So I went to the post office today. I’m sure this has been said a million times before, a million different ways, but I have to say it again: what the hell is up with the post office?
I mean, our society has actually coined a term—you know, “going postal”—that means flipping out when the pressure gets to you. Generally, they come back with guns, shoot the place up, whatever. What pressure? And because I am sincere, I will ask again: What pressure?
Every post office I’ve ever been into in my entire life, if the people working were under any less pressure, they’d be freakin’ dead. Trey once tried to come up with something, I mostly ignored it because it was nonsense, but it went something like, “Man, they just stand behind the counter all day, people line up in front of them to mail shit, and that’s their day. I bet it can get to you after a while.”
“Bullshit, man. That’s my job, except for I make a fraction of the pay, people are lining up to bitch and moan at me instead of just mail stuff, and if I ever moved that slow, I would be fired in an hour.”
I don’t remember if he had a response or not, which leads me to believe that both of us might have been pretty deep in the suds by that time. Anyways, I’m just going to think it was people that got fired, they’re the ones that kept coming back and shooting up the place. That I can understand, because it would suck pretty hard to lose a job like that. And besides, who in their right mind would ever hire someone who had spent years and years behind the counter at the post office?
“So, it says here that you worked a the post office for ten years?”
“Yes. Yes, I did.”
“Do your legs still work? I mean, can you still move around? This job isn’t all that strenuous, but it does require that you move more than once every ten minutes.”
“You know what? Forget about it…do you know where there’s a place I could get some sort of huge gun around here?”
“Frankie’s Big ‘N Tall gun store is right around the corner—he specializes in gigantic weapons.”
“Excellent. Sorry to waste your time.”
Because they’re just so slow, man! And what do they think about in between customers? Every post office I’ve ever been in, once the post officer gets done with a customer, he just sort of stands there, not pushing any buttons, not messing with anything, not reading anything. Just stands there (or sits there—some of these lazy bastards have chairs now), looking into space for about a minute. And if you walk up, he’ll just look at you and go, “Sir, you’re going to need to wait until you’re called.”
I keep saying “he.” The women are just as bad, but I don’t want to fool around with pronouns, so for the sake of shit staying easy, I’m just going to keep calling the post office people guys. I just don’t want you to think that chicks are exempt, because they suck, too.
I just don’t understand it. Is this what they’re trained to do at mailman school?
“Okay, so you’re all going to be post people. First thing you should know is, you get paid the same, no matter how mail goes through. We jack up the price of stamps every three weeks, so don’t worry about actually trying to earn your raise. Moving fast around here, it just gums up the works. Like this: if you start doing more at the front counter, than they got to do more sorting in the back, which means that the folks on the route have that much more to deliver. See the problem here? So just take it easy, is what I’m saying. Today, we’re going to work on our blank stare. Who wants to go first?”
The instructor picks someone at random, and the guy just stands there, looking like he might have borrowed all the brains in his head from a pile of dog shit he saw on the sidewalk out front. You can see a little drop of drool form at the corner of his mouth, and it just hangs there. Then, right before it drops, he sucks it in, his eyes clear, and he calls out, “Now helping number twenty-two! Number twenty-two, please step to the window!”
“Excellent work, Thompson! Excellent work!”
That’s how they do it down here in Austin, is they have the little number machine, you pull out a tag, it has a number on it, and then there’s a display on the wall that shows what number they are currently helping, which is generally about thirty or forty away from being yours, even though there are only like fifteen people in line. And as soon as the guy calls that number, they materialize out of nowhere, walk up to the counter with about fifty packages in tow, and then proceed to ask odd questions for the next hour and a half.
That’s something that bothers me, too—how long has the post office been around? If you don’t know how to mail something by now, just give it up, okay? I mean, seriously, man—just give up. Go home, make yourself a nice hot cup of tea, poison it, and drink it down, okay? I’ve known how to mail shit since I was like five years old, and you know what? It hasn’t changed that much since then. Sure, you’re going to have a question every now and then, but if you spend more than three minutes asking about getting something mailed, just throw the packages away—nobody wants anything you’ve got—and go jump off a bridge.
