How could one single place make me…nay so many of us, so invariably angry? It’s not the long lines. It’s not the smells. It’s the idea of the post office that can put me on edge. The designed inefficiency and pit viper-like venom in the room can just rob you of breath, as can some of the key players. Stage left:
The stamp lady. It doesn’t matter how long the line is, and no matter how rabid…it could be that the whole staff is on break (meaning either lunch or government subsidized hand jobs), or maybe someone was sick that day, but this lady will not take any postal customers except for those who need stamps. And of course, with stamp machines galore, who needs a human to deal out stamps? She sits alone, at the end of the counter, while people like me sweat it out with the guys around me.
The guy around me. Today the guy right behind me was a creep. He was the tall, small-eyed, shifty type. Today he badmouthed the in-line postal helper (read: employee who helps out clueless zombies in queue. Not some trashy lady on skates). She approached him, as she approaches every sucker that’s lined up and asked if she could help him in any way. Now in the rougher parts of my neighborhood, this offer can accompany a wink and an invitation to hop inside an El Camino. But here she’s paid, she’s taxed and she’s sincere. Yet with all of this, my soul-less line mate would not make eye contact with her. When she asked again, he belched out (in a sort of military/mommy’s little asswipe tone) “I don’t talk to strangers! People on the street, they say hello, but you…just please GO AWAY!” This struck me as perhaps a little bit more than unsolicited. The helper though, she took it well.
The in-line postal helper. She’s one of the few examples of postal efficiency, likely borne from some socialist strain of backroom western postal philosophy which realized early on that most people who make it to the counter have no idea what they want, how they’re sending it and in some case… exactly to whom they are sending; thus, the in-line helper. She asks what you’re sending and how you’re planning to send it. Need insurance? Well, here’s this little slip to fill out. Need tracking confirmation? Excellent, fill out this little guy right here. For me, she’s the lone bright spot in Hell on Earth. She’s quick, attentive, knowledgeable, and dammit she tries hard! In my humble opinion, anyone who fucks with the in-line postal helper is asking for fists. Yet in this actual case, all the justice that I managed to mete out to the guy behind me was a dirty look, and a little snicker at his white van, serial rapist mustache. No offense Anna.
The guy at the counter with the speech impediment. He’s the smart and sassy type. He can be intentionally funny, but mostly he’s bossy. If you’re lucky though, you can force him to say something with an “R” in it. “Hewe awe youw stamps. Any delivewwy confiwmation on that?” I actually have no problem with this guy either.
There are more characters in this play of misery, but I can’t really bear to keep going. It’s all too real to dredge up my experiences there. I could tell you about the guy in line with the bank robber style bandana around his face. He showed up a while back when, after many months of tireless work on graduate school applications resulting in my presence at the post office to mail them all out right then, he showed up, freaking us all out. I could tell you about how I thought about leaving (read: running, knock-kneed out of) the post office (screaming) with a plan to watch the nightly news for word of a suicide bomber erupting in the post office downtown. Many innocent dead. Hopeful school applications with embarrassing spelling errors strewn about..... But what’s the point? I’m sure everyone has their own least desirable place to be in the world, and in all of our collective dread, why take us there more if only through remembering? Best to leave it wedged back there, in the nethers of our minds. Comfortably nestled in between the other dark places.
At my post office you take a number. I used to go there with my fat, unsolicited manuscript to send to prospective publishers or agents. I'd pray that the number wouldn't dictate that I'd get the same pencil moustachioed guy who'd invariably say, "Any luck yet?" But it never worked. God, d'oh.
by anna at April 21, 2004 7:58 AM
I had a miraculously quick post office experience while running dangerously-close-to-late for a meeting, on the day before tax due date!!! I walked out, dazed at the good fortune. Just dazed.
Another weird post office quirk? The passport photo room. *shiver* Small and suffocating, stark and white. *shiver*
by Linz at April 21, 2004 10:29 AM
whoa. well how about the room where they don rubber gloves to stick in your *package* checking for *bombs*?
by lajoie at April 21, 2004 11:26 AM
Damn stamp machines. I hate getting those Sacagawea coins as change.
by MrBlank at April 21, 2004 12:19 PM
The bane of my existance has to be getting your license at the VADMV. If there is truly a hell on earth this would have to be it. Try getting there early so you can get in the door first, just try it. I've gotten there at 7:30am and there is already a line out the door. I haven't done any research per se but those people must camp out like they're trying to get Grateful Dead tickets. It's ridiculous. Then after you've waited a half day and finally get to a window, the person helping you has a rudimentary, at best, command of the english language. I know we're supposed to be the melting pot and all that jazz but for God's sake, if you're going to be working in a customer service capacity then please be able to speak the language. After an excruciatingly long series of hand gestures and half sentences you finally get to wait again to take your picture. This can take as long as two hours. I can't type anymore. I think I'm having a panic attack.
by Ezy at April 21, 2004 1:30 PM
Ezy, you live in Va and I bet your drive like you live. So you've probably had tickets in the last 5 years. That means you have to take the test like I did last month. I mean, literally all last month. I kept failing and failing because there's no margin for error with knowing the signs. It's 100% or test over. When I finally passed the guy goes, "It's about time." Meanwhile 16 year olds and immigrants are whizzing right through the damn thing.
by anna at April 21, 2004 6:24 PM
HA! Anna!!! heeheehee!!!
That reminds me of when I got my license at age 16. The testing guy said, "You passed. Barely."
by Linz at April 22, 2004 10:40 AM
Well, i took my test in the snow and did ok.
My friend on the other hand blew it. Then he told the instructor to piss off. Then he failed another test with another instructor, told him to stick it, and that's when his parents gave up. My mom took over from there, coached him on the finer points of not saying the word "fuck" during his drivers exam and wouldn't you know it, that motherfucker passed.
by lajoie at April 22, 2004 11:44 AM
Anna, I do drive like I live but the funny thing about it is that I haven't had a moving violation since 1997. I'd better knock on some wood now.
The test on the signs is pretty tricky. They don't just throw the main signs on the test; they put the signs you hardly ever see on the test. Sneaky bastards. Who the hell pays attention to signs anyway in Northern VA? I pay attention to the road and all of the snapper-heads around me who are driving like idiots.
by Ezy at April 22, 2004 2:26 PM
My dad let his license lapse at age 70 and had to take the written and road tests. He kept showing up drunk so they wouldn't let him take it. Eventually he just paid the guy off.
by anna at April 22, 2004 6:27 PM
going postal isn't just for the employees, you know.
but hey, it could have been worse -- take for instance the bad day cris kirkwood had at a post office.
by liizard at May 5, 2004 11:24 AM