Yet another rich person with lots of free time pretends to live on the food stamp allowance

This time from the Chicago Tribune.

Ignore the Tribune comments; most of them are either about how people using food stamps should just do what the person in the article did, or about how there's no way people using food stamps would do such a thing because they're inferior people.

The commenters on this article where it reappeared on Apartment Therapy are all unaware that farmers markets take WIC in 45 states and food stamps in many communities. Really, do these people not know any poor people? Or not read local news? Or not involve themselves in community issues?

Some of the AT comments were decent. People pointed out that people using food stamps don't usually have this kind of time, might not have this level of cooking skill, probably don't have this elaborate of kitchen setup.

But like previous attempts at shopping on a food stamp budget, the basic premise of this was decent, in that lifestyle bloggers at least acknowledged for once that most people don't have the kind of money to do most of the stuff they write about. Still, rather than having someone do an experiment they don't need to do, why didn't the authors offer to do this along with someone who is a benefits recipient and see how it would really work in a situation where someone doesn't have a lot of time to cook, is hounded by not-very-educated grandparents who insist that you better be buyin that baby REAL pampers and she ain't havin none of that unsanitary cloth business, and you better be feeding that baby REAL gerber and none of that made-it-yourself-in-the-blender nonsense.

For a lot of people living in a cycle of poverty, it's a real pride thing that their children will not be wearing any clothes or using any toys that aren't new, and they certainly won't be eating anything that isn't brand-name. Things that seem artsy or whatever to middle-class people, like homemade pizza and bulk foods and whatnot (and that might be healthier...) seem like cheap halfass DIY alternatives to a lot of people who are focused on making sure their kids have what they view as the best. People fail to realize that within the lower income brackets, you still have different classes of people based on education, resources, connectedness to people of other classes, etc. Even if I lose everything and am living in a shelter with no assets, I'm still not going to be of the lowest socioeconomic group given my education and other factors, so I can't go around writing a blog post about how I would go to thrift stores and eat bulk rice and beans, therefore so should they (whoever "they" are).

There's also the factor of being of the demographic that you can get your kids taken away in an instant -- there's no way you're going to risk having anyone hear that you're not feeding your kids meat and dairy at every meal or that you aren't feeding the baby proper baby food, including those ridiculous overpriced and overmarketed baby junkfood "puffs," or that every inch of your house isn't babyproofed with store-bought products (marked up at Babies R Us, not straight from the hardware store -- I've been told that Babies R Us knows how to only sell safe things and the other stores don't because they aren't the real Babies R Us).

The people who investigate complaints of abuse and neglect are not generally clinicians with formal training in family development or nutrition. They often haven't attended any college and have only received on-the-job training. I've seen kids get taken away because the family feeds them beans and rice and they have hand-me-down clothes and people share a bed. Which looks a lot like my family and many of my friends, except that I'm more educated than a lot of my clients, I'm perceived as white, my apartment has books and art instead of TV and video games, and we look pretty middle-class unless you look at our income. The social services folks aren't going to think our beans and rice and minimal material possessions constitute living in squalor, but they do think it's neglectful coming from a less articulate/educated/white family.

It's easier for people in the middle class to eschew American marketing for simpler alternatives. Much harder to do so in the lower classes. I'm not sure what the solution is.


AK's Takeout and Delivery on Tremont St in Roxbury has just lost any future business from me

For the past four years or so, AK's has been our standby place to order pizza from. I'm never ordering anything from them again though.

Tonight, I placed an order from AK's through Foodler. It went through at 7:32 p.m. At 8:24, I called AK's to see where it was, and I got no answer. At 8:27, called again, no answer. Looked in my bank account and noticed I'd been charged for the order.

At 8:34, after we'd decided to head down there and get it ourselves, someone called me from there, saying the power had gone out but was back on. They said they'd make it right then and it would be here in 30 minutes. I figured I'd get some good free stuff out of the deal, so I said this would be fine.

At 9:15, someone called from AK's and said it would be another 15 minutes. I reluctantly said this was OK.

At 10:04, it wasn't here, so I called AK's. No answer. I called back the cell phone number from which someone had called at 9:15. She was on her way home and said the power went back out and someone was supposed to have called me. I told her no one had. She said to call tomorrow at 11 a.m. and someone would send it for free. I told her I'd be at work at 11 a.m. tomorrow, and I didn't want it tomorrow, which was why I had ordered it an hour and a half ago. She finally agreed to have the manager call me.

