Three Hundred and Thirty Four Pounds of NO

Me. Circa 2001. About 100 lbs ago.
Me. Circa 2001. About 100 lbs ago.

So two days ago while at the National Air and Space Museum, I got on a scale that tells you how much you weigh on different places in space… Jupiter, the moon, somewhere else and Earth… I don’t recall how much I weighed anywhere else but here.

334 pounds.

Yep.

334. In Earth pounds.

I’m not okay with that.
For all my “last fat girl standing” self-deprecation and “I’m gonna show all my rolls every chance I get” exhibitionism, yeah, no. 334 ain’t gonna fly.
Yes, I love me. And I’m mostly comfortable in my cute, fat, smart, awesome skin. But I need to do better. For me.

Me.

No, not YOU random judge-y person over there.
Nor all you fat shaming ones on THAT side of the room.

Life is short. And gets shorter every day. I’m 41. Sometimes I don’t understand how I got to be this age when I was just 14 years old and running the streets of Anacostia like some hormonally challenged banshee, but here I am, knocking on the door of 42, with a five year old nonetheless. I’m going to need to keep my energy and sanity in fighting shape for at least 15-20 more years, so no.

No to 334.
Maybe 234 I could live with at 5’10, but 334 is a wake up call.

And I guess I’m posting this because
1. I’m not ashamed.
2. I know I’m not the only one with a number that bothers them, no matter what the number represents.
3. To give myself some support and accountability.

So the next time you see me posting about the ice cream that we all know I love so much, say something. You have permission. And I appreciate you all for being all up in my business in advance.

It’s the internet. That’s what you’re supposed to do!

While Sitting in Whole Foods Contemplating Life (NaPoWriMo day 15)

image

Why do all the North African cab drivers congregate here?
Ooh one of them has a date today, he brought a woman!
What kind of job does this white lady have that she can sit in Whole Foods and do it for hours?
People probably think the same thing about me.
No they don’t.
I honestly can’t tell if that’s a woman or a man…
Eyelashes and all.
I guess that’s a good thing? Maybe?
Probably not.
I had a slice of pepperoni pizza.
I love pork, but Whole Foods takes freshness to another level.
That pepperoni smelled like a pig.
And it did not make me happy.
My fat ass still ate it though.
I’ve got to do a better job of amusing myself.
I felt insignificant all weekend, that’s not good.
This weather is killing my Spring break week plans with the chirren.
I need to wash clothes.
I need to buy clothes.
I’m am so tired of applying for jobs.
I feel defeated.
Yet I smile.
Laila said her doll’s hair was “bushy” this morning…
Where did she learn that word?
It tickled me.
I’m so nosy.
I can’t even fully listen to my music because I’m always in somebody’s conversation.
I want my hair braided.
It’s almost time to get out of here.
Later.

“You Ain’t Got No Job, Man!”

Tommy

This is a rant.

I hate nigga shit. Not “black people shit,” strictly nigga antics. Ignorant folks doing ignorant shit.

But I live in DC, Nigga Shit capitol of the Free World. From the politicians to the police to the everyday citizens…

A friend calls the other morning to tell me about a job fair they heard about on the Russ Parr Morning Show. They have 400 positions to fill. The hiring event is being held at the Doubletree hotel downtown. The day before they had a great turn out, BUT the potential hires were a ratchet mess! The room they were using was reported to smell like weed, folks were super unkempt and/or high, so much so that basically they couldn’t GIVE the positions away.

So they decided to try again today.
From 10 am to 4 pm.

I called my sister, who is also unemployed right now, and she said she’d meet me at the spot. Mind you, I know nothing about what kind of jobs, who is doing the hiring, I am like “hey I’m going to check it out.” I reach out to another friend who recently moved here from out of town and he meets me at the metro station. Off we go.

Nigga shit #1. My sister is a no call, no show.
Exasperatingly annoying. I call and call and text and text. I call my mama, my other sister, nobody has heard from her. I know it’s her life, but I have an attitude.

