This morning I walked to the 7-11 to buy the Sunday Post. Whilst waiting in line, I found a not uncommon situation, that of somebody without sufficient funds pleading for the cashier to let her have the goods regardless.
“Go to the Giant. It’s much cheaper there,” instructed the young Hispanic women behind the counter.
But the little woman, with her bottle of Pepsi-cola and pack of overpriced American cheese slices, did not wish to do so. And after a little while, the cashier attempted to keep the line moving, directing her gaze toward me. As did the little woman, who looks North African but whose accent I could not place (she could well be a Shaw native), who asked me to pay for her $4.49 packet of cheese.
When I did so, she gave me an unexpected hug, holding on to me surprisingly tightly. I put my arm around her, and I wondered how it must feel to have to have someone pay for something as ordinary as cheese, especially when she could have walked the three blocks to the Giant and maximized her limited purchasing power.
Earlier in the morning, I had woken up to a new vintage silk dress in my closet, a pair of cowboy boots, and some throwaway LPs from a Takoma Park shopping excursion the day before.
And as I walked back to the house, I felt the familiar, bitter bile of self-disgust rising in my throat as my conscience drew lines between my spending habits and office work geared ultimately for people “over there” (the developing world), reconnecting the disparate dots to include the myriad homeless and working poor in this neighborhood.