Thursday, January 28, 2010

Can't Get Change at the Post Office; Same Old, Same Old is a Time Honored Tradition

Change is everywhere. Three years ago, nobody ever heard of Twitter. A year ago, we were celebrating our new President who seems to be in a heap of trouble today. And it wasn’t so long ago that Tom DeLay was just an ordinary scumbag, not a contestant on Dancing with the Stars.

But, alas, some things never change.

Perfect example: The Post Office.

None of us LIKE to go to the Post Office. We only go because there’s a certified letter waiting for us, when we think shipping is somehow cheaper there, or we want to meet Lance Armstrong in his cute yellow shirt. (The last two NEVER happen, by the way.)

So we go. And quickly we realize that NOTHING has changed at the post office for 25 years. The first thing we do is look for the right forms. We fill them out, watching the line get longer. We panic. “Do I want Express Mail or Priority Mail? What’s the difference? Why does this form come in three different colors? Is there a color for Tuesday? Don’t they have any friggin packing tape out here? Why is there a 2007 calendar still on the wall?”

Then we battle the line, marveling at the paltry, dirty conditions that make a high school boys locker room look like Saddam’s palace. We try to find the person making the snorting sounds – you know, when someone refuses to use a tissue to blow their nose? We overhear conversations that are not appropriate for our living rooms, much less the Post Office (“I told that boy that bitch was nothin’ but trouble, her and her nose ring be bringing all kinds o’ diseases in my house.”)

And there’s always someone ahead of us in line who is somehow in a bigger rush than we are. He turns to everyone he can make eye contact with, sighs, stands with his shoulders shrugged and head disapprovingly shaking his head, all while checking his watch four times.

There’s the smelly person, though often it’s difficult to isolate the stench. There’s the mom with four kids in tow. There’s the dapper guy clearly on lunch from his very important hedge fund manager job who’s pissed off that he needs to send a baby shower gift to his wife’s college friend Suzy who is expecting twins. Note: He is very likely to be Mr. InaRush. There might even be a DMV employee who thinks it’s taking a long time.

So we slowly move along, noting there are three stations for postal workers, yet only one of them is occupied. (I will not make a postal worker joke here. Not only is it too easy and cliché, these are people I want on my side. I’m always VERY nice to them. Karma and such. Oh, and Mr. Rogers's mailman was Mr. McFeely, so it's kinda in my blood.)

So Mr. InARush gets to the counter and suddenly he appears to have the urgency of someone in those Corona commercials, lounging on the quiet shoreline, their beer easily within reach. He leans on the counter, is chatty with the clerk (about whom he was muttering about minutes before), asking about the kids and how the new Postmaster General is treating the troops. He wants to weigh his options. “Should I get two-day ground or send it overnight to arrive on a Saturday? Does that require a signature?”

Really, pal? This, besides making ME want to go postal, triggers one of my (hundreds of) pet peeves: That people who have waited a more-than-expected-time on line suddenly forget from where they came. Look , we are all in the same boat. So act with the urgency you expected from those who came before you. Thank you. That is all.

So it’s finally our turn and we half expect the post office to close. We get up there, place a crisp order “Overnight, 10:30 a.m. delivery. Waive the signature.”

“Uh, sir you filled out the yellow copy of the form. You need to fill out the pink one.”

“Uh, why?”(Said in the friendliest, most polite way. Karma, remember?)

“It’s Tuesday.”

Very well then. We retreat back to the desk with the 2007 calendar nearby. We scribble the info on the pink copy. We are done and now must do that awkward “sneak back and cut the line” maneuver, which we know triggers feeling of bloody rage in the last two people on line who don’t say anything but bore a hole in the back of our heads with their eyes.

We meekly exit, making no eye contact with anyone.

“Why couldn’t it have been a certified letter? I’m never coming back here.”


Dave S. said...

I remember waiting for packages in an interminable line at the tiny post office around the corner from my apartment in DC, right around the time they inaugurated the more-misguided-than-Microsoft-Bob Postal Buddy.




TS Hendrik said...

When you're a kid, the post office holds magic in all the little boxes. When you're an adult those kids tick you off, while you're standing there waiting.

Best post office I ever had the pleasure of going to was in the small town of Grafton, Ont. It was roughly the size of a small walk in closet. You really couldn't fit more than a person in there at a time, so if there was a line, you had to wait outside.