Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Have a little hope

It's always good to remember that all is not gloom and doom. Case in point:

Today was my last day of work until after New Years. It's an annual thing; left over from when I was in college and reinforced from working at a university. It's usually hectic, as I try to be sure that every possible thing that could cause a problem to drag me back to work has been checked. I'll normally be in something less that a Christmas-y mood at the end of it.

So on the way home, the cell phone rings. "We need milk." Check.

In a few minutes, it rings again. "We need mozzarella cheese." Check.

Along the way of my other errands I was running is a small IGA grocery store. I stop there frequently, especially when I need just a few things. It's locally-owned, the money stays here and while always busy, it never seems to take long to get in and out.

On the way in, a 25-ish young woman is just behind me, yakking on her cell phone. This never fails to annoy me, as I couldn't care less about whatever it is that is so incredibly important that you have to talk about it in the middle of the grocery store. That Christmas-y mood recedes further.

I get my milk and my cheese and head to the checkouts. The 25-ish young woman is there, just ahead of me. She has a bag of Ore-Ida frozen hash browns and a pound of Neese's Sausage. The young lady, probably of high school age, running the register scans her items and as Ms. 25-ish swipes a card in the card reader, asks "Credit or debit?"

"EBT."

This is guaranteed to get my interest. You see, I grew up on the poor side of town, a lower-class kid with a blue-collar dad and a stay-at-home mom. I never thought we were poor--heck, I knew poor people. Our house had a real furnace, not a wood stove that we had to scavenge wood scraps from the furniture factories to feed. We weren't poor.

Our neighborhood also had the distinction of being near a "black neighborhood", as my parents, who weren't from the South and would never use "The 'N' Word", called it. The neighborhood grocery store served both poor blacks and poor whites. Then, as now, money was always green. Business sees that color first and all others second.

We got to see the reality of the "welfare Cadillac". Yes, they were real. A big Caddy, the Sedan de Ville being the preferred variant. Usually driven by a woman with several kids in tow, who paid for her groceries with food stamps before driving back to her apartment in a local housing project. You see, we had to drive by that project to get home, so we followed them occasionally. It never failed to get my parents ire.

So, anyway, I scope Ms. 25-ish out. A nail job that, described to my daughter, is deemed to cost at least $75. Big-name logo sweat shirt. Expensive handbag. Several visible body piercings besides the multiples in the ears. The afore-mentioned cell phone, which she had still had in hand as she swiped the card.

"EBT."

The you man, also of high-school age, silently bagged her purchases and handed them to her. Neither wished here a Merry Christmas or requested that she "Have a nice day."

I was the last customer in the line. As she began scanning my items, she started talking, angrily, to the young man. "Did you see that? Name brands! She's on welfare and she's buying name brands of everything!"

When she saw my card, she looked at me. I could see it going through her mind.

"Credit, ma'am."

She smiled, printed the copy for me to sign and slipped it toward me. As I signed it, I just smiled at her and said "Our tax dollars at work."

The young man replied that he worked, why couldn't she? Why should he work so she could spend his money on name brands and body piercings?

Why indeed.

I told him the story of growing up and seeing welfare Cadillacs. He looked at me as if I told him that he had grown another head. I explained it to him.

"But they shouldn't do that!"

No, they shouldn't.

I told them both that if they thought it was bad now, it would get worse over the next few years. I've seen first-hand the results of a increasingly large welfare class, and I'm smart enough to see that that group is once again expanding, grasping hands reaching out for what the producers create.

They both looked at me. I guess that's what "dumbfounded" looks like.

"But it'll get better eventually. Remember this, and remember who you are and how you've gotten ahead of her already. She'll never catch up with you. You'll leave her behind."

The young man had bagged my purchases and slid the bag toward me. Almost in unison, the two young people, the same age as my oldest, said "Merry Christmas!"

I wished them a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year and headed out into the cold darkness. But in my heart, the crappy day had lifted. Two young people's anger at injustice had cleared it all away.

Merry Christmas, indeed. I'd just gotten a gift beyond price--that of rekindled hope.

The young--some of them, at any rate--are starting to understand. They have just turned 18, or will soon, and become voters. They'll remember a cold December night and "EBT".

Statists from the left and statists from the right, you'd better start worrying. These kids are smarter than you think, and they're going to figure out soon who has done this to them. They're going to join us "old folks" and send you home.

Perhaps then you can get some honest work, like running a register or bagging groceries. Because the way you've spent us all into the hole, there will be no EBT for you.

1 comment:

theotherryan said...

For awhile I worked at a 7/11. The rules on what EBT can be used on were sort of odd. Of course no booze or smokes or pre cooked stuff but they could buy soda and chips and all that stuff. I refused to sell it to them. Didn't make a scene but just said "sorry we can't take it" and they would either pay in cash or move along. Somebody picking up real food (or as close to it as they sell at 7/11) I would just ring up.

Probably illegal but I did it anyway.