Why We Work

Labor Day 2006: Our Salute to Great Jobs

In a Lamborghini. (Theo Douglas)

FOOD STAMP RECIPIENT
Poverty isn't just a job or maybe the lack of a job—it's an adventure! And a disease too! It's all things to all people—particularly poor people, who have to be poor all the time, and who spend just as many days as non-poors waking up early and commuting to offices they hate where instead of paychecks they get food stamps, which come on an ATM-style card now, and going to case meetings and walking through metal detectors and carrying around paperwork and basically putting in a good part-time hourly tally into hovering somewhere between homeless and solvent. Your tax dollars ARE work!

OC Weekly: When did you first know you wanted to be poor?

Poor Person: After wasting so many hours a week at a job when I could be drinking, I knew that social services would pave the way to my liver with gold . . . schlager. Everyone told me that being poor wasn't for me. They seemed to think I would be better doing something with my life.

What time do you have to get up and go start being poor?

Weekly meetings with my case worker are usually around 9 a.m. Same time as Rockford Files is on, so I'm usually late. Otherwise I tend to sleep until 10.

Do you get along well with the other poor people?

Very well. I always pride myself on knowing what it's like to walk a mile in another's shoes with a hole in the sole.

What's the dress code like?

Being poor never takes a casual day. You can't hop a freight in shorts and flip-flops! A great thing about being poor is no one expects much from you, and when you do the smallest thing they are super-proud. "You mailed that letter all by yourself? Good for you!" Back to dress code, though. You can definitely overdress. It's a tough sell going to the food stamp office in your Sunday best. Nobody is buying that. Even the county officers don't wear suits.

Do they think you are a rich person getting stamps for kicks?

Oh yeah, scams abound at stamp heaven.

What scams have you personally been accused of?

The frills of this interview blow. I haven't even gotten a single bottle of Mad Dog.

Is it even legal for me to give a poor person a gift?

I refuse to answer that question on the grounds it may incriminate me. But it depends on the level of the gift receiver. At the bottom, anything is okay. But us borderline poors—a gift can send our stamp allotment plummeting.

Why?

The big IBM machine in the sky is always watching. They don't want anyone that is doing fine on money to get stamps. That takes away from the needy. And they are right. Making $75 a week under the table is too much.

What is the most rewarding part of being poor?

Well, I must say it's nice to have a county officer call me rich for having $4.73 in the bank. And it's always wonderful to walk into a grocery store in my finest suit and be most outgoing to the cashier, only to present payment with stamps and get frowned on. That is wonderful. I know it's because they're jealous that they aren't poor like me. (Chris Ziegler)


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