At 10:11, no manager had called. I called back the first cell phone number, did get someone who sounded like the manager. I said I was trying to reach AK's. He said "AK's is closed." I told him I'd placed an order at 7:32 and it wasn't there, and someone had called at 9:15 and said it would be 15 minutes. He told me that they were closed because the power went out. He didn't apologize at all that I'd been told 15 minutes and wasn't called back when the power went back out. He finally agreed that he'd credit my card back within two days. I asked about the other AK's location, and he told me, "we have another one, but it's not in Boston -- it's in Southie." I decided to forgo the geography lesson and asked why they hadn't delivered it from the other location then, or, you know, called. Or brought me pizza from somewhere else. Or refunded my money yet. He said he couldn't help me and to let them know if my card wasn't credited within two days. He said he'd have the owner call me right away as well.

I'm also going to send this to Foodler to see if they'll drop AK's from their restaurants. I understand that stuff happens, and it's just a pizza, but really, they could have called to let me know it wasn't coming, and really, they can't have their other location 15 minutes away bring me my order? Also, they weren't the least bit apologetic. Now I'm pissed off and I'm hungry, and I could have ordered from somewhere else hours ago. This does not make me happy.

ETA: The owner called me at about 10:45. He said "it wasn't our fault; the power was out" and kept rationalizing why they hadn't called me, refunded me, gotten me pizza from somewhere else. He also told me he'd be happy to have the pizza show up tomorrow.

Foodler called me about five minutes later -- 10 minutes after I sent my e-mail. He said Foodler would credit my card right away and would let their management team know that AK's had been unresponsive and hadn't handled this well. See, because Foodler is a decent business.


A little faith in humanity is restored

Several people on our street have collaborated to put together a little fund to help out some hard-working neighbors who suffered substantial property loss due to arson -- not in any way related to the other event I just posted about, other than philosophically. We have a nice gift ready to take over to them. This reminds me that there are a lot of good people in the world, and I'm lucky to have several of them as neighbors. It takes away a little bit of the sting of how thoughtless some very troubled people can be.

Thanks, neighbors!


I really should know better than to read comments on The Herald's website, but really...

A person in my circle was recently killed by a violent act that wasn't intended for said person. I was googling to see what was taking place in terms of charging the perpetrators and whatnot. At the bottom of an article in The Herald, I found almost entirely comments about how someone who is a parent should not have been out in the evening, comments suggesting that this person's children had been left alone while this parent was not at home, comments full of assumptions that said person had been involved in an altercation, how the victim should have known better than to have been in that neighborhood, how it's one less person on welfare, how it wouldn't have happened if the victim spoke English.

All of this presumably because this person is not white.

To make sure I wasn't unfairly pulling the race card, I looked at similar stories in newspapers that are aimed toward this person's ethnic group. It was as I suspected though; the comments were entirely of the sort of appropriate comments that one makes when one hears of such a tragedy -- prayers for the family, sadness about how senseless it is, etc.

Really, maybe I'm sheltered, but I'm just shocked that there are several dozen people who would say things like this and think that it's OK to say these things. And especially that there's not one critical thinker in the bunch, not even one person whose views might be quite different from mine, but who has the sense to point out that people are making all kinds of assumptions that weren't reported in the news stories. Is there not even one right-winger among the bunch who would correct the facts even just for the sake of enjoying proving others wrong? Other stories about the incident have mentioned what kind of work this person did, mentioned an educational background that would require speaking English, and explained that this person was just enjoying time with family and was not any part of any altercation.

And really, whose business is it if this person had been on welfare? Or didn't speak English? Sure, this is especially affecting me since I knew this person and know that this is a very clear-cut case of a hard-working peace-loving person who did absolutely nothing wrong, but that's immaterial; where do people get off making these comments about anyone? Do these people not have families and loved ones? How can they possibly think that children who are on welfare with non-English-speaking parents deserve to lose a parent? And really, have none of these people ever left their children with a babysitter and gone and enjoyed an adults-only night out? I really hope that doing so once in a while doesn't make someone a bad parent.

I guess it bothers me too that The Herald leaves these kinds of comments up and doesn't have an editorial person respond to them. If they had any interest in being a journalistic organization of any integrity, I'd think they'd at least want to correct basic facts. Personally, I'd also think that any business or any person or group of people would be ashamed to have any part in a giant racism fest, but I guess I should know better.

May your memory be a blessing, dear one. And may the Herald commenters find healing.


Do not taunt happy fun mayor's office

The mayor's hotline website says to use the phone number rather than the website if one wants to complain anonymously. I called to tell them my recycling didn't get picked up, told him the address, and the dude said I'd have to leave my name, address, and phone number. I told him I'd rather not, and he said they needed that info to open the ticket. I said I'd call sanitation in the morning and thanked him and hung up.

