The pantry was within walking distance, so Collin and I went once a week, when we had someone to stay with Mom. We got fresh fruit, vegetables, and a pizza. In applying for the pantry, I of course had to tell them what line of work I was in. I didn’t forsee a problem. I assumed that, being affiliated with the United Way, they had to follow the rules regarding client confidentiality.
I assumed wrong.
The people who worked there always seemed professional to me, and the woman who ran the place was always asking questions about my books and writing. Idle interest? Not exactly. When Collin and I arrived one afternoon, I was handed a slip of paper with a name and a phone number on it and informed that this person was waiting to hear from me.
The woman whose number I’d been given was the secretary of the pantry manager’s husband. She had been promised I would get her book published! I was to phone her ASAP. It was difficult not to laugh. I hadn’t been able to produce anything remotely publishable myself in some time. I was getting help from a food pantry, for crying out loud! But I was supposed to be able to open doors for this woman I didn’t know? I had no idea if she could even write.
The next time Collin and I went to the pantry, the pressure was on. The manager said the would-be writer had told her that I hadn’t called yet. She demanded to know why. I explained that I had not been able to–we had no phone then, and I couldn’t just go off and leave my mom for something that wasn’t urgent. I realized this was going to be an issue as long as we kept going to the pantry, so I decided we’d just have to get by without it.
But it didn’t end there. One day, several months later, I decided to drop off some plastic grocery bags we’d accumulated. I knew they needed them, and I thought I could just slip in, give the bags to one of the staffers, and leave. That would have been nice, but no–the manager must have seen me coming. She confronted me in front of everyone the minute I walked in the door, berating me for not dropping everything to get this unknown book published. “How would you feel if I had refused you food when you needed it?” she demanded.
I pointed out that the two circumstances could hardly be compared. And walked out. I gave serious consideration to contacting the United Way, but decided it wasn’t worth the effort. I never went back and never saw her again.
I wonder if that book ever got published?