We drive a lot of people in our city who are on public aid in one form or another. Some are seniors, some are on disability and others are poor. There are a few apartment complexes that specifically house people on public aid. Most of the people who live in these places are just poor and trying to do their best to get by. Rent is based on a sliding scale and ability to pay. As uncomfortable a truth as this is, there are some who meet every negative stereotype you hear about on the news.
The beginning of a month is a busy time for us. People who get their public aid checks cash them, buy groceries, go to liquor stores, go to currency exchanges to pay bills, hit the casino and so forth. We do a lot of trips to these places.
One night I got a call to one of the public housing apartments. A woman came out, got in back and told me everyone else would be in shortly. While waiting we talked a bit. She is married, has a seven year old, likes the White Sox. She was nice and seemed very pleasant. Her spouse and another couple came out of the building and into the cab. She was quiet and polite. The other three were loud, obnoxious and vulgar.
The first stop was Wal Mart. They all got out to go cash their checks. The woman I spoke with was the first one out and near tears. I asked her what was wrong. She said she wanted to get some food and they said there wasn't time. In a few minutes the rest of them came out with candy and beef jerky.
The next stop was the liquor store. She stayed in the cab. The rest went inside. They bought a lot of alcohol.
The next stop was the gas station. Again, she stayed in the cab. The rest went in and bought cigarettes, slushies, more candy and more beef jerky.
Her patience was wearing thin with each stop. She told me how they would be loud all night and she had no idea how her and her son were going to get enough sleep for work and school the next day. She kept reflecting how she wished she got some food.
On the way back to the apartment, she asked her spouse how much was left for groceries.
"You got a link card for that shit."
"It's not enough." Her voice quivered.
"God, your bitch is a cryer." Teased one of the other passengers.
"Your embarrassing me in front of our friends. You have the link. Get the food with the link."
Back at the apartment building, they grabbed their liquor, cigarettes, shushies and junk food and went in while she settled the bill with me.