I have impeccable timing for getting to the post office. The line is almost always out the door. Being a bit of a procrastinator I usually have no choice but to go in and wait because whatever it is that I need to mail really should have been mailed the day before. Fortunately there is the self serve center just inside the door and normally I can get all my business done there and avoid the long line. Today I was mailing something as registered mail and had to go inside.
I had no other errand on my list today and so it did not phase me too much to have to stand in line behind five other people. I think it goes without saying that there was only one counter person waiting on the six of us.
Lady number one had two packages all clearly labelled that contained no flammables, bombs, alcohol, live animals or living plants so she was in and out. You could hear the collective sigh through the line when the counter person asked her if she needed any additional stamps and she answered no.
Next lady up. She had questions. She looked to be around fifty and quite frankly I can’t believe there would be questions she could have. It’s the post office. I know she’s been here before. She wasn’t prepared? What could she be asking? Which corner does the stamp go on? The crowd is restless and twittering with annoyance at her questions and five additional people are now in line.
As our mail guy is tallying up her order he asks her if she needs any stamps. And she does. But-get this—she wants to see her choices. So the counter guy pulls out a book, a book of choices and starts flipping through the pages. “I have forever stamps, I have flowers, I have astronauts, I have wild animals, I have fruit. ” She interrupts, “Can I see the flowers again?” A groan goes up through the crowd. She chooses her stamps and now she starts in with small talk about how busy it is. The counter guy (whose name is Malek) responds with “Yes, Monday’s are always busier than the other days of the week but for some reason my supervisor has them all working in back.” Malek has just thrown his supervisor under the bus…or the mail truck.
She finally leaves and while persons three and four get their stuff taken care of I start listening to the old couple who are number eight. She has been chatting to number seven and I hear her say, “Him? No, he’s not my husband, he’s my boyfriend and I only date him because he has all his teeth and can drive at night.” Number seven looks at me and we are both biting our lips so we don’t laugh. I think perhaps she also dates him because he is hard of hearing as this comment did nothing to remove the smile from his face as he stood gallantly holding her package. And his car keys. Despite the shaking hands. And cane.
At this point I hear Malek call in for back up over the loud speaker. “Tom Schneider to the window please, Tom, to the window please. Supervisor Tom to the window please.” Malek just offered a sacrificial lamb to the ever growing line of people who are a bit peeved at the lack of help behind the counter and they cannot wait to give Tom the supervisor a piece of their mind.
Now it’s my turn. I realize I don’t have an envelope and I tell the guy, I don’t have an envelope and behind me I can hear the old lady say, “She doesn’t even have an envelope.” Her hearing seems to be fine. I continue with my need to send it registered mail and he shows me the form, tells me how to fill it out, directs me to the envelopes on the wall that are for purchase and says I can fill the stuff out at the next window (or even the next window because all the windows are available for my use).
I complete my paperwork just as number seven pays for his order and give a nod to Malek to let him know I am ready. At this point I hear the old guy say “Step up.” His lovely girlfriend says “Oh no, she’s next, she’s got her envelope now and she’s going next.” Emphasis was placed on ‘she’ each time.
I return to Malek, confessing that I stole his pen but was returning it, to which he smiled. I also tell him how patient he is with all these people, being the only one up here and having a boss that ignores his call for help. Now he likes me. He presses the seal on my envelope. Asks me several times if I want insurance. Presses the seal again. Gets an additional piece of tape to secure my envelope-much to the dismay of number eight as I hear her say “Oh, she’s got a lot. Look, now he has to go back and get tape for her. She should have brought an envelope.”
The whole time the line just keeps getting longer. But my guy Malek is as unhurried and unruffled as can be. People are grumbling and still there is no Tom the supervisor.
And now here is my advice that will save you agony and pain but not time.
1. There is no such thing as a quick trip to the post office. Let me say it again, there is NO such thing as a quick trip to the post office.
2. There is never going to be more than one person behind the counter.
3. Christmas is coming. They will not add more staff. It will just take twice as long to get anything mailed out. I’m telling you this well in advance. There should be no surprises when you get to the post office on December 23rd to mail twelve packages to family members that must be there TOMORROW and there are fifty people already in line and yes, there will be only one counter person. Bring a Starbucks. Perhaps a fold up chair. And a book.