One of the more depressing jobs I’ve ever had was working in a customer service department in a large quasi-governmental entity in
One of the main topics of conversation that I would overhear was “things that people on food stamps buy that they have no business buying.” According to the wisdom of the customer service ladies, bitches on food stamps have no business buying:
Jay’s Potato Chips
Soda pop, even super-cheap Canfield’s
Ice cream, all flavors
The cheese thing kinda baffled me, but I found out that it was because if you are on food stamps then you should be getting government cheese instead of buying it.
Hey, I never said their reasoning was logical. Or even accurate. Although I have to say it did strike me as funny when many years later I would hear Tracy Morgan joke “I grew up on government cheese. I prefer it.”
And the ice cream thing. I was actually sitting right next to the customer service lady who went off one day about the woman she saw at her neighborhood grocery store buying ice cream with food stamps.
“Aw, come on,” I said, venturing, against my own best instincts, into the fray, “I don’t see what’s so bad about ice cream, every once in a while. Why can’t people on food stamps treat themselves a little bit? It’s only ice cream.”
“My kids don’t get ice cream,” she replied emphatically. “We can’t afford it.”
“Well, that sucks,” I said. “But so no one can have ice cream?”
“I work two jobs,” she said. “My husband works twelve house a day. And we have to pay for that woman’s food stamps? So she can buy ice cream for her kids when I can’t buy ice cream for mine? Hell no.”
I saw her point. I did. But I also saw, among the customer service ladies, both black and white, a remarkable resistance to seeing life from another person’s point of view.
And I resisted the urge to ask how much her manicure cost. I had learned my lesson in that area several months before, when another woman complained about the bunions that her high heels gave her, and I suggested that she could wear some cute flat shoes instead. I received a look back from her as if I had just suggested that she pick cotton or eat fried chicken for a living. And I realized that as awful as they all looked with their ridiculous weaves or their permed lank oily locks with crispy high bangs, and their bright talons and their stirrup pants and their embellished sweatshirts, as awful as it all was, they took a tremendous amount of pride in how they looked. To look put together, to look their own version of “professional,” was everything to them.
And as glad as I was to escape my acrylic-tipped hell, I wouldn’t mind going back for just an hour and ask the customer service ladies what they think about this whole financial mess. What they think of those AIG dudes and their “retention” bonuses, given at a time when it was my impression that the job market was flooded with talented professionals who would be happy to have a job at all, and wouldn’t need to be bribed to stay working at one.
I also wonder what they’d think about those auto executives who drove their companies under by consistently making what Americans didn’t need, and then had the nerve to take private jets to their appointment to beg us for money.
Speaking of private jets, what of JP Morgan Chase, recipient of 25 billion taxpayer dollars, and their plans to upgrade their private fleet and hanger? How on earth can they remain so inexplicably tone deaf to our demands to at least pretend like they give a fuck?
It’s because they know, that if one of them gives in, then more of them might have to give in, and then the whole scam will be shot to hell, and they’ll have to admit that, given what they actually do, they are the most obscenely overpaid individuals to ever walk the earth, and yes, I am including Manny Ramirez in that comparison. Ballplayers might make crazy money, but at least they have the good grace to be one of a handful of people in the world who can do what they do. CEOs don’t do much. I’ve known a few in my day, and their dirty little secret is that they, collectively, ain’t all that.
How many of us were told by our employers that there would be no annual bonuses, or raises, this year? I know I’m not the only one with my hand in the air. I think I said, during the meeting where the action was announced, that if our sacrifice would signal to our stakeholders that we were committed to making it through these hard times, then it would be worth it.
Now I feel like a sucker. Because how many of those upper-level guys would’ve done the same? You think they’re going bonus-less this year? No way. They’ll be getting their money all right. Their bonus will be based on the excellent job they did getting you to give up yours.