I hate the post office. It used to have a claim on my affections, back when I lived in a small town, I went in with my packages, stood in a line of reasonable size, and then, for a reasonable price, had the satisfaction and anticipation of my packages flitting off to their intended recipients.
The Beaverton, Oregon, central post office changed all that when I moved out here a few years ago. The line is always insane; there is always, except at Christmas, a maximum of three people at the counter that holds six employees, and at least one of those employees is always a blatant jackass of either the pedantic or completely clueless type. I let two or three people go ahead of me one time to avoid repeating with an employee I knew to be a pedantic petty power-monger who had to adjust my package to his specifications before he would deign to accept it for delivery. Combine that with the price hike they made last year, and my post office hatred was made official and enduring.
But there are times when a girl needs postcards, especially if it’s that time of year again for entering the only ridiculous-odds great-prize game of chance she plays all year: The HGTV Dream Home. I buy a certain number of postcards for that every year–like a sucker–put my info on them, and send them out in the vain hope of winning a couple mil by random drawing. I actually suspect the post office of delivering only one and dumping the rest, since, hey, they’re all the same, right? I could be playing the lottery every week instead, right? Although the money would probably come out the same, to be honest. Nevermind that. The point was: Need postcards. Have to (groan) go to post office.
I have a limited amount of time, as I decided to try to squeeze this errand in on the way to The Bean’s preschool. I wait in line for a reasonable time, three or four minutes, and then make my way to my designated employee of the three. All the while I stood in line, though, I could clearly see, in the back room where the actual mail operations take place, packages indulging themselves in what I’m sure is their favorite pastime: Flying through the air with the greatest of ease, without benefit of men on the flying trapeze. A guy whose arms I could see when he would heave a package was letting fly with one box after another, so that they described a lovely parabola in the air and then landed with a thunk that resonated throughout the whole post office in the bin where he’d aimed them.
I get up to the counter and state my mission to my designated employee–we’ll call her Two of Three.
“I need two hundred postcards, please.” Two–not graced with leadership enough to be One of Three, not smart enough to stay at the back of the line like Three of Three–ambles over to a cupboard at the back of her station where they evidently keep this merchandise. Or are supposed to. Her hand emerges with one bundle of postcards, and since this isn’t my first rodeo, I know the USPS’s postcards come in bundles of 50. She needs three more. She lollygags over the gal next to her, we’ll call her Three of Three–”Do you have any postcards?” A discussion ensues which does not appear to include checking the surrounding environs for any actual postcards. She sashays over to One