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Secret Story: That's awful!

Jo was almost caught out at her lowest ebb

After I lost my job at a small TV commercial company, my financial situation was dire. I could barely get by on my meagre unemployment benefit.

I couldn't even afford to buy petrol anymore. In an effort to make ends meet, I took to riding my rusty old bicycle around Adelaide instead.

A few weeks after I'd lost my job, I was cycling through an industrial area on my way to visit a friend. Riding by a large factory, I saw a sign that read Cash for cans and scrap metal.

I'd never dreamt of resorting to such a means of earning an income. I'd always been able to pay my way and the job loss had come as a real shock.

However I was desperate so, over the next few days, I'd grab any cans I found in the dump, on the road or in bins, and throw them into the basket on my bike. I hated doing it but if it brought some cash in, I knew I'd have to swallow my pride.

I received around 60 cents a kilo. A full day of collecting cans would bring in around $5.

'Well at least I can buy dinner now,' I comforted myself.

Meanwhile, I continued to hunt for other jobs, but to no avail.

One day I saw a former work colleague, Annabelle, at the mall. 'What have you been up to?' she asked me. 'Have you found a new job yet?'

'Not yet,' I replied. 'But I've picked up a bit of work here and there.' If only she and the rest of the TV production crew knew the 'work' I was picking up consisted of old cans!

One Saturday morning I was out on my bike as usual, collecting cans in a dead-end street. I filled my bicycle basket quite quickly and started to head back up to the main road.

I was stopped in my tracks when, in the distance, I saw the familiar sight of a huge truck, lights, cameras and a film crew setting up at the top of the street. I could clearly make out the logo on the truck. It was the company I'd been laid off from!

My path was blocked. There was no other way for me to get home except past them, and I certainly wasn't going to do that.

Some of my ex-colleagues were quite stuck-up and I wasn't going to be the butt of their jokes with my rusty bike and basket of empty cans! Horrified, I hid behind some bushes in case I was spotted.

I stayed there for four hours. When are they going to leave? I despaired. Finally they started to pack up their gear. By then it was bucketing with rain and I didn't even have a jacket.

It was nearly dark when I got home, cold, wet and starving. I sat down and bawled.

A few weeks later I found myself a good job in advertising.

'Thanks, you helped put food on the table,' I told my rusty old bike as I returned it to the garage to gather cobwebs again.

I made contact with Annabelle from my television job again, and one day we went for a jog through the suburbs together.

'Ugh,' she exclaimed, pointing to a man. 'Look at him, picking up dirty old cans. I don't know how anyone could ever do that!'

Tears filled my eyes. I knew just how he felt. I stopped and handed him all the money I had on me, which was $25.

'There you go, mate,' I said.

'Thanks,' he said, grateful.

'You old softie,' Annabelle laughed as we jogged on.

'Well, you never know when that could be you,' I replied. What I didn't tell her was that not so long ago, it had been me.

All names and identifying details have been changed. photo re-enactment posed by models.

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