story.  When I was a student, one of my collegues was walking past a school when a crocodile of children came by under the supervision of a young female teacher.  One of the boys was misbehaving and giving verbal abuse.  My friend, as he passed said to the teacher "You are not allowed to hit the children are you?" (the rule was new then) "No."  SLAP  "There you are." and he walked on.
I don't know that this extends to older children, I would think that it only works if the parent/teacher is sufficiently bigger/stronger than the child to have the authority.  
I don't think it works as discipline at all.  I think all it does is anger and humiliate the child.  I can't see smacking a child over the age of five.  After five, you can reason with them and come up with other punishments.  Of course, I make that pronouncement from the lofty height of no-I-don't-actually-have-any-children-of-my-own.
However the one-time landlord of the pub next door proudly told a tale of his youthful exploits of drunken driving, how he was stopped by a large policeman who administered a summary knockout punch, which certainly made him think twice before doing it again.  Very effective but so easily abused.  He had also been peppered by a shotgun blast of salt-and-gravel when a farmer caught him poaching, although in his defence he said he had only been after rabbits.
You know, I think it was something on Lyudmila's mind when she died, she worried that if she died and left Natasha alone with me, I might abuse her.  Not because she had any reason to believe it, but because the media push an image that all men abuse girls.
Yes.  I, myself, look askance when I see a single dad with custody of his fourteen-year-old daughter.  I feel bad for doing it, but I've heard LOTS of stories about abuse in that situation.  I never hear ANY stories about daughters growing up in single-parent dad-led homes normally.  I believe that the latter is far more likely, but what do I see more often?
Well a normal home doesn't make much of a story.  How many stories do you hear about children growing up normally in any situation.  I think one has to look at the background to the situation - what happened to the relationship between the parents etc. 
Yes.  I have no doubt that you will do an excellent job of raising Natasha.  If you were a creep, I don't think Artyom would still be hanging around with you.  That's what told me you were okay.
From what he told me last time, there are two reasons why he comes home, one, it is cheaper than his digs, and two, the bed is more comfortable. Last year the reason he gave was to get some vitamins, instead of junk food. That was more of a compliment.  It isn't to get money 'cos he knows I won't give him any more until he earns some for himself (well, more than he blows in the pub the same week).
One trouble with being a widower is that we tend to get lumped together with divorcees even though we never broke a promise.
Oh, sniff, I don't know why, but that made me cry.  Are there Parents Without Partners groups in England?  Or are they mostly filled with divorced people?
I never saw any.  I think maybe in London, not here in the sticks.
The noise that's going on behind me you'd think Natasha was getting abused. Actually she's screaming at the computer trying to finish the last level of Pandemonium.
Wow!  I never get to the last level of anything.  You must be sure to tell her what a brilliant child she is.
Well she is, but there is a little more to that story.  Cindy's brother gave her the game having played it out himself (well, that's a pretty sad guy who has nothing better to do aged about 35 but still...)  He had noted 18 level passwords on the back of the pack, so she didn't have to work through all the levels in sequence.  That said she has certainly done most of them, and she raced through the first eight this afternoon just to show she could. Level 18 was a right b****, significantly harder and longer than the others. She and her friend Emily (10) have been bashing at it on and off for about six months and probably spent as much time on that level as the rest put together.  Yesterday she had nothing much to do and Emily was away so she wanted me to help her with it.  After a little while I pointed out that she was actually getting a better success rate than I was so she was better off without my help.  That seemed to encourage her and an hour later she was writing down a level password having finished it.  Huh, why did the last level give a password.  Well it turns out there is another Boss level (they happen after every six levels - ) at the end, that she had not been given a password for.  So it was quite an achievement but the story isn't over yet. It isn't really a matter of being brilliant, although it helps, it is a matter of being stubborn.  That she inherits from me, once I get hold of a problem it is hard to let go.