About two milliseconds later, this e-mail showed up:

Dear Constituent, 
 
Thank you for contacting the Mayor's Hotline about a missed trash or recycling collection. Your service request, opened on 9/13/10 at 9:07 PM, is case number 101000179683. 
 
Our Public Works Department collects most missed trash or recycling within two business days. In the event the materials are unacceptable for collection you will receive an email stating the reason why materials were not collected.
 
If you have any questions about the case, please contact the Mayor's Hotline at (617) 635-4500. We are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week to answer any questions or handle any City service issues you may have.
 
You can also track the status of your request online by going to the following site: http://www.cityofboston.gov/mayor/24. Just enter the case number and the email you used to submit this request. 
 
Sincerely, 
 
Mayor's Hotline Staff
 

Um? Sure, I know they have my e-mail address because I pay my property taxes through the website, but what are they doing cross-referencing it and e-mailing me about the complaint they wouldn't actually allow me to make? Also, it's a three-family house, and I didn't tell them which unit I was. What if they had had someone else's e-mail in my building? I don't want them e-mailing my neighbors about calls I make. I don't even want them e-mailing me when I haven't given them permission to do so. WTF, mayor's office?


Pipe dreams

Some poking around on the internet has given me this major urge to buy this:


and build this on it:


Dude, $22,500 for the building materials (less if I used recycled -- wassup, Boston Building Materials Resource Center!), and $60,000 asking price for the land, which I could probably get for less considering how long it's been on the market and how many times they've reduced the price. It would cost like nothing to heat or light the house, and I could grow a lot more produce on that huge lot.

You know, with all my spare time and money.


Inscribe us in the book, damn you!

From the Wikipedia article on "Avinu Malkeinu" (I was looking in there because I knew there was something that changed if Yom Kippur is on Shabbat, but couldn't remember what):

"In the interests of gender neutrality, the UK Liberal Jewish prayer-book for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur (Machzor Ruach Chadashah) translates the epithet as "Our Creator, Our Sovereign". It also contains a contemporary prayer based on Avinu Malkeinu in which the feminine noun Shekhinah is featured."

Epithet? And here I thought we were saying it in praise and in reverence as we made our appeals!

(Yes, I know that that word doesn't always refer to a defamatory phrase, but I nonetheless found it funny.)


Jesus H. Christ, Express Scripts

I wrote before about how I can't figure out how to pay the goddamned bill on the Express Scripts website. Since then, I've reluctantly added in a credit card that they're free to charge recurringly. They've yet to charge said card, and they've now sent me a letter saying they've been unsuccessful in securing funds from me, thus I've been banned from filling further prescriptions.

They might be more successful in securing funds from me if they
1) had a way to make a goddamned payment on their motherloving website
or
2) would charge the credit card that I've entered and authorized them to charge specifically for the very purpose of securing funds from me.

I called the phone number, and spoke to a very nice person named Shawna. She said she'd be happy to charge my balance to the credit card I have on file. I said I'd be willing to do this in a moment, but before we did that, would she be able to tell me how to make a payment online and/or why they haven't charged the card? She poked around and figured out that I don't have access to online payments, because my employer has chosen as a security feature not to permit online payments. Um? Because it's more secure to have my card sitting there doing nothing? Or to allow any old two-bit moron who can figure out the Express Scripts phone number and my birthdate to call and make charges to my account? See, this is where "security" is kind of a moot point, because, really, I'm not too worried about roving bandits charging my own prescription debts to my own credit card. They can do it online, on the phone, in person -- I don't care. Come to think of it, it would be a lot less hassle if they would, so I wouldn't have to waste my time entering my information online and then sitting on hold to call and tell them to go ahead and take my prescription copay. Anyone know where I can find some bandits? Or drifters? Maybe rogues? Hobos?

I then asked her why every single prescription and letter I get from them is covered in giant blue "pay your bill online at expressscripts.com" logos. She wasn't sure, but did offer to pass along the suggestion that they not send that to people for whom that isn't actually possible. She then said my account was all settled and gave me a very long confirmation number.

So, apparently the procedure for getting drugs is actually:
1) mail prescription to some P. O. box
2) wait for drugs to show up
3) get bill for drugs that says you can pay it online except you can't
4) enter credit card online
5) call number and wait on hold to tell them to charge credit card

How is this "benefit" more convenient than going to CVS and paying the damn copay and getting the drugs within a few minutes?