Day 4 adventures in quarantine: urban foraging and navigating the American welfare system

This morning I woke up to a text from the front-of-house manager saying she was at the restaurant with my check if I wanted to swing by today. So immediately my day went from no plans to PLANS. Water, teeth brushing, pants, bike, out the door. My weather app said it wasn’t raining out but it was definitely raining.

At the restaurant the lights were low. Fridges were empty and turned off. Trash cans were bagless and stacked. She told me I could grab food from the walk-ins if I wanted. “There’s not much left,” she said. But my eyes widened when I entered the veg walk-in: size of a small bedroom. Apples, oranges, kale and carrots. In the meat walk-in: bacon, milk and eggs for days. Take whatever you need. I don’t know how to explain or even describe how it felt being alone in that cold basement closet, filling my single red pannier with crisp green apples and ripening oranges. It felt desperate. And apocalyptic–I’m danger of overusing that word these days. How else can I describe it? It felt momentous. Once in a lifetime. A little primeval. A little…animalistic?

I stopped at the bank on my way home but actually my check isn’t dated until tomorrow so no use I have to come back later. Then home. I unpacked my bag. My roommates eyes glistened when I showed them the bacon and I felt proud of myself.

In the afternoon I decided to try to apply for unemployment. I was (am) on the fence about whether or not this is the best plan of action in my situation. There are others in greater need than I. But I decided to go through with it and see what happened. It took hours to get through. Some say it was a miracle. Results pending. My life: pending. It’s possible that I don’t qualify. But I’m glad that I applied. Because I want to be counted. I want to be counted among the wreckage of this thing. How many unemployment applications is too much for the system to process? How many people have to default on their student loan payments to make student loans superfluous? Maybe I will be the swing of the ax that brings the tree to the ground. Or maybe you?

Alone in a walk-in.

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