Hey, I've seen retarded kids who were stubborn.  Take it from me:  y'all are brilliant.
The only game I'm good at on the computer is FreeCell.  How pathetic.
I dunno about pathetic, I use that to clear my mind between jobs.  I don't often have time for big games.  I'm showing over 1500 games on the statistics (my win rate is 70% but it lies, if you restart a game it only counts the result of the first try, so that is pretty meaningless because I always replay games until I win, being stubborn.)
I used to do minesweeper, but then I got a new computer with a sooper-dooper graphics card which may do wonderful 3d rendering but it doesn't do minesweeper worth a damn.  I think it is in more colours or something, but the result is that the edge definition of the tiles is much worse and my speed is down by about 50% so I can't compete with my old scores.
Aloha, Catharine (who is gratified to learn your win ratio at FreeCell, as hers is 85%.  However, she is terrible at Minesweeper.)
I find that I tend to lose a lot when I am sleepy because I couldn't be bothered doing so much look-ahead.
When I was single, I was once accused of child abuse. 
Local children had taken to playing in my garden, and after a while we came to a deal that I let them play here and played with them every so often if they didn't hang around at other times.  So I ended up with a cluster of kids around the place once or twice a week when I wasn't busy.  One of the girls was a bit of a rowdy from a rough home, her mother had a string of boyfriends, etc. One day I had to use force to break up a fight she had started with one of the other kids.  She took offence and reported me to the police for child abuse.  This was before any of the high profile cases in the media and I was really quite naive about the whole issue.  The police came to talk to me and everyone else involved, and fortunately told me I had nothing to worry about, but the kids had to go through a lot of questioning.
God, how scary for you.
With hindsight it was not a very clever thing to do, but a) this was before child abuse hit the headlines and I was innocently unaware of how it might be seen, and b) my motivation was really that I wanted children of my own, although it was only through this that I became consciously aware of that. From then on I realised I wasn't going to have a satisfactory relationship with a women unless having children was on the cards.
Another of the girls had a single mother, who I employed on a casual basis to solder printed circuit boards.  It even developed into a casual relationship for a little while, but that is probably irrelevant and it had quietly fizzled out before any of these events happened.  The daughter was the ringleader of the pack, the brightest, probably the oldest, and a nice girl.  She was quizzed in some detail by the police about everything that had gone on here.  A few months after that her mother remarried and then had two more children.  Her husband was a young electrician, a conciencious thoughtful lad, although not too bright, and he did some subcontract work for me too, so I knew the family quite well.  They split up after about five years and she changed husbands again although I never met this one because they moved out of the area for several years.
It was about ten years after the original incident that I heard that the daughter was taking the electrician stepfather to court for abuse.  He denied it, but the mother believed the daughter, and so did the court.  I don't know what went on, and I took pains to avoid being drawn into the arguments at the time of the hearing, but I couldn't help wandering if her previous experience with the police and social workers had not contributed in some way to the problem.
Yes.  When we first started hearing about sexual abuse, incest, etc., we were told that children are invariably truthful about such matters and should always be believed.  Now it's been in the news for twenty years.  If I were a devious-minded child about to get in trouble for something, you had better bet that throwing out a sexual abuse charge to divert attention to me would be part of my repertoire.  How could it not be?  Especially as children are always wishing to be magically removed from their families and don't have any idea of what state care is really like... of course, this makes it much harder to prosecute genuine cases, which do exist.
Given an uncomfortable environment, it does not require a great deal of intelligence to find whatever escape routes are available.  Even rats do it.

