P.O. also Stands for Post Office


In the play "Waiting for Godot," two characters wait for a third dude, named Godot, who's still a no-show by the end of the play. In college, they told us this was an existentialist metaphor for God... But I now think it was a reference to dealing with my local Post Office.

You see, Saturday, I had a package to pick up. A little pink slip tacked to my door indicating I had to sign for the thing in person. So, okay-- I'd pick it up after work right?

Nope! That branch of the Post Office closes at 4 pm. And I leave work at 5.

Well, that's all right, I figured. I'm flexible. Before work then?

In print so small dust-mites would need high-powered reading glasses just to see it, the slip said packages could only be picked up after 10am.

Righty, then! So Saturdays.... How 'bout Saturdays?

Well, on Saturdays, it told me, I could pick up the package between the convenient hours of 10:00 am and 10:07 am...

Oops, I'm sorry-- "10am to noon."

But honestly-- as far as windows of opportunity go, that window is about equivalent to the side vent on a MicroMachines Mini Cooper. Driven by the dust mite with the high-powered reading glasses.

Now, this past Saturday, I had a hair appointment at... 10:30am. Yeppers, smack dab in the middle of the Lilliputian Window of Opportunity!

So with no other recourse, I went to the Post Office at 9:30am with my package slip in hand and hope in my heart.

There was one teller open, and I was the fifth person in line. There was:

  • A tall thin man with a goatee in front of me....
  • A woman with dreds in front of him...
  • A large, hairy spectacled man with a South Park t-shirt and carrying a tower of packages, who was in front of her...
  • And an elderly woman who was first in line.

The elderly woman, she wanted a Money Order. She'd never purchased one before and wasn't quite sure what it entailed, or really, if this was even what she wanted. She might have wanted a wire transfer. Or a Siberian husky. Or a cafe latte no milk.

She and the teller discussed this with the sort of detailed analysis you'd find in a university coffeehouse after a poetic reading. The nuances, the details... rehashed and reexamined. I was reminding myself how I once didn't know how to fill out a Money Order, either, and that this woman was probably someone's beloved grandma, and that patience is a virtue.

"Oh, dear," she exclaimed, rummaging through her purse. "You know, I don't have any cash on me. Do you take checks?"

Grandma... beloved grandma... I chanted to myself.

So she started rooting around for her checkbook. "Who do I make this out to?" She had to find a pen now.

The guy with the goatee-- seeing some time to kill-- started talking to the lady with the dreds. He indicated he was there because he was a victim of identity theft and somebody had been forwarding his mail to an unknown, unauthorized place.

The woman in the dreds, in turn, said she was there because she'd sent a package which never arrived which she needed to trace.

Both of these issues didn't sound exactly easily resolved.

Grandma, meanwhile, was making out the check, when the teller said they'd need her ID. Which, of course, required more rooting in her purse. I zoned out for five minutes and looked back and she was still writing that check.

Grandma... beloved, dear old grandma.... I kept telling myself.

Finally, finally Grandma was on her way, and the hairy South Park guy was up.

Package after package was being processed with the kind of individualized attention airport cavity searches receive. I looked at my watch and saw ten minutes had passed. The line was now out the door.

Meanwhile, the woman in the dreds had gotten in and out of line about three times so far. She was filling out forms and getting back to the head of the line. Filling out other forms and getting back in line. Talking to someone in the back mailroom who was afraid to come face us, and then getting back to the front of the line.

I was wondering if I died whether anybody would notice, or they'd just dust off the cobwebs.

Once the South Park guy had officially mailed a package to everyone on Ebay-- and gotten cash back via a Debit transaction-- the lady in the dreds was finally up. She needed to trace her package. And no, she didn't have her receipt.

"Well, I'd left it in the car and my husband ripped it up and threw it out," she said.

"So you don't have a tracking number?"

"No."

"But you want to trace your package?"

"Yes."

And the clerk sent her to go fill out some more forms. I looked at my watch. I had ten minutes.

The goatteed man was trying to figure out where his mail had gone. "I was in Florida, and while I was away someone else came in and got my mail sent to another address. I want to know how that happened."

"It was you," the teller said.

"It wasn't me, I was in Florida. Wouldn't I know if I had changed the address on my mail?"

"Well, then you have a twin! Because it was you who changed the address."

This conversation made the lady cowering in back actually decide to join us. Waiting on customers who were now lined up around the block wasn't apparently as much of a priority as giving witness testimony. "Oh, it was definitely you!" she proclaimed. "If it wasn't, well, he looked just like you."

"I was on a trip!" the man reiterated.

"But, see, I remember you saying something about going on a trip soon," insisted the woman from the back.

This was about the time Rod Serling came in.

Now, you're probably wondering whether I ever made it out of there in time. And the answer is, yes, in fact, I did-- by sheer luck alone.

But the fact remains:

Somewhere out there, a package is being traced with no tracking number... Dopplegangers are out there changing forwarding addresses willy-nilly... And how much do you want to bet, there are people from Saturday still waiting in that line?

Godot has nothing on the US Postal Service.

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23 comments:

Bryan said...

what happened to south park goattee guy? who forwarded his mail and why???

Jenn Thorson said...

Bryan- It's one of those mysteries. It still wasn't resolved when I left. However my theories are as follows:

1.) The ladies at the Post Office knew him enough to not ask for I.D. when the forwarding occurred and it was in fact NOT this man at all, but possibly someone related to him who did this to him who looked a lot like him

2.) The guy was on something at the time he forwarded his own mail and now doesn't remember.

