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I was a person until I wasn’t…
I needed a day to think before I wrote this post & I also wanted to make sure I could write it. I’m feeling pretty lucid right now. The suicidal thoughts are actually muted so I am going to take a couple of my spare spoons and go for it.
Yesterday, I stopped at a swanky grocery store in the Uptown area of Minneapolis. This area has been gentrified beyond belief. It’s very much a upper middle class to rich person’s place, now. And this grocery store is one of those “boutique” stores. It doesn’t look like the value supermarkets inside at all. In fact, if a person walked in and wasn’t comfortable with the subtle and not so subtle aura of luxury, they’d feel intimidated.
Me, I just wanted lunch. So I picked out some sushi (delicious!) and some raspberry yoghurt. I headed to the checkout line and that’s when things became not so much fun.
There was one person available and this person was fairly pleasant to me. We chatted about the weather and when it came time to pay, I got my EBT/SNAP (food stamps) card out of my wallet. ‘I’m paying with EBT today,’ I told the cashier. I continued chatting to this person about the weather as I swiped my card and paid for my food. I looked up to see if this person was going to respond when I noticed the following: this person had completely turned away from me. Wasn’t even looking at me, anymore. Wasn’t talking to me. This person had ignored me completely, ever since I let them know I was using my EBT card. I said ‘goodbye’ and I didn’t receive a response.
OK, then. I walked away with my food and thought about it. What was different? How did I become invisible all of a sudden? And it hit me. I was dressed like a well to do person. But then, I took out my EBT card and betrayed myself as “one of those people.”
Here’s the thing, lads. That sort of attitude sucks and it makes a person feel less than. Other. Invisible. I wasn’t feeling like I was less than a person. I was feeling angry. I was fucking PISSED OFF. Because I’d done NOTHING to warrant that behavior. I was polite. I was making small talk. Those who know me have seen me talk to most anyone. Unless that person is a complete ass canoe, I enjoy the conversation. A little bit of getting to know someone as they pass through my life.
As a person who’s been on assistance for a long time in one way or another, whether it was WIC or MAC when my boys were younger or EBT/SNAP as they got older, I’ve learned which grocery store clerks to go to and which to avoid. A lot of us who use these programs do.
First, I look for a person of colour, preferably younger, perhaps looks like a parent themselves. They’re the least likely to give off a vibe of ‘oh, so you’re one of those.’
If that’s not available, then I look for a middle aged white person. And hope for the best.
The very last choice is an older person because nine times out of ten, I’ve received The Look.
And god forbid if I buy luxury items. Or if I buy snacks and pop. It really is a damned if you do or damned if you don’t. If I buy nice things such as steak or crab legs, then it’s ‘how dare you buy expensive things on food stamps?’ If I buy snack food, then it’s ‘oh, so you’re going to spend your (OUR) money on junk food, huh?’
I’m sure the sushi was an item this cashier thought I shouldn’t have bought. Actually, I shouldn’t have been in the store in the first place. There’s grocery stores for people like me. SuperValu or Cub Foods or whatever the big chain store is in my town. Not this upper class grocery haven.
I’m never going back to this grocery store again. Kinda makes me sad because I really did like the sushi rolls. They were delicious. Oh. And I’m emailing their customer service to let them know how shitty I was treated and how maybe it would be a good thing for their cashiers to be a little more open minded towards people.
There’s an addendum, a post script to this story. Last night, I went to the Aldi’s grocery store near my sons’ school. I needed to pick up some groceries for supper. I chatted with the cashier and said, ‘I’m going to use my EBT card today.’ Same exact words as I used in the morning. And the cashier looked me right in the eye, smiled, and said, ‘Thank you for letting me know.’ I swiped my card, said good bye and the cashier smiled again and said, ‘Bye! Have a nice night.’
I think you know which grocery store is going to get my business from now on.