I am desperately trying to think of different career paths to follow when I can work again.  I can't go back to social work; I want to save the world, and that's a dangerous desire to have when one is just one little person.  It's bound to lead to heartbreak.
My Mum was a social worker.  I always thought it was a bottomless pit job, however much you put into it, it is never enough, and often it is appreciated even less.  That's why I want to get out of it. Some of the work she had, I did wonder who was really benefiting from it anyway.  Sometimes it appeared to be self defeating because they were too busy addressing the symptoms to see that they were aggravating the cause.

I get another chemo treatment tonight.  I've arranged to do it in the ATU (Ambulatory Treatment Unit) instead of the hospital because I like the ATU so much better.  The beds are a lot more comfortable, for one thing.  And if one is going to spend 24 hours zonked out on Benadryl, it helps to be zonked on a comfortable bed.  It's also more interesting in the ATU.  Instead of being in a private room, one is in what we used to call a ward... lots of beds in one room, so the nurses can keep an eye on everyone.  So there's always something interesting happening. 
Enjoy. :-(

I forgot this weeks news item.  Artyom has decided to drop out of college. He phoned yesterday to tell me he was planning to come back home. 
 Oh, he's not finishing out the semester? 
No, the cash ran out and he couldn't afford to live any more.  His explanation of his accounting is about as bad as his accounting, so I'm not sure what went wrong.  My guess?  He spent more than he earned. :)  He just keeps on spending as if balance didn't matter.  Anyway, he arrived this evening, having eventually managed to find some boxes for his stuff, and he sold his TV (that he couldn't afford in the first place) so he could pay for the bus fare and freight.
I also got a call from a store-credit-card company looking for him, so you can guess why he made this decision. 
Yes, though here they are strictly prepaid so no looking for anyone goes on. 
Here they'll do anything to sell stuff.  Credit is very easy. Virtually anyone can walk into a store, show some ID, sign a paper and walk out with 200 worth of stuff.  Then when you don't pay on time the interest rates are punitive, and if you still don't pay they get 'heavy'.  Mobile phones are good for credit too, everyone is very keen to sell you a phone for 10 or less, as long as you sign a contract for a year's service at about 25/month, so he has one of those too.  Yes, sounds about like our rates.   Trouble is he can rarely use it because a) he lost it on his first trip to London, b) they wouldn't replace it until his payments were up to date and c) when he didn't keep up the payments they cut off the service.  He still has to pay just the same even though he can't use the phone, and of course they have him on a calling plan with a lot of free talk time and a big standing charge, so he has no savings by not using it. I'm sorry, he's your son, but what a doofus.  He still gets regular junkmail from credit card companies trying to get him to sign up for one of thir cards.   Huh.  Interesting.  I didn't know the credit craze had crossed the pond.  I'm not sure whether that is just because he is a student, or whether once you default on credit and get ripped of by one shark all the other sharks close in for a bite too.  "Here, default on my card and pay me punitive interest too.  Please!!"  There is absolutely no problem in borrowing far more than you can possibly repay.  Last year I had credit card limits totalling around 12,000, which is scary.  I closed some of the accounts after Lyuda died.  I sometimes have to use credit cards to fund cashflow for business projects, but no way would I ever borrow anything like that.  Although come to think of it, my customers owe me more than that, my sales ledger balance has been around 15,000 for some time now.  A few years ago I was upset to see it go over 5,000, so I've made 10,000 more profit than I've seen in that time, which gives me pause.
After two years he has finally noticed that his expenditure is more than his income.
Moving to London of course made it worse, maybe it makes sense that a recently established university (when I typed that I missed an 'i', 'universty' seems sort of appropriate, the resemblence between students and pigs is more than passing) in London has very low entrance requirements and is full of local kids - there ain't no free lunch.
He says he aims to get a job and make some money. 
Doing what?  If he's based out of your house, *is* there work for him in the area?  
Well there can be.  It is a relatively high unemployment area, but against that it is a cheap area to live.  If one is prepared to do badly paid menial jobs there is always work.  He needs to find something with career and training prospects, but first he needs to find something to earn a living while he looks.  One break is that Cindy has two weeks holiday booked, so he can do her work and earn her wages while she is away, but no way am I dismissing her because he's around, what would I do if he did get a job.  Huh.  The question is will he do the work.  It gives him a little breathing space to get his finger out
Sure, we'd better get the landing strip cleared for the pigs.  I say if he thinks he's going to lie around all day and go out drinking all night he's got another think coming. Well right now his intentions seem good, we'll see how long they last in the face of the arduous business of looking for work.  Let's hope he's learnt something.
I can't really argue because he is just agreeing with what I have been saying for the last two years - that he isn't mature enough for self regulated study, that he is wasting his time at university, that he is running up huge debt to very little purpose, and that he would have been better off in the recruitment training program of some big company, learning how to work and making contacts.  It may be a step back from disaster but it is still a step back.  I'll save the applause for a step forward.
He still tries though, old habits die hard.  Will I organise transport for his belongings, or drive down to London to get them?  Yeah like it costs me about 70 just for the diesel, and a day off work, to save him 25 shipping. And what would he be doing while I do the work, watching TV?  Tell you what, I'll take a day off work and watch TV, he shifts the stuff.  That sounds fair.

WOOF!  This is the first time your detached-and humorous pose has dropped and you sound genuinely pissed off.  Beware, Artyom!

The pigs have landed  Some good news. He got himself a job right away.