Okay, I’m glad we got that out of the way. So yeah, in New York, I never went in any post office that had the number system—they just made you wait in line until your knees were all shaky and you were about to suffocate because of the smell coming from the skankbag standing in front of you. They were slow as shit, too, only they weren’t as friendly. That is one thing I have to give these guys in Austin—once you get up to the counter, they’re nice as all get out. In NYC, you got to the counter, you were sort of afraid to tell the guy that you wanted to mail something. “Yeah, I just wanted to send this to-”
“Yeah, super. No, really, that’s great. I’m glad you figured out that that’s what a post office is for. I hate you so much. I’m going to lose your package, you know. Who’s this to? Your mother? I’m going to write curse words on it, what do you think of that?”
“Holy shit, you’re an evil bastard!”
“Just for that, I’m going to open it up and take out anything that looks cool.”
“You want to go out for a drink later?”
They’re pretty nice down here, though, which can be just as frustrating. Here’s what happened today:
I go in, I’ve got about eight packages to mail, ranging in size, going all over the place. There’s only one guy in line, which is awesome. I stagger up to the little counter thing they have going on, and put my boxes down on it. The guy in line in front of me turns and looks at my boxes. He’s got an envelope. There are two guys working the front counter, and two customers getting helped at the front counter—all is as it should be.
I stand there for a few minutes, and then I realize that something is wrong. I’m not at the front counter yet, and neither is the guy in front of me. The customers that were at the front counter a few minutes ago, they’re still there. One is a guy that keeps asking questions about the stupid envelope he’s trying to mail, which really puzzles me. I mean, how many different ways are there to send an envelope?
“You want it there tomorrow?”
“The next day?”
“The day after that?”
“Do you want the person to get it ever?”
“Not particularly. It’s a stepsister that I don’t particularly like, and I want to be able to tell her that I sent it, but I don’t really want her to get it.”
“You should send it UPS, then.”
Because UPS sucks more ball sack than any other mailing service in the world, including those third world countries where the mailing system consists of jabbing a bamboo stick through some sort of wild dog. I hate you UPS, and I don’t think you’re cute at all with your shit-colored shorts and your socks all pulled up like that nerd in school that never understood that by the time you’re in high school, it’s well past time that your mother stopped dressing you.
The other customer is this girl, moderately cute, I guess. The post officer, he’s just sitting there flirting with her. I mean, he has already got her package stamped (weird how that almost seems sexual in this scenario, huh?), he has put it in the right slot (that one, too), and now he’s just chilling out, talking to her (nah—talking to chicks is never sexual…unless you’re calling a 900 number, I guess).
Meanwhile, another customer has come in, pulled the number ticket out of the number machine, and is standing in line behind me. And I realize that I forgot to pull a ticket. Shit—I’m one of those people. But come on, right?
I mean, I’ll be at the front counter in no time, right? No need to step back, give up my place in line, and pull a ticket. It’s a gamble I’m willing to take.
Another customer comes in, and I’m starting to sweat. Another. Shit. I’m going to have to go pull a ticket, I can tell. I wait, though, just to see if anyone is even paying attention to the number system, or if it’s enough that we’re all standing in an orderly line.
The guy with all the questions finally leaves, and the guy that was helping him does that little sixty-second stare thing, looking out the window, like the Wendy’s across the street holds some deep philosophical secret that really needs to be pondered. When he finally snaps out of it, he looks up at the board. It says 53.
He looks right at me, and he calls, “I can help number 54! Number 54, please come to the counter with your ticket ready!”
The message is clear. I don’t have my ticket. As the guy in front of me, number 54, steps to the counter, I grab my stack of packages and walk to the end of the line.
“I forgot to pull a ticket,” I tell the rest of the line, just to clear things up. The guy directly behind me, he just glares at me, and then turns away. I kind of want to kick him in the balls, just on general principle, but that wouldn’t get this stuff mailed now, would it? Still…“No,” I think to myself, “These are gifts for my nephews.”
It’s Sammy’s birthday next week, and I don’t want my violence in the post office to keep him from getting a present, even if it would be incredibly satisfying.
The lady after that, she offers me her ticket. “You were here before me,” she says.
“You go right on ahead,” I tell her, and smile real cute-like, because that was very nice. The lady behind that one, she offers me her ticket as well. I thank her, and refuse. The lady behind her also offers, but it’s sort of fake—she heard me reject the offers of the two before, and her offer doesn’t sound the least bit sincere. I almost accept, just to be a pain in the ass, and to see the look on her face.
Instead, I thank her and pull out my own number. 59. Shit.
The post office guy finally gets tired of flirting and calls 55. I settle back for my wait, and am surprised when someone touches my shoulder. It’s another postal employee, and I’m suddenly worried that somehow they’ve finally learned to read my thoughts, and they’re kicking me out of society.
“Are you just mailing?” He asks me.
“I’m sorry?” Caught off guard, I don’t know what the hell this guy is talking about, and I don’t like the fact that I’ve been singled out.
“These packages—are you just mailing them?”
Ah, now it makes sense. “Yeah, man—just sending them.”
“Have you tried our automated mailing system?”
“What? Nah. I just, uh, you know—I just mail ‘em like regular.” I have no idea what he’s talking about, actually.
“Would you like to try it right now?”
“Nah, I’m good. Thanks.”
“It’s very quick and very easy.”
“I’m cool with waiting in line. Thanks, though.”
“It’s just right over here, just step right over here.” Although the guy sounds friendly, this feels more like an order than a suggestion. I step out of line, just as two more customers come in and pull tickets.
“What number are you?” He asks.
“59,” I tell him. He walks to the counter, mutters something to one of the guys about not to worry about number 59, and then walks back to me. He leads me over to the automated machine, shows me how it works: You put your package on the scale, answer a few questions on the touch screen (“Are you shipping any explosives, any poisons, or any other deadly substance?”), print out a label, and throw the thing into a mail chute. Basically, you do the job that the post guys are supposed to be doing.
So he walks me through this process that a ten-year-old could figure out, and then, just as I’m finishing my first package, he says, “And if you’re a real gentleman, you could let this man go before you, seeing as how he only has one package.”
There’s a guy behind me, and he does indeed have only one package. I kind of want to tell post office guy to fuck himself and ask him if he thinks I seem like any kind of a gentleman. I mean, if I was still in line, it would almost be my turn. But I really need these packages to get where I’m sending them, so I tell the post office guy that of course I’m a gentleman, and I let the next guy go in front of me.
Post office guy walks away, a job well done. Five minutes later, I’m still behind this dipshit that doesn’t know how to work the machine. He’s talking on his cell phone about how there’s a rumor about Carol being transferred to the Dallas department, and who’s not surprised by that? He’s gone through every step except for the final step, the one where he hits the ENTER button. He’s chatting away, waiting for his receipt, looking out the window, whatever.
“Push the ENTER button,” I tell him.
He looks at me.
“The ENTER button,” I tell him. He turns around, looks at the machine, hits the button, but not hard enough. He turns back around and looks at me, mouths the word “Sorry.”
I step around him, hit the ENTER button. He mouths the word “Thanks” at me.
By the time he’s done, there are three old ladies waiting behind me. I’m not kidding, man—three old ladies. They all have one package each, and I consider letting them go before me, but then I realize that screw them. I mean, they’ll be dead soon, anyways, and then they won’t care if their shit got mailed.
I see the post guy look at me disapprovingly, but I’ve already decided that if he says anything to me, I’m going to demand to talk to his manager. I don’t know why, yet, but I figure it’s better than hanging out in the lobby of the post office all day. Demanding a manager will give me something to do while I wait to mail my shit, anyways. I have never in my life demanded to see a manger. When I worked customer service, I dealt with lots of people who demanded to see a manager, and it seemed like they always made out like bandits. But it’s so bitch. I re-evaluate, and decide if the post office guy comes over, I’ll just threaten to kick him in the nuts. If that doesn’t work, I decide that I’ll kick him in the nuts—I can deliver these packages myself. He doesn’t say anything else, though, which is both relieving and disappointing.
I glance over a the display on the wall as I step up to the machine, and see that they are now servicing number 73.
The old ladies eventually got sick of waiting for me, and went to wait in line. One lady came in, she had like six boxes, so I didn’t feel guilty. After she waited through three of my packages, I turned and apologized for taking so long.
“No problem,” she said.
“The guy told me this would be faster—I was supposed to be number 59.”
“He pull you out of line?”
She nods wisely. “You mail as much stuff as I do, you get rally fast at this thing. You ever used it before?”
“Nope. First time.”
“Answer ‘no’ to all the questions, and just keep hitting the button. Flies by, if you do that.”
I did what she said, and sure as shit, it flew right by. In the end, as I was waiting for the receipt to print, I asked her why she mailed so much. She pointed to a bunch of Ebay boxes.
“Ah,” I told her.
“Beats working,” she told me.
So, if you’re out there, Ebay lady, thanks for your help. And if you’re out there, post office guys, go fuck yourselves, you jerks.