However, he seemed pretty credible a person, so I think it's more of a lax postal system issue.

It's totally bizarre. I wish I knew the real outcome.

Tiffany said...

You've done it again, Jenn. I've been working since 6:15 a.m. and just took a minute to read this post in my mail (thank goodness you added that subscription option!) and I was laughing out loud by the end of the first paragraph.

Jenn Thorson said...

Oh, you're lovely, Tiffany! Thank you for this. You made my day.

Alexander said...

Well? Shall we go?

Jenn Thorson said...

Thanks for weighing in, Vladimir. :)

Chat Blanc (aka Sandy) said...

I was getting postal anxiety just reading this! Yikes!

Jenn Thorson said...

Sandy- And the irony is, I sorta wish I were making this cast of characters and their problems up-- but it's all 100% true!

Greg said...

But we can't. We're waiting.

Greg said...

Actually, this sounds a little more like "No Exit", equally existential, slightly more hellish.

Jenn Thorson said...

Ah, yes, I recall having to read "No Exit" in French class many moons ago. Some parallels certainly can be drawn.

momjeansblogger said...

LOL! Thanks for the laugh!
The next time I'm waiting in line at the PO for forty minutes, i'll have a good game to play. Who knew that there was so much drama to listen to?

Alice said...

Everyone is telling stories today where I'd need to take my xanax. We have this little teeny, tiny Post Office down the road that I ADORE because no one is ever there and the post master is super competent. If there is a line, she can turn out people faster than you can blink. I love her.

Jenn Thorson said...

MomJeansBlogger- I wouldn't wish this sort of drama on you-- you seem like a nice person. :) But you're right, at least there was enough action to keep a person occupied!

Alice- Rough day in the blog neighborhood, eh? :) You're very lucky with your postal branch, then. This particular day was like something out of that Terry Gilliam film, "Brazil."

Jay said...

I love my local Post Office! Super friendly and helpful and OK, sometimes it gets busy, but usually there's one or two in front of you or none at all! Ahhh, wonderful.

Shame the government is busily trying to close them all down, huh?

Da Old Man said...

My town has at least 5 post ofices, all within 10 minutes of my home. Yet, for some reason, my undelivered packages have to be picked up from the one with one exasperated worker bee who always has 11 people in his line and some guy named Al in the back room. Go figure.

damon said...

The post office is a wonderous place, with unicorns, rainbows, and the occasional gunfire.

I went once.

Once.

Wendy said...

Thank goodness we have only 1 post office here and everybody knows everybody

Very entertaining I might add

Drowsey Monkey said...

"She and the teller discussed this with the sort of detailed analysis you'd find in a university coffeehouse after a poetic reading."

LOL @ rod sterling....

omg...I'm really loling. You crack me up, I know I say that a lot ... but it's true.

DeadRooster said...

Don't get me started on the post office! I am a rare book dealer and I give my customers several different options for shipping. Well, "Media Mail" is the CHEAPEST way to ship a package, but it HAS to be a book or some other form of media to qualify.

You would think the fact that I've been going to the same post office several times a week and dealing with the same clerks for over five years would mean something. You would also think that the fact that my company name on the package, which has the word "books" right in it would be a tip off. But, every time I try to ship "Media Mail" they threaten to open my package and expose me for the fraud I am (probably trying to ship uranium 235 and pass it off as "media").

They constantly tell me that it will GREATLY slow down the shipment if I don't pay the extra 75 cents to go first class. The fact is, according to the post office web site, Media Mail is usually the same shipping speed as first class. In other words, they give me dirty looks and lie to me to try and get those few extra cents.

I am so sick of it!

Jenn Thorson said...

Jay- Well, that's it-- I am SO moving to England! All my friends from the UK have great post office experiences, and many of us Americans have interesting tales of post and woe. :)

DaOldMan- The branch near my work is quite good, actually. I like the folks there and things seem to run smoothly. Only that isn't where my packages go, either. They go to the branch with the one lone worker you describe.

Damon- I've yet to see the unicorns, but perhaps they were closer to the back of the line. :)

Wendy- See, I think my Canadian friends here have post closer to the UK folks' experience. Or maybe it's a city versus more rural area issue. Hmmm....

Drowsey- It really was a singularly surreal experience... Rod Serling would have felt totally at home!

Rooster- Ah, I can only imagine what you must go through. It's one of my fears of beginning to sell things through Ebay or Etsy-- I fear the time spent at the Post Office would only make me dislike the getting-rid-of-stuff-and-making-money aspect of it. :)

PS-- Oh, we KNOW you're a drug runner. Or an illegal weapons guy. Books... HA! Indeed! :)

chyna said...

My mail lady is super nice and helpful. And I can see why she would rather walk around in hot/freezing weather than deal with the workers at the post office. They are cranky old bats, probably off their menapausal meds or something.

I made the mistake of going down to get my mail after we'd been out of town for a week. Silly me didn't know that my dh had already picked up the mail. They turned their wrath on me for "wasting their time" looking for my mail. I feel less and less sorry for them when I use the internet to talk to my friends or pay bills. Yet another thing they have problems with, they can deliver the bill but the payment they lose.

It's just sad.

Jenn Thorson said...

Chyna- I wonder if it has something to do with being couped up inside all day that makes mail tellers sometimes cranky? Or dealing with us- the public! (I know I get cranky when my clients are whipped into a frenzy, anyway.) :)