When I lived in New Jersey, I didn’t know many people, and those who I knew lived at least a half hour away from me. Going to the grocery store was absolutely free of interaction with people I knew, there was no chance of meeting someone who would ask what I’ve been doing since they’ve seen me last.
Since returning to the area where I was raised, I’ve had moments when I’ve wanted to see people again. I want to talk about what I went through, how awesome my life seemed to be, how awful my relationship was. I want to connect with people and see how things have changed while I was away. Rekindling these friendships, even if we were little more than acquaintances, kind of makes me feel like this is where I need to be for now.
It still doesn’t feel like home, however. I know the roads, I know what used to be where, but I lost so much in 2014 that I can’t go back to feeling how everything used to feel. But I digress.
There are times when I enjoy being away from people I know, and today was one of those days. I went to Han’s Oriental Market again, this time starting with the bakery nearby, Tous Les Jours. I’ll save that trip for another entry. Afterwards, I went to the Wegmans that was nearby so I could get some regular food, knowing that no one would know me there or that they would assume I was someone else. I was wrong, as one of the Service Team Leaders greeted me on my way out of the store. She was one of my higher-ups when I was a cashier at a different Wegmans.
When I returned to the house where I’m currently staying, I told my friend about how I hoped to not run into anyone but did anyway.
“Are you embarrassed to be on food stamps?” she asked. “Do you not want anyone to see you using them?”
“Well, no, that’s not the case,” I told her. “I didn’t use food stamps at Han’s because I didn’t want to complicate things, but I could have.” I didn’t tell her that I went to Wegmans because that particular one has a wider selection of everything, including Asian snacks. I found a few things at Wegmans that I had set down at Han’s, so I picked them up in that trip. More than anything, I enjoyed being someplace I’ve been to before but being a random stranger to everyone. I don’t know why it’s fun to be around people and still be left alone, unless I’ve become an introvert over the course of time.
As for being embarrassed by having food stamps, maybe there’s some truth in that.
I was raised in a middle-class household, maybe lower middle-class, but we weren’t wealthy by any means and we weren’t “just barely getting by” unless it was a temporary thing because of bad decisions and bad luck intersecting at the wrong time. We were never on government assistance for anything, and we never depended on constant assistance from outside people to make ends meet.
I didn’t want to go on food stamps. I wanted to look at my current situation as being a temporary setback, that I’d bounce back from everything and be fine. And then I was urged to go on food stamps by my friend, so I signed up. Filling out the forms was like doing my taxes, as I had to list income and expenses and then provide documentation on whatever I mentioned. In the back of my mind, there was always that thought of, “what if they discover something that I didn’t include? What if they don’t think I’m worthy because I’m able-bodied or something?” Okay, I don’t wonder about being able-bodied when I’m doing my taxes, but the experience is still the same.
Now I have this card that allows me to get edible things! And I know what you’re thinking. You probably think I’m going to spend it all on Asian food. I’m not, unless I’m spending it all on instant ramen for the house. I do want to continue to try new foods, but I’m also going to buy food that I’m familiar with and that I can share with my housemates. Not everyone is as daring as I am.
There’s this unfortunate stigma that those on food stamps are getting all of these luxury items, and that’s in the back of my mind now. Luckily, I just replaced the battery in my iPhone 6S which I’ve had since day one, because there was a recall on batteries in the earlier models, so I might be able to get another year of usage out of the phone. But, I bought my phone when I had the money to do so, because I never dreamed I’d be in the situation I’m in now. I bought steel-toed Skechers sneakers because I needed slip-resistant shoes for a job I had in New Jersey, and because Skechers hold up so well for me, I still have a decent pair of sneakers for casual use. I have things to get me started with work once again, which is more important. I’m not one for designer clothes or handbags. I probably look nothing like the food stamp recipients that people complain about.
So will I buy lobster on food stamps? Maybe one lobster, if they happen to be on sale when things turn around for me. I’ve paid $15 for a whole live lobster and cooked it at home, back when Mom was alive and life seemed pretty good. I didn’t do it often, it’s something I’ve only done twice in my life. I’m more likely to go to the nearest Chinese take-out place and get some lobster lo mein, which costs about $5 for a pint and you can’t buy it with food stamps. I’m uncertain if that’s actually lobster in the lobster lo mein, but it’s usually pretty tasty.
Let’s face it, I have to survive somehow. I hate being on food stamps, but at least there’s ways to get off food stamps like making a decent income. And I’m not a fan of social interaction, but it keeps me connected to the world so it’s a necessary evil. As long as my grocery shopping excursions have all the fun of my time spent in New Jersey without needing to be in New Jersey, then my life really isn’t so bad.