We walk into the hotel, I ask the concierge about the job fair and he directs me to a room at the back of the lobby. It’s a fairly small room to be holding a hiring event for 400 jobs. There are maybe 100 chairs set up, in two groups with an aisle down the middle. There are at least 75-100 people in the room if not more. The 4 or 5 interviewers are at the front of the room behind a row of tables.

Nigga shit #2. There is no order. None.
There are no signs. Nothing is labelled. There is not one person at the door when you walk in to facilitate the flow of people. No one directing you where to go, which line to stand in, what jobs they are hiring for, who they are, if you should sit or stand, what the two lines with folks pressed against each wall mean… I mean NOTHING.

So I roll the dice and get in the line on the right. Simply because I notice the people standing in this line have no paperwork, while the people in the line on the left all are waving a couple of sheets of paper. Cool. My friend and I slowly inch towards the front of the line. This is where we run into…

Nigga shit #3. The Lady.
Yes, I’m just going to call her “the lady” because she NEVER introduced herself to us, but her job was to pass out the paperwork and also relay the ONLY semblance of direction we had received thus far. She was a short medium built light skinned African American woman. Anywhere from early 30s to late 30s. Her hair was all over her head. She looked tired. And disheveled. And behaved like she’d been #drankin. When we got to the front of the line, she looked at us and said, “Did y’all hear what I just told them?” And she pointed to the two people who had been just ahead of us in line.

Oh, I forgot to mention that she had a small glass in her hand filled with ice, which she was eating with her fingers. Her fingers!

Anyway, I said no, I wasn’t really paying attention. So she sighs and says, all monotone, “you take these two papers. Fill them out. Sit back down. Somebody gonna call you up. Don’t worry, they gonna tell you when to get up, move the chairs and all that. Depends on what you can do. Your experience. If you got cashier experience, you go upstairs… Right now, don’t wait. Second floor.” And then she demonstrates while she’s talking. “Get off the elevator. Make a left. Go to the hall, make another left.” Puts two fingers up. “Two lefts!” As if I was supposed to figure out where I was and what I was doing from that gibberish? The two sheets of paper she hands us are a W-9 and a Independent Contractor agreement.

So we sit. And as the people in the chairs get called to the front or to the side to “interview” we do a musical chairs version of the snake and keep moving chair to chair. The craziest thing I’ve ever seen. Mind you the only position I have heard anyone speak of is cashier. Then…

Nigga shit #4. The White Jacket.
One of the dudes at the front, who I later find out owns this bootleg company, stands up and queries the room: “Who in here has a white jacket?” Like two men raise their hands. Then he asks “Well who can GET a white jacket? You need it to be a server, like a serving jacket.” Oooooh cashiers AND servers, now we’re getting somewhere!

Oh wait… y’all hiring servers for God-knows-what but they have to bring their own jackets? Oh. Okay.

At this point I’m somewhere midway between irritated and flabbergasted… “Irritabbergasted” or “Flabberitated.” Either way, I’d had enough. I told my friend that I was going upstairs to see what the cashier position was all about. I take the elevator, make my two lefts and end up in a holding area with about 4 legal pads on a long table. Each pad has a different heading. “Cashier,” “Bartender (must have license),” “Porter,” and “Server.” To my left are double doors with no sign or guard but still, imposing. Like the holy grail is behind those doors…. I can feel it! They are literally pulsating and glowing (at least in my warped mind).

Nigga shit #5. More utter confusion.
So as I stated, “if you have cashier experience, go to the second floor.”
I have cashier experience.
I’m on the second floor.
No one on the second floor has any direction for me.
I’m told to put my name and number on the “cashier” legal pad.
Then I’m told to wait for the “guy in the blue shirt” because he will be right back.
So I wait. And ear hustle.
The chick at the laptop is talking to a dude who’s trying to “get on the schedule” but he doesn’t have his Social Security card. Apparently, if you don’t have your SS card, you can’t get hired. Because they (whoever “they” is) need it to put you in the system. So you can get paid when they cut checks THREE WEEKS from now.

