Wednesday, November 08, 2006

My Life of Poverty

Today was the big Poverty Simulation for the faculty. I know my
way around some poverty, what with being a teacher before Missouri
established a minimum salary, and having worked for the state division
of unemployment. We were constantly referring people to other
agencies when they could not draw benefits for three weeks after
signing up. So I had a clue as to how the world operates for the

We began by chosing a group of chairs to sit in. Mabel, her Math
Cohort, and I chose a group that had a single mother and two teenage
children. We weren't supposed to snoop, but Mabel is a bit inquisitive.
Mabel elected me the mom, she took on the persona of a 16 year old
with a drug-dealing boyfriend, and MC was a 14-year-old boy. I was
thanking the Gummi Mary that my offspring would not need daycare.
I also told Mabel that if money was tight, I was planning to wh@re
her out for some cold hard cash.

But wait! That was not to be. Imagine the sound of a needle screeching
across a 33rpm record. You know...a vinyl record, on a stereo. What
people used to buy Elvis's music on. OK. I was ripped from my happy
family in the following manner: "It's time to start. One person from each
family stand up." (I did, because I was the adult, and responsible for
my household.) "Now the people standing need to move to another
group." Lucky for me, Mr. S was in the market for a 19-year-old
live-in girlfriend. I joined his happy family. I was lucky to have him,
what with him holding down a full-time job even with his prison record,
and having a car that needed constant repair. I needed him, too, for
his $900 per month (what wasn't withheld to pay for his illegitimate
child), and as a daddy for my 1-year-old (played quite convincingly
by my Trivia partner, Mr. H).

To go to any of the agencies, or work, or the Bank, the Pawn Shop,
the Store, the Daycare, pay bills, etc. we had to have a transportation
pass. So I had to drag my 'child' with me everywhere, and cough up a
pass for him as well. Passes cost $1 apiece. My 'boyfriend' had to
have FIVE so he could work all week. Oh, and he had to go sit 'at
work' while I spent the day stumping about town trying to beg more
benefits and track down the deadbeat dad of my 'child'.

We started with $0. Even my first family had some cash on hand. Not
us. I sent Mr. S off to work, which left me with only 3 passes. I went
first to the Action Agency, and inquired about help with utilities, and
childcare. After waiting in line for 10 minutes, the lady took my info
and gave me a form for childcare. She also tipped me off that my EBT
card was as good as cash at the Bank. Meanwhile, the other mothers
in line screeched that my 'son' had soiled himself, and they could smell
him. I turned around and told one of them to mind her own business,
or I would gladly kick her a$$. She complied.

Next stop was the DFS, because the line at the Bank was too long.
They refused to help me, since I only had one transportation pass. I
was told to go to the Quick Stop to buy more. I pleaded that I didn't
have any money, and could not buy any. They didn't care. Off we
went to the Pawn Shop to sell the TV for $50, and then on to the
Quick Stop. While waiting in line behind our basketball coach, who
was an 85-year-old woman on SSI, my 'son' stole a giant stack of
transportation passes. I mean, like a stack 4 inches high. About 100
of them. He said, "Look, Mommy. I find." We got out of there quick.
He's quite advanced, my 1-year-old!

We proceeded to the bank, where I offered to sell people the passes
for $5 each. "No way!" they barked. "They only cost $1 at the Quick
Stop." And I replied, "Then go stand in line at the Quick Stop." Oh,
my boys' kindergarten teacher was soon singing another tune, as she
could not get service at the bank without a pass. She asked for two
at $1 apiece. "Oh, noooo...the price is $5." A family member told
her, "Take them. We can't wait in this line again." She promised to
pay me after her check was cashed. She did. Then the band teacher,
who had cut in line ahead of me, saw the light, and also bought two
tickets for $10.

