Originally published at brigidkeely.com/wordpress. You can comment here or there.
Once upon a time, in my parents’ time to be exact, a single income household spent 50% of its income on basics like rent/mortgage, utilities, and food. Now a dual income household spends 75% of its income on the same. I’m not even talking luxuries like “a car” or “cable tv” or “vacations” or any of that shit. Basic needs. The cost of living has skyrocketed, but for most people pay hasn’t risen to match.
We are currently two adults and a baby living on one incredibly shitty income. So I figured, hey, I might as well fall back on one of those safety nets my taxes have been paying for since I was 16 and started paying taxes. I put things in motion to apply for WIC, which is essentially food stamps/aid for Women, Infants, and Children. If you’re a guy and you’re hungry, fuck you. Women and kids only. Also, they’re only open during “normal business hours” or less, so if you work or rely on someone who has a car but works, you’re fucked. Unless you take time off of work, of course. Which for most people making shit money means you lose income on that day because you’re not exactly rolling in vacation/sick time. So just fucking APPLYING to WIC costs money, assuming you have a job.
I had tried several times to contact a WIC office, but they consistently had no working phone lines. Or else had nobody answering the phones. Or just didn’t care to answer the phones. All I kept getting was a recorded message with the hours of operation and a request to not leave a message. I finally got ahold of someone and found out that:
1) I had to come in person
2) I had to bring my nine week old infant with me (because if there’s one thing you want to do with an infant, it’s expose him to as many crowded, germy places as possible!)
3) I had to bring a bunch of paperwork with me.
I figured out how to get there via public transit, and that just left hauling a heavy stroller, carseat, and baby up and down flights of stairs and onto and off of the bus. Which, you know, considering I just had major fucking abdominal surgery was less than fun.
But I did it!
I got off the bus 3 or so blocks from the place I was supposed to be at, and looked in the diaper bag for the address and paperwork I’d brought with me. Only to discover, of course, that I’d left it at home. Along with my inhaler and pads. But I had diapers!
I almost turned my sweat self around to go back home. I mean, I didn’t have my paperwork. Why continue? But I am already “in the system” because I use state insurance and have 2 caseworkers (one who knows stuff and one who is either brain dead or the laziest fucker on the face of the planet), I have the fucking baby, I have my fucking photo ID, maybe we could at least put the ball in motion, right?
I walk to the building, which has steep stairs in front of it.
I have to walk around the entire fucking building before I get to an entry that has a ramp. That entry does not have automatic doors, so I had to wrestle the stroller through narrow doors while holding them open. I am, once again, really damn glad I’m not in a wheelchair because this little expedition, like so many others, would have been impossible if I were. Good job, city of Chicago/State of Illinois. Once inside the building, everything was labeled incredibly poorly and solely in English, which is a bit surprising considering the VAST majority of people there were not native English speakers. I got in line at the information desk to ask where I was supposed to go when a guy wandered in front of me and started talking to the employee. They had a GRIPPING fifteen minute conversation about ferns before I finally gave up and just started asking random people where WIC was. It’s downstairs. I headed down. Once down, I had to wander around because there were no actual signs indicating where to go.
I finally stumbled upon a large room with a bunch of folding chairs, women and their kids, and two cubicles. The cubicles are labeled “milk program” and “food coupons.” There’s two cafeteria type tables covered in hand outs, but no place to sign in and nothing saying that this is, actually, WIC. Apparently I made an appointment so I could just stand around in a room full of other people. Efficient!
I finally got hold of an employee and asked if there was a sign in sheet or someplace else I was supposed to go if I had an appointment. “an appointment for what?”
I was thrown by that mother fucking question because everyone EVERYONE everyone I’ve talked to concerning WIC has stressed that you motherfucking need a motherfucking appointment and can’t just walk in. But apparently WIC employees don’t know this!
Remember I said I didn’t bring my paperwork with me? It turns out that didn’t even matter because there’s a bunch of fucking paperwork I never got that was supposed to have been filled out by Nick’s doctor concerning his weight and height and stuff. Which led to a really fun “who’s on first” type conversation where I kept asking when I was supposed to have received this and from whom and who was supposed to fill it out and did I need to make a special fucking trip to the doctor just to get this fucking paperwork filled out. The answer is, no, I don’t need to make a “special” trip, I need to make a “necessary” trip. Oh! Well ok then!
Then I was advised to stop seeing the pediatrician I’d BEEN seeing, who has all of Nick’s records, and switch to the over crowded clinic upstairs. Oh, hey, that’s a great idea! Let me switch from the office that’s five minutes away and has extended hours to the one that’s fifteen minutes away and has incredibly limited hours! Fabulous! That makes total fucking sense! I was then told to go upstairs to said clinic and hope they could see me that day! Because a clinic that’s so crowded it has people waiting outside of it should be able to squeeze us in! And they could totes fill out that paperwork even though they didn’t have any of his medical records! And pigs could totally fly out my ass while flocks of angels descend from heaven singing the glories of the efficiency of State institutions!
I got my first paying job when I was sixteen, and I’ve been paying taxes ever since then. Which means I’ve been paying into WIC and other social safety nets the entire time, as has my husband and my parents and my brothers and my in-laws. I would really really like to use this service that I have been paying for for the past fourteen years but they seem to operate under the idea that if you make it hard/frustrating enough for people they’ll stop trying to use said service. Which is essentially why I stopped going to Stroger hospital for followup care after I had my miscarriage, despite the threat of OMG ECTOPIC PREGNANCY SEPSIS DEATH INFECTION. I mean, I’m sorry, but I like my bathroom stalls to have doors, you know? Also, when I make an appointment and have to travel an hour and a half to keep it? It’d be nice if it weren’t randomly canceled.
I hate relying on the government for this kind of shit not because OMG WELFARE QUEEN SHAME SHAME BOOTSTRAPS SHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAME but because I know that I’m going to get treated as less than human when I try to avail myself of the services. For WIC, you have to make an appointment, but once in the office, you just sit in a chair wondering if you’re in the right place until a cubicle has an empty seat. You aren’t told what paperwork to bring, which renders the visit a waste of time, and it’s assumed that you haven’t had any doctor’s visits for the kid. Automatically assumed. The building, like just about every safety net related building I’ve been too, is barely handicap accessible and the vast majority of signs (when there ARE signs) are in English only, leaving those who aren’t fluent in English fucked. Hours are incredibly limited, making it hard for people to use the services at all.
I’m out an hour and a half of my time, spent $4.50 on transit, and my back hurts from carrying baby equipment up and down stairs and wrestling with doors, and I have nothing to show for it. And I can’t move forward on this until I straighten out the doctor paperwork, at which point I’m sure there’ll be surprise! other paperwork I need to fill out/obtain/sign with the blood of a unicorn.