Wowee!  Imua Artyom!  And it sounds like a fairly respectful job, too!  In the U.S., the default job to which one is doomed by one's parents if one doesn't get the right grades, into the right college, etc. is flipping burgers at McDonald's.  Is flipping burgers the default doom job in the U.K., or what else is? 
Though considering that McDonald's estimates that 2% of the U.S. workforce has worked for them since they opened, it could be worse.
I think we probably have worse jobs than that, and I think that hazard is mainly for kids who leave school at 15.  At least McDonalds have a career path, you can get to be team leader after flipping burgers for five years or something.  Probably telesales type jobs are the pits. Selling/supporting computers is pretty bad. 
I would actually like to work a support desk, if I could get paid fairly well.  I'm good on the phone, can see things that are being described to me, and am very very patient.  However, those jobs generally don't pay nearly as much as they ought to.
I did support desk work at Shell oil, and enjoyed it.  For a while we had a system that randomly routed support calls to members of the systems programming team.  They decided that it was ineffiecent interrupting the programmers' work, and installed a dedicated help desk guy.  Of course the support wasn't as good because if he'd been good he'd have been one of us.
The trouble with doing it for PC retailers is they see support as an annoying overhead to their real business of making money, and their overarching aim is to minimise the effort put into it.  So they hire college rejects (cheap, but hopefully with a little more technical knowledge than the average punter) and reward them on how quickly they can get rid of callers.
The guy that got Artyom this job did that.  It was S.H.I.T.  Guys got fired for being helpful to customers.  Performance ratings were strictly on number of calls per day.  If you hadn't got rid of the customer in about 40 seconds you were losing.
Who'd buy a computer from his employer?  Well quite a few actually due to high profile advertising.  You don't find out about aftersales service until they've got your money.  Oddly the grapevine is remarkably sluggish. 
I had spent some time drilling into him that the majority of jobs are filled by cold calling, and the best jobs are filled by internal promotion or by knowing someone in the firm.  When these mechanisms fail, they advertise, and if no-one responds the job appears in the government Job Centre.
So the logic is that looking in the Job Centre is an act of desperation, answering advertisements is what you do when you have nothing better, but start out by asking friends and calling firms you'd like to work for.
He asked his best friend and was rewarded with a minimum-wage job, shifts with overtime, which is potentially permanent, has promotion prospects, including promotion into management, starting Monday.  OK that's pretty basic but not bad for one day's trying.  He seems to heave learnt something, including that when looking for a job it is a good idea to have one already, however lowly, and that earning a minimum wage is a hell of a lot better than borrowing.
Of course that means I have to juggle the child minding for the next two weeks.  Oh well, it could be worse.  It could be a lot worse.

It certainly could.  While you may be temporarily stressed over the next two weeks, you should suffer no permanent damage from hazardously raised blood pressure.
The child-minding problem is that I am restricted to working between the hours of 10am and 3pm Mon-Fri unless I can find ad-hoc cover.  It doesn't impress the customers. 
Why not just put out an announcement that says something like, from 15 to 29 May, Tim Jackson Co. is limited to outreach between 10:00 to 15:00, M to F?  No explanations, no apologies.  It could be a business thing that you just can't avoid.  If you could take calls after those hours and promise to be out first thing in the morning, it might work.  And for outcalls on weekends, couldn't Natasha come along?  Is she now mature enough to read quietly for a while?  I would think she'd be thrilled to come along.
Fortunately weekend calls are rare, and I have taken her once or twice, but she can usually go play with friends while I am at work.  I have no problems taking calls, so I don't need to announce anything.  I just explain the conditions to anyone who calls.  The customers are happy to accept whatever service I can provide.  The problem is that many service calls are maybe 100 miles away, and having to be home by 3pm means very few hours on site.  Now the average job only takes 2 hours, so it is just barely feasible, but I don't know how long its going to take until I get there, and I can't legislate for traffic jams, so I can't stay till the last minute.  If I have
four hours work and four hours driving that becomes eight hours driving and an extra day of machine downtime.  So both the customer and I lose significantly.  Practically, to do those jobs I have to get someone to meet Natasha from school.  It can all be done, but it is a lot of juggling and often means delays and often means I have to say 'tomorrow' rather than 'today'.

On the positive side, the call-out business is fairly quiet at the moment, so it is as good a time as any.  Good deal. I seem to have finally reached the push-over point in economic recovery from becoming a single parent.  I have at last released the project queue.  I had to embargo all project work from January 2000 because I had a lot in progress and was proceeding very slowly. So requests for quotes got stacked from then on.  I have now cleared enough of the backlog to feel that I could hope to complete some more projects, and started issuing quotes.  I'm so proud of you!  Amazingly enough customers who asked for jobs 18 months ago are still waiting for me to do them.  Now I'm even more proud of you.  So much for competition. All of a sudden the bank account is awash with cash from project deposit cheques, but that is dangerous because a month or two later that has to go out again in subcontractor payments.  I have to live by my cash flow accounting, not my bank balance.
Sigh.  Don't we all, and isn't it depressing.
The stress isn't as bad as being married.  Oops that wasn't very PC was it.  :-)
No, but so, so true.  Why, oh why, did I marry David?  Oh, I remember, his insurance.  Yes, I'm a slut and a prostitute.  I admit it.  I've made my bed, now I have to lie in it. 