Finally blue shirt shows up. I tell him how I was sent upstairs. He says, “oh I just sent a group of y’all back downstairs.” I’m like, so what are my next steps?
He says, “You put your name down?”
“Yes.”
“Did you talk to anybody downstairs?”
I sigh, “No, I was told to just come up.”
“Oh okay, well give me your paperwork. And is this your number on here?”
“Yes.”
“Alright. Looks good. We are going to call you by 6 pm to let you know what time to show up tomorrow. You got an ID right? And a Social Security card?”
“Yes.”
He says, “Well bring them with you tomorrow.”
I say, “okay.”
The last thing he says is, “Make sure you’re by your phone around six.”

Ask me if I have heard from the man with no name who works for the company with no name again?

I got hired by Tommy from Martin.

Armor. Chink 1.

Armor

On a good day, my armor, this thick skin, quick wit, easy laugh and sharp tongue I wield as a Single Black Woman with Kids is lightweight and flexible. I am Superwoman leaping tall buildings in a single bound, bringing home the bacon, frying it, serving it… All that.

Then the tables turn and what once felt like a pebble aimed at a steel fortress, becomes a boulder hurled at aluminum foil.

Today has been one of those days.

Now I get to bore you with the minutiae of dealing with Social Services in Washington, DC:  My kid got sick. She’s 4 years old. When I went to fill her prescription, the pharmacy wouldn’t accept my Medicaid insurance. I found out that even though I’d just applied for benefits in April and even though I’d just gotten new cards from a new provider in July, that it had expired in September. And now in December, I needed to reapply for medical insurance. On this same day, in the same office, I was also informed that I needed to RECERTIFY to continue receiving SNAP (i.e., food stamps). Fortunately (so I thought) it was the last day of the month and I was appreciative to get this information. I filled out my recertification form, the clerked looked it over thoroughly and deemed it correct, there were no changes or updates, and ISSUED ME A RECEIPT DATE STAMPED WITH 12/31/2013.

Stay with me now…

New Years Day was a Wednesday. On the 2nd I checked my balance for food stamps. Nothing. I thought, “well yesterday was a holiday”. Friday? Nothing. Now it’s the weekend, I have just lived through 2 weeks of four, 1-2-3-4, FOUR school age kids home on Winter break, eating and sleeping and eating and playing and eating and screaming and eating and fighting and eating. I’m tired. I don’t like them anymore.  Plus, the cupboards and fridge are bare. And so, I dip into my meager funds and buy food for the final weekend before we go back to school. I’ll take care of it Monday, I think.  Nope. Life intervenes. Over the next week I visit the hell that is  The District of Columbia Economic Security Administration (on Good Times it was known as the Welfare office) no less than three times.  On every single occasion, nothing gets done. I do not get seen. I am given misinformation. And finally I am told that my case was never transferred from the office I applied at WHEN I WAS TOLD IT WOULD BE back in June. And now I was required to trek from Northwest DC to Southeast and complete my transaction.

Meanwhile, kids still gotta eat. Momma begs, steals and borrows to make that happen. It becomes my every waking thought, “How do I feed my kids today?” Then, the polar ice caps relocate to the United States. Then, the snow comes. And I can’t do anything because I don’t have boots. Finally, TODAY is here. No snow. 40 degree weather. I can go take care of my business. I’m positive. What’s done is done, I won’t complain. I get to the Anacostia service center in SE, I get a number and wait. I’m still optimistic. Even though I’ve had no coffee or breakfast, the wifi is working, so I’m good. I wait about an hour or so. I go to the counter, thinking “Well it hasn’t been over 30 days, so I’ll fill out the recert and I’ll have food stamps tomorrow.”

pause

Yall know that didn’t happen right? Yeah ok.

unpause

I was told that unlike cash assistance or medical benefits, if you miss your recertification for SNAP —wait for it—  YOU HAVE TO REAPPLY! In my mind there was an explosion and I was turned into a pool of black, viscous bitterness that covered everything and everyone in that place in that moment. I was devastated. But wait, there’s more… And no more applications were being taken today AT 10:30 am ON A MONDAY, but I can come back tomorrow or Wednesday.

Yeah, when I got outside, I shed a thug tear.

…and that was only the first part of my day. I’ll be back.