I once stood in the check out line for 30 minutes; an ungodly amount of time to run in and out for a few food items. I picked the shortest line and there I stood behind two women with a toddler, legs dangling, sitting in their cart.
Their items were neatly divided into three orders. They fumbled, they stood, they watched. And the toddler sat.
I flipped through magazines. Probably five. Debated if I should go elsewhere. I need to get home.
But I stayed.
I didn’t throw my items down or huff like the Big Bad Wolf, or snicker to someone behind me (no one was there) or check for designer bags or a big rock or itemize their chicken to potato chip ratio.
Nope. None of that.
I stood there in silent solidarity. Saying — without saying — ladies, take however long you need.
I’ve been there.
I had a choice: I could stay a receptionist with two semesters of community college under my belt or I could accept a scholarship from a 4-year university and earn a degree; the first member of my family to do so.
And earned that degree in three years. With a toddler, a double major, a minor, and a 4.0 in sleepless nights.
I had my daughter at 21 and was determined that I could do it all: attend classes, write papers, read until my eyes felt like they may start to bleed, love my daughter endlessly and provide. The fact is, I needed help in providing.
Enter the state of Pennsylvania.
Through food stamps and WIC our bellies were nourished and our good health was ensured through Medicaid.
I never had a negative experience as a food stamp recipient. Well, one that I can remember. The process was smooth; from applying to paying for my order at the local grocery store. No one ever asked a question, made a negative comment, or was mean. Not one cashier or customer.
WIC was completely different.
Women Infants and Children is a nutritional subsidiary program for pregnant women and their children up to age five. Think formula for non-breastfeeding babies, milk, cheese, fresh fruits and vegetables and more. WIC provides a list of foods to the recipient and the grocery stores label these foods for quick identification. However, there is no ATM-like card. Instead there are paper checks with expiration dates and paper ID cards.
This leads recipients to separate orders when checking out by date of check and WIC or non-WIC purchases. Which is a nightmare for everyone involved. And the people behind us? Oh forget it. They are pissed.
Which is why I always brought a re-enforcement: my best friend. If it was a WIC shopping trip, I had her as a stand in for my regular grocery items. Sure it was really me buying them, but it gave the person behind us the illusion that they were two people away from leaving the store. Instead of, well, one person making two (or even three) separate purchases.
I get that lines slowly murder people. And that WIC purchases are, basically, a massacre but this is the process. What the grocery store needs, instead of the 10-items-or-less checkout is the Holier than Thou check out. Where the people who Fendi bag check and juice to water compare can leave the rest of us alone.
As a taxpayer that may rub you the wrong way. Unless you’re currently in prison for not paying taxes. This safety net is here for all of us who meet the strict guidelines. Because I received does not mean you are with less or that government sponsored subsidies buy my silence during unwarranted judgmental attacks in the grocery line.
Of course not.
Which is why, when given the chance, I stand without judgement in solidarity. During check out.
Because I have been there.
Liz Henry is a writer, blogger, and chin-shaving enthusiast. She graduated Summa Cum Lazy with a degree in English Literature. So, yes, Liz knows how to write properly, but chooses not to. She likes sweat pants, cats and her hetero-lifemate, Slasher. They have a nine year-old daughter who recently wrote a back-to-school paper entitled “I am so cool.” Humility does not run in the family. When Liz isn’t checking her five o-clock chin shadow, you can find her contributing vlogs to iVillage, blogging at The Six Year Itch and tweeting about chub rub and what she has in common with the President of the United States; mainly that they both work from home.