The bank people were going to turn me away. They had never heard
of giving cash for the EBT. I told them the Action Agency lady sent
me, so they looked at their rule card. "Why, you can get cash. The
students never get this far when they play the game." I asked for a
sucker for my 'son', and one of the tellers gave him two TicTacs. I
blessed her, saying, "Now I don't have to feed him today." All that
sugar made my boy hyper, so he laid down on the floor and threw a
kicking, screaming fit. The Chief of Police, (our principal) came over
to ask if I needed help in dealing with him. I assured him the boy was
only 1, and had these tantrums all the time. He walked away, with my
boy screaming, "Daddy! Daddy!" Which reminded me...I needed to
go have DFS track down the deadbeat dad. After procuring cash for
my EBT card, I went to buy a month's worth of groceries, and pay
the utilities. I made them give me a receipt, because I don't trust

On the way to DFS, I stopped by a family and offered them some
transportation passes for $.50 apiece. They were glad to get them.
In the DFS line, my 'son' grabbed some passes the people in front
of us had just paid. The worker tried to grab them. "Give them back!"
I told her to step off. "Lady, you'd better not be accusing my child of
stealing passes! We don't need your stinkin' passes!" I pulled the
stack of 100 out of my pocket. Her eyes widened. "I've never seen
anybody do that!" Since she was flustered, I moved on down the line.
"Oh, and you already have our two transportation passes."
She agreed.

While I talked to the DFS worker, my 'son' had stolen $5 from the
MR teacher, who was herself a child. I put it in my pocket. She
screamed that I took her money. I told her I was calling the police,
since she was obviously an unattended child. She snatched the money
out of my shirt pocket and ran! With that, I turned to the DFS worker
and named the Chief of Police as my baby daddy.

Then time was up, but they extended it by 5 minutes, and my new
boyfriend, Mr. S, had time to pay the rest of the rent. We survived
the month, and had a giant stack of transportation passes to boot.

I don't know how Mabel fared, but I believe she became the single
mom after I left, because I saw her two 'kids' locked up for some
such reason.

I do not know that I learned anything. I know from working at the
unemployment office that people get sent here and there, and get
the runaround if they don't have all the information needed on the
forms. But I think some people found out things they didn't know
about living in poverty.

Oh, and the 85-year-old woman passed on at 3:15, just as
basketball practice began.


MrsCoach2U said...

Oh My Lordy! You all actually play at being poor? If you lived in Oklahoma (or 4 counties in SW Missourri)you could have stood in line with the free-cheese lady! Course I would have charged you $50.00 to take your blood to see what kind of Indian you are (by the time you would figure out there's no such test I would have a new pair of shoes!!!!).

LanternLight said...

Meanwhile, the other mothers
in line screeched that my 'son' had soiled himself, and they could smell

Not much difference to real life then eh? We used to have small children crap on the carpet, and the mothers didn't care less.

I told her to step off. "Lady, you'd better not be accusing my child of stealing passes!

DONOTLAND seems such a despotic place to live. Or am I confusing it with the Queendom of Hillmomba?

Stewed Hamm said...

I'm still having trouble trying to figure out why they think teachers don't have a cluse about poverty. Hello? They're teachers!

Hillbilly Mom said...

I've heard about people like you! From other people like you, who I used to work with. ;)

One told me of a lady who kept food in her file drawer, and when people were sitting there wanting to talk about food stamps, she would pull open her drawer and take a bite of fried chicken. One day, she even had a watermelon in there! And don't think my buddy was just pullin' my leg with some stereotypical banter...she NEVER lied to me. We started on the same day in that office, and she had stories about the Missouri DFS that could curl your hair.

When I worked at the insurance salvage store, we had ADULTS who would take a crap between the rows of wallpaper bins. Right where everyone could watch!

DoNotLand is a scarier place than Hillbmomba. It is anarchy.

I don't quite get it myself. They KNOW not to try and take up a collection in the week before payday, though.


ALL...I thought I had answered these comments on the night Blogger was pissing me off. Thanks to Stew, I see that I left you hanging. Now you should be able to breathe easy again.