Frantic searching all over the house for a small box to put one of my sister's birthday presents in.  Argh.  There are times when I wish I *was* a pack rat, instead of despising David because he is one.

I just took a pile of small boxes to the municipal tip, I have a roomful of them.  Why would the pack-rat mentality avoid the present packing problem?
Too bad you can't send me one between now and tomorrow.  If I were a pack-rat, I would hold on to the small boxes that I get.  I still have the small-island mentality and mail-order just about everything, so I'm always getting (and throwing out) boxes.
Do they just pay for gift-wrap.
*I* never pay for gift-wrap.  I ran a department store wrap department many years ago and am still proud of the exquisite, seamless giftwraps I do.  Sadly, they involve lots of double-stick tape and I learned to pack for shipping, so they look beautiful even when they get to their destination, but they're relatively hard to open.  You need scissors if you don't want to fiddle with the ribbon for decades.
A lady of many talents!  Maybe it would be easier to list the jobs you didn't do.
I've never done anything even remotely math or hard science-oriented, which means there is no reason for me to be an astronaut, dammit some more.
Didn't seem to bother Tito.  All you need is a tame billionaire.  You could ask Mr Gates.  :-o
That's right, he's in my neighborhood and he's giving money away.  If my bones can take a roller coaster they ought to be able to take take-off, right?

A guy stopped me in the street outside my house and asked for some advice about his computer (I have a reputation as the 'mad professor' of the neighbourhood, so I wasn't surprised). 
So does my dad.  He is the Mr. Fixit of his very posh retirement place in Las Vegas.  He doesn't get paid, but lots of rich widows bake him banana bread.  Too bad he's already married to a not-so-rich divorced woman.
Though I like her, kinda.
Sounds like a fun job.   He's retired from IBM.  He did super classified stuff with radar systems the whole time he worked there.  (35 years)  To this day, I'm not entirely sure what he did.  Now, for fun, he recalibrates nuclear test ban monitoring equipment for the Department of the Environment monthly, and also maintains the mail-delivery robots for the Hewlett-Packard plant nearby.  Wow!
He had paid some 3000 for a home computer, god knows why. 
Jesus God, that's high.  I mean here, you can get a widely advertised Dell or Gateway system with monitor, speakers, scanner, and a cheesy but effective little printer for $899.
Sure, the high street shops advertise basic systems for an "unbeatable" 799, while mail order gets you the same system for about 400.  I don't know how they get away with it.  I guess for 3000 he must have got some sort of server-rated machine, maybe something suitable for making animated movies.  I don't know what accessories he got, but its a lot anyway, and quite OTT for home use.
I am currently wishing for a new, flat-screen, slim-line monitor.  David just hates my little old ThinkPad, and wishes to buy me a whole new computer.  (Could it be because an old BOYFRIEND bought me the ThinkPad?)
I won't let him do it until the snazzy new monitors come down enough in cost that I get one of *those*, instead of the huge take-up-the-whole-desk old ones.
Well they are getting within reach now, and commercial organisations seem to be specifying them.  My bank just installed them for the tellers for no good reason that I could see.
Yes, the banks and grocery stores all have them here and the Post Office has them, too.  The Post Office ones have touch screen capability, and came with a new POS system that has the poor counter clerks crazed.
I recall a slightly loony housemate from student days (who now lives in Toronto) deciding in the 80's that he would not buy a PC until he could get a flat screen because he was worried about the radiation.  (Didn't stop him watching TV though!)  I wonder if he has bought one yet.
When we were students he used to worry about his heart.  He woke me up one night to tell me his heart had stopped.  I think I sleepily managed the classic response "Go dig yourself a grave then!".  I told him next time he worried about his heart I would take him for a run around the block so that he could feel it beating.  I lived to regret that, I had forgotten that he had been a cross-country runner at school, and I landed myself with a five mile run a couple of weeks later.  I put on a brave face and managed to keep up but was completely knackered afterwards!
After a month or so, it crashes every time he hits the start menu.  My comment was "For Christ sake take it back to the guy that sold it you.  He's ripped you off for enough, sold you a much more expensive machine than you need, he at least ought to honour his guarantee." It would seem he hadn't though of that, he thought he had done something wrong.  Well, no, but even if he had they can **** afford to give him a bit of support at that price.  Then again if it was M$ they'd probably charge him 300 for a phone call.