Saturday, May 12, 2007

Diapers for Martina

Wal-Mart. 7:15 a.m. I'm sick and weak from a bout of food poisoning, but I drag myself in to work anyway. I don't last long, but the adventures are many.

The 7 a.m. hour is always interesting. There's the brave few who are trying to "beat the rush" of Saturday shoppers. There's the stragglers who are obviously on the morning after the night before. There's would-be scammers who try to hit eleven Wal-Marts in one day. Then, there's the baby-daddies probably trying to get out of the house while Mommy cooks up a new batch of meth in the tub. Uh-huh. Got to pay that rent.

So this guy, who could have doubled for Justin Timberlake in "Alpha Dog" - prison tattoos and all - comes up to Register 14. He's got one baby in a car seat in the cart and another toddler standing in the cart.

He's dressed in a grimy wife-beater with cigarette burn holes all over it, a pair of dirty gray sweat pants and some beat-up high-tops that look like somebody mowed the lawn in them. The kids are dressed in hand-me-downs, but at least clean ones and look to be reasonably well-fed and cared for. Except for the fact that the toddler standing up in the cart is pestering him for some candy, they are reasonably well-behaved for howler monkeys.

I watch all the action from the Service Desk.

He keeps trying to swipe an EBT (Electronic Benefits Transfer - the new name for Food Stamps) card and is obviously not happy with the results. He starts berating the cashier, who correctly tells him that she's not the one responsible for him not having enough money in his account to cover the purchase of diapers and formula. If he doesn't have enough money, he doesn't have enough money.

For those not in the know, some people get both cash & food EBT benefits. The EBT FOOD can only be spent on government-designated food items. The EBT CASH can be spent on anything -- and can even be received as a debit cash back. I once had a woman buy four packs of gum in four individual transactions and use EBT CASH on all four and walk away from my register with $400 of taxpayer money.

The situation at Register 14 escalates, and a supervisor gets involved. The transaction gets suspended and brought over to my register. (Why do people always assume it is the REGISTER'S fault?) I take his EBT card and lo and behold, this lovely tattooed gentleman goes by the name of Martina.

Which is a no-no. Retailers who accept government payments such as WIC and EBT are supposed to verify that the name on the payment instrument (EBT card, WIC check) is who they say they are. But he obviously can't use it, so I'm not about to start a fight at 7:15 a.m. when I feel like someone took a blender to my stomach.

I ask him if he has EBT cash & EBT food benefits. He says yes. I ask him if he knows how much. "Plenty."

Wonderful. "Plenty" is now a number.

"Well sir, it's not going through. Do you have any other way to pay?"

And now he gets hostile with me. "If I had any other damn way to pay, I wouldn't be f****** standing here, now would I?"

"OK. Then you need to call the EBT number and check your balance. Because it's not like we DON'T WANT TO SELL YOU MERCHANDISE. You can use our phone or the pay phone in the corner." And for the record, yes, I was just as snarky. He was prison-hot, but a bit of a-hole.

Customer Service is deserted, so I hear him pressing buttons on the pay phone to get his balance. Then he slams the phone down. And starts hitting buttons really hard and angry like.

This was his end of the conversation that followed:

*I know you're there. Pick up the phone.*
*Did you go to the store yesterday?*
*What did you buy all that stuff for? I can't get the boys no diapers.*
*Well I ain't got no money.*
*Well what am I supposed to do?*
*Fine. You can have them then.*
**SLAMS PHONE DOWN, mutters an expletive**

Exit Grocery Door Stage Right.

15 comments:

FARfetched said...

Jeez. When he left, did he take the kids with him?

Anonymous said...

This kind of makes me sad.

I would feel awful to not be able to provide for my kids, and incredibly pissed if it was at the fault of some other inconsiderate ass.

Oh well, such is life I guess.

snood said...

I would feel awful to not be able to provide for my kids, and incredibly pissed if it was at the fault of some other inconsiderate ass.

Umm...people on EBT can always get off their asses and GET FREAKIN' JOB!

I would applaud a cash for vasectomy program at Wal*Mart.

Want a vasectomy? Get $1000 gift card today!!

Anonymous said...

Somehow I doubt the guy is an innocent party in the relationship, either.

Anonymous said...

Deep down, I knew someone would make comments like this.

Umm...people on EBT can always get off their asses and GET FREAKIN' JOB!

It's easy to say when you're sitting comfortably at home (or at work) earning a paycheque and living life the way you've always seen it. Not to say you haven't had your fair share of problems, (or anyone, for that matter), but when you've lived the life of people on welfare and experienced what they have before being where you are, then you can point fingers and criticize without fault.
Or, you could skip that altogether and just be what you are, whatever you might say that is.

Poverty breeds poverty and shit breeds shit. It'll be a miracle if those kids grow up and become awesome; that's what makes it sad.

"Oh well, such is life I guess," as I said.

With all seriousness aside, awesome writing. You, Author, turn the absurd sides of society into something entertaining to read :) I check almost daily for any new pieces.

Anonymous said...

Unbelievable. Perfect example of why welfare and assistance should NOT be provided by the government but instead through public charity (yes, I'm a Libertarian and yes, that plan could work.) Assistance of this type should be a temporary hand-UP, not a permanent and cyclical, generational hand-OUT.

The children are the ones that suffer here. Reproduction should be a PRIVELAGE, not a RIGHT!

Fabuluous post! (Yes, I have previously criticized you, but give credit where credit is due.)

I wasn't aware of the EBT cash...I went and read something about this after reading your post and my god, I'm more pissed than ever over our system.

kelmeister said...

Do you think he's named after the country-western singer?

travisl said...

Anonymous wrote:
I'm a Libertarian and yes, that plan could work. ... Reproduction should be a PRIVELAGE(sic), not a RIGHT!

I'm having a heck of a time reconciling these two sentences. This is obviously a new, as-yet-to-be discovered species of libertarian.

Icy-Cold Refreshment said...

The dude was trying to do right by the kids and get them diapers and milk. I don't care what he looks like or how he's dressed, he could have been buying Fritos and Mountain Dew for himself, but he wasn't.

MavenofMoxie said...

TRAVIS...you're a fucktard. Libertarians DO NOT believe that welfare should be funded by the government. They believe private charity, churches & families should hold that responsibility.

You know nothing, Dumb Ass! Thanks for showing everyone!

From LP.org,

"Ending the Welfare State Proposal"


Excuse me, who's the one clueless about where the Libertarian party stands? ....YOU!

MavenofMoxie said...

Here is the proper link for that:

http://www.lp.org/issues/welfare.shtml

travisl said...

As someone who voted for the libertarian candidate for senate and lt. governor in the last election, and president in 2004, I made sure I knew what the libertarians stood for. I'm well aware -- and agree -- that the government should not be in the business of providing welfare. I never said nor implied that.

What I pointed out -- apparently unclearly -- is that a libertarian would never claim that reproduction should be a privilege (which, by definition, could be revoke by an authority) instead of an inalienable right. Clearly, there are some people who should never reproduce, but it's not the governments place to say so, particularly from a libertarian perspective.

A clueless know-nothing fucktard dumb ass,

TravisL

travisl said...

(edit: voted for the libertarian president in 2000. The 2004 libertarian presidential candidate was a bit too out there for my tastes.)

Raz said...

Great blog, very entertaining.

As a side note, most people who receive EBT do work.

If you have two adults in a household making federal minimum wage, one adult working 40 hous a week and one woring 20 (with an infant and a toddler, one adult will probably have to work less), they will probably only make about $300/week, *before taxes*.

It would be hard for me, as a single person, to live on $300/week - could you imagine doing it with two rugrats? Yeah, the guy sounded like a dick, but the kids have to eat.

And as for charity taking care of it - yeah, that's a nice idea, but I prefer to know that all kids are getting fed, no matter where they live.

Anonymous said...

in response

It's easy to say when you're sitting comfortably at home (or at work) earning a paycheque and living life the way you've always seen it. Not to say you haven't had your fair share of problems, (or anyone, for that matter), but when you've lived the life of people on welfare and experienced what they have before being where you are, then you can point fingers and criticize without fault.
Or, you could skip that altogether and just be what you are, whatever you might say that is.

Poverty breeds poverty and shit breeds shit. It'll be a miracle if those kids grow up and become awesome; that's what makes it sad.


I had lived my entire childhood life as a welfare kid in hand me downs. I had to eat crap food like kraft dinner (generic none the less) most of my life. I most definately was not given any advantage in life and yes poverty breeds poverty but with a bit of hard work you can overcome it now, I am a successful tech support agent and make a good living. And I am only 24.

My Mother chose a life of drugs and homelessness for two years, and when she decided she didn't want to live like that anymore, she got a job and cleaned herself up with some assistance from the government. So it is doable.