I was standing in line behind a man at a local convenience store, waiting. His credit card was being rejected, and he was clearly getting frustrated.
He turned to me. "Do you want to go first?" he asked.
"I'm fine," I said. I was catching up on the day's news. I didn't mind waiting. But I was curious now, so I leaned over to determine the source of the problem. The customer was trying to buy a gallon of milk and a carton of orange juice. He swiped his card again and again.
The cashier was also becoming frustrated. The two men raised their voices and argued over why the card wasn't being accepted. The customer insisted that it should be accepted, and the cashier insisted that there was nothing he could do.
Their interaction quickly became contentious.
Finally the customer took some crumpled bills from his pocket and paid in cash. As he slid his card back into his wallet, I noticed that it was a SNAP card: the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as food stamps.
As the man left, the cashier turned to me. "These damn food stamp guys think they own the world. I hate these guys. Such idiots."
Ordinarily I try not to respond to comments like this, but this one was too much to resist.
"I grew up on food stamps and was still hungry all the time," I said. "And my parents worked."
The cashier just stared at me. I'm not sure if he didn't know what to say or failed to understand the purpose of my statement.
I continued. "Being a jerk and needing food stamps are mutually exclusive conditions."
He just kept staring.
I pushed my soda forward, and he scanned it without saying a word. I paid with my debit card and turned. I wanted to add, "And it's bad business to talk about customers behind their backs. Cowardly, too."
But I didn't. I decided that I has said enough and would like to return to this convenience store in the future.
But it's remarkable to me how Americans can watch HUD Secretary Ben Carson pay $31,000 for a conference table or Trump cabinet members spend millions on first class airline tickets and private planes or Trump himself cost American taxpayers more on security for his constant trips to his golf resort in one year than Obama cost Americans in eight years in office, and yet so many of them shrug off these unnecessary, exorbitant expenses as the price of doing business.
But help an American bridge the gap between meals and you become a "food stamp guy," worthy of your anger and derision.