Note: This actually started as a FB status, but by the time I was finished, I realized it was longer than most the blogs I’ve recently published. Consider this your lucky day, friends–you’re getting a 2-for-1 in posting. I guess this is a “thanks” for sticking by me while I’ve been dormant for so long…
So, I went to ShopRite tonight–an errand that I *dread*, and tonight was no different–it was crowded, it was chaotic, I was hungry and tired. I just wanted to buy my few items and get OUT. I stood behind a family who seemed to be wrapping up their checkout and quickly realized that the mother was purchasing her items using her WIC (The New Jersey Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children) check.
The clerk, who was probably 17 at most, was having trouble ringing up a couple of her items (eggs, tortillas, bread) because the computer was saying they weren’t covered and so he was asking his manager for help.
The manager, clearly annoyed, was giving him short answers to his questions, but would not just come over to help him through the transaction (granted, it was busy, but the kid was obviously unsure what to do and there were several other customers behind this family, which was making the kid even more nervous). The boy was trying to explain the situation to the family, and the manager yelled over, “Do they speak English? If they don’t, it’s not worth explaining. I’ll just have to get the things for them. Do they speak English or not?”
For a moment, I was annoyed. “My luck,” I thought. “Stuck behind this mess…”
But then I looked at the people, and I saw the confusion and embarrassment on their faces. And I remembered back to when I used to run the farm stand in town at the farmer’s market and an older woman came with a WIC check to buy some produce. I told the lady that we didn’t accept them, but she was persistent. I then called over my dad and he said it was fine and that we would take it (even though we didn’t have a way to actually cash it).
Later, he said, “The next time that happens, you honor it– Everyone has to eat and nobody should have to feel bad about it.”
This woman in front of me wasn’t buying crap–everything she had was legit, “real” food–she wasn’t trying to skim cigarettes or Cheetos off the system. She was utilizing a service that she needed that the government has put in place to help people who need it and she was following the rules of that system exactly as they had been laid out. Does this system mean it will take extra time for her to purchase groceries, for the cashier to process the order, for me to wait in line? Yes; probably. But does that mean that the extra time should be automatically seen as a burden to others, and that she should have to be shamed for having to go through this process?
I’m sure this system is not perfect. I’m sure that manager has her reasons for being so exasperated–maybe she has seen people abuse the system; maybe she does feel like it’s a waste of time; maybe it’s frustrating that people pick up the wrong eggs or bread instead of the ones that are actually covered.
But all I could think of when I saw them leaving (I actually did switch lines because the manager was making them wait so long, and was actually already in my car/driving away when they finally emerged from the store) was “Everyone has to eat and nobody should have to feel bad about it.”