Friday, October 24, 2008

Steps, Stamps, and Sweatshirts

The American school system did a very good job when it came to inculcating me into complete submission and compliance with any and all rules given out by a person wearing any sort of governmental uniform. In 1985 or so, Dan and I stopped by the Pt. Reyes Lighthouse around sunset, walked the half mile to the 308 steps which we took one by one until, exhausted, we reached the platform where a park ranger, replete in that dark green uniform said, "We are closing; everyone, back on the steps." Like a trained dog, I immediately turned back around and, risking sudden death from heart failure, started up the steps. I felt Dan grab my hand and he said, "We've come all this way. We are GOING to look around for five minutes." That's when I knew I had married a dangerous, law-skirting, scofflaw. (FACT: He is in Traffic School right now!)

So when I enter any institution the least bit laced with the scent of governmental oversight, I feel both a bit nervous and submissive in a strangely anesthetized kind of way. The post office is one example of this. The nervousness starts when I see one particular clerk on duty at his window at our local post office. This is a man who likes to take even the most perfectly wrapped package, turn it over in his soft little hands and then make a sucking sound through his teeth. "What kind of tape did you use on this?" he asks suspiciously. "Are you aware this corner could rip away like it was made out of tissue paper? Just the slightest pressure and it's gone." He shakes his head while the mailer stands, and slowly shrinks into the floor, mumbling excuses, his or her self-esteem plummeting, as the clerk continues to make clucking sounds about the packing job.

Last week I had to mail a package to my Sonny Boy who goes to college up north. After obsessively maneuvering my position in line, assuring I would not get Picky Mail Clerk, I found myself in front of a seemingly very nice mail clerk who did not look at my package job with complete disdain. She began reciting her question about if the package contains any hazardous, explosive, perishable, you-know-the-rest items. (Aren't we all just trained to say "no"?) Now, the clerks do not ask what is in the package but I feel compelled to tell them. This IS the government we're dealing with and I want to be a good citizen and tell all. (And really, if you were a postal clerk wouldn't you really want to know? Wouldn't you be curious? I sure would.) I do not hesitate to spill the beans immediately, complete with adjectives and explanations, "It's an old ratty sweatshirt with holes in the sleeves and a stain on the front left hand side caused from some old guacamole. Really, it should be in the rag bag. I mean, it's not even worth the money to mail it." I would ramble on some more, but I look up at the clerk and realize she REALLY DOESN'T CARE! I suddenly wish I had something more exciting in my package, something that would grab her attention. For example, "I've got ten stuffed gophers in there with marbles from the 99 Cent store glued in all twenty eye sockets." Alas, all I have is a sweatshirt. "I can get it there tomorrow for $35.88," she says. Is she kidding? Has she not been listening to what I have been saying? It's a ratty old sweatshirt. Do they get a commission for up-selling? Has our proud postal service gone the way super-sizing services as if they were french fries? "No," I say. "Let's just go parcel post." (I love saying "parcel post." It's a great sound. ) "That could take five to seven days," she says. Wait! Do I detect a note of motherly concern merely disguised as disinterest? I think so! "That's OK!" I say with such enthusiasm and a smile so broad it may send her seeking that secret button under her counter.

I mailed it Monday morning. It got there Tuesday afternoon, all for $4.50. What a deal! Wonder what those stuffed gophers would ship for?


Susan said...

I have a picky mail clerk, too! I wonder if they have a club! Excellent entry, BB!

Anonymous said...

You are an inspiration to all of humankind BB!

Keep up the great work!

Anonymous said...

I'd post a comment, but I really have no idea what to say.