“Yeah, must be nice to sit at home and do nothing but still get paid” She said.
The caller on the other end must have agreed with her. After a pause, she erupted into gales of laughter. “I know right? Total welfare mooch. Seriously. Must be real nice. As if all that child support she gets isn’t enough”. She had the phone cradled between her ear and shoulder as she plopped her groceries on the conveyer belt behind me. “Listen, I have to run… I’ll call you later”. She biddly-booped her iPhone and tossed it into her Marc Jacobs bag.
I grabbed the bar to indicate where my pile of groceries ended and hers began.
She smiled, “Thanks she said. I always forget that thing”.
“No problem” I said coolly and continued to eye the screen of the cash register as it tallied my bill.
Just then her phone jangled from within her purse. In her haste to grab it, her car keys sprang from her purse and clattered to the floor. She was pre-occupied with loading the remainder of her purchases onto the belt and gabbing with this new caller to notice what happened.
I picked them up off of the floor. I tried to make eye contact. I said “Miss” a couple of times. Nothing. Ok then. I placed them on the conveyer on top of a box of frozen pizza that she had set there.
I began bagging my groceries and was lost in thought as I slid dish detergent in the same bag as my clementine’s. I thought about what she said. About welfare recipients. How it “must be nice”.
It must be nice to spend night after night sick with worry for how you’ll feed your kids. It must be nice to face the humiliation and the stigma associated with those who use the system. It must be nice to be chastised and ostracized. It must be really nice to be judged at every pass and feel like you have to explain why you have that Coach handbag that your sister bought you for Christmas or the hand me down touch screen phone that your mom let you have when yours died and left you with no way to get in touch with a potential employer. It must be nice to have your every action scrutinized by those better off than you. It must be nice to feel as though you’re taking something you don’t deserve. It must be nice to feel criminal about needing help. It must be nice to be shunned. It must be really nice to have ignorant and self-righteous jerks tell you what you “should have done differently/better” to have not put yourself in the situation you’re in – the same people that if they ever needed to would surely be first in line for the “handout” they claim you don’t deserve. It must be nice to be instantly lumped into a category of fraudulent felons who abuse the system by a fool who feels that he should be your judge, jury and executioner. Yeah, all that sounds like a dream come true right there.
Miss. Chatty Patty was off of her phone and it was time to pay for my groceries. I made my way to the credit card reader. I noticed her keys still lying on the pizza box. I swiped my card.
“Miss, you dropped your keys. I put them here for you”. I said, my eyes fixed on the screen in front of me.
“Oh thank YOU!” She exclaimed. “My husband would have killed me. He just bought me this car for our anniversary”.
I took a deep breath, turned and looked her square in the eye.
I smiled sweetly and in a slow calm manner said three short words,
“Must. Be. Nice.”
“Must. Be. Nice.”
The cashier smirked, I signed my receipt and pushed my cart out of the lane. I didn’t look back. I didn’t need to. I didn’t need to evaluate her or be a part of her reaction.
That’s her job now.