Yesterday I bundled up the kiddos and headed off to do some grocery shopping. We had a ginormous order, with photos, clearance diapers, (that never happens!) and extra stuff for the thank-you meal I’m going to cook at work.
After wrestling with the kids to make it through the store–exhausting stuff, by the way. I can not, I repeat, can not keep my children in the cart while I shop. Does anyone else have this problem?? I seem to cruise by other mothers’ perfect angels, sitting demurely in their carts full of organic celery and carrots, while my children literally sprint in opposite directions of the store, straight for the candy/toy/junk food aisle. Ugh.
Anyways, so I finally made it through to the checkout and piled six loaves of cinnamon raisin bread on to start (see above thank you meal: french toast casserole, to die for). As the elderly woman started to ring me up, she paused.
“Um, these aren’t WIC or anything, are they?”
Excuse my french, but what the….?
Why on earth would she ask me that?
It’s not like we rolled up to the checkout lane looking desperate. The girls were dressed nicely, Ada had insisted on me curling her hair and donning her church skirt that morning, and I had even done my hair and put on earrings. All in all, I would say that, quite honestly, we were looking more presentable than usual.
So what would possess her to ask me if I was on WIC, I ask you?
Oh, right. I forgot.
I look like I’m a teenager and I have two kids.
And if I’m young and have kids, I must be in need of help, right?
I’ll admit that my answer to her didn’t come out in the most dignified tone, and upon seeing my face cloud over with anger, she quickly tried to backtrack.
“Oh, well, this bread is covered by WIC, that’s the only reason I asked…”
Yeah. And so is milk, peanut butter, and cereal, all of which I also had in my cart, and all of which a thousand other people purchase, so don’t even try it.
I’m sensitive when it comes to issues like WIC, because I know darn well how hard it is to get treated poorly for using it. I used it for about .2 seconds in college; the humiliation and shame of obtaining and then using it was just too great to make it worth the $10 a month it saved me. I mean, really.
I finally broke down into tears one day at Kroger after mistakenly grabbing the wrong kind of Chex cereal. WIC only covers rice and corn Chex, not wheat chex. Heaven forbid poor pregnant women have whole-wheat chex, the more expensive Chex cereal. What are the implications of that, I wonder…
Not realizing the horrendous blunder I was about to commit, I waited in line in the Express lane checkout. When it came my turn, the cashier, a toothless old woman with hair strategically combed over, stopped and squinted at me, her beady eyes poring into my pregnant belly.
She waved over the next lane’s cashier, who stared at me the entire time she bounded over. Together, the began whispering, gesturing widely over the offensive box of Chex.
While this delightful discussion amongst evil cashiers was taking place, the line in the “Express” lane grew longer and longer. Impatient customers tapped their feet and my face reddened, burning with shame as I realized I must have made a mistake somehow.
I tried to correct it, wanting to get the hell out of there, feeling the people behind me and their annoyance at the stupid pregnant girl.
Before I could though, the cashier twins crossed their arms and delivered their verdict:
“You can not buy this cereal! This is the wrong kind! You can’t get this!”
I stammered an apology, muttering something about just putting it back. But they weren’t through yet.
Toothless cashier sneered at me, saying,
“How could you not know that??”
Somehow, I made it through the order and out to my car, where I promptly burst into tears, humiliated over the whole experience. Weeks away from graduating college with my Bachelors in Nursing, I was reduced to a sobbing, shameful mess by an evil cashier with no education and even fewer teeth.
That was the last time I used WIC.
So my apologies to the cashier at Meijer yesterday, but I’m just a little bit sensitive about using WIC. I wish it wasn’t the awful experience it turned out to be for me, because really, there is nothing wrong with needing a little help sometimes.
But more than that, I hate the implication that just because a mother is young, she must be poor, ignorant, and desperate to abuse the system for free peanut butter and cereal.
Just as long as it’s not whole-wheat cereal.