Today’s the day. I can just feel it. It’s 10:15 – exactly between the time the Post Office opens when everybody’s trying to get ahead of everybody else and noon when everybody’s sneaking over on their break. I already notice the parking lot’s far less full. Not a whole lot of people mulling around the place either. Yes!
I enter through the squeaky, automatic glass door, turn left, and there they are – twenty-five people, all holding packages, snaked around the long desk in the middle of the room. The shock and awe on my face must resemble what I look like after having sat on a tack. Or the face on the guy in Munch’s painting, “The Scream.” All I want to do is get the right postage to send off an 8×11 manilla folder containing a long letter to my friend.
I should have known better. Next time, I’ll write my letters here, right on the desk while I’m waiting in line – I’ll have time to compose ten pages if I want.
As Customer Number Twenty-six, I try to regain control by calculating just how long I might be here. Too depressing. Bored, I read the poster on the wall, “Summer Stamps.” It’s November now, not summer, which reminds me it was June when they discontinued the automated customer ticket system. Yet, on the digital wall counter, number 32 still flickers, presumably left over from Customer Number 32 on that long-lost June day. I imagine him still standing here, a zombie, holding a parcel in his rigor mortice-stiff arms.
As Customer Number Twenty-seven enters, I now get to enjoy his look of shock and awe. Same with Customer Number Twenty-eight. (Edward Munch must have frequented post offices.) Customer Twenty-nine turns around and leaves (along with impatient Number Eighteen who follows suit). Now we’re getting somewhere!
There’s five clerk postal bays in front of us. I’ve never seen five postal clerks in here – ever. Today’s there’s three. If the customers looked dead, the clerks come across as coldly limp, at best. One goes in the back and never returns. Did she die back there, die with all the others who’ve never returned to serve us? Just wondering.
I notice one clerk’s been with a customer for ten minutes. When did sending mail get so complicated? What could they possibly be talking about? What’s he mailing – air bags, cremated remains, ammunition?
But now I see the clerk smile. Hey, he’s not supposed to smile or chill or chat! He’s here to serve us – and fast. But can I blame him? Why speed up and service 500 irritated customers a day when you can get away with 300? Even 300 – isn’t that slow death for any clerk to serve in one overworked day?
I see the next customer has 8 packages. I hate Christmas. I hate it already. And it’s only early November. Someone embalm me – now.
So, as I stand here waiting in line, I compose my “Ways to Improve the United States Postal Service” list:
*Just sell stamps
*Let customers redeem their two foot-long Post Office receipts for stamps
*Eliminate Christmas altogether
*Or just disband, like aging rock groups do. Living Death, Crushed Butler and Lucifer’s Friend did (their names gone, but not forgotten, explaining exactly how I feel right now – probably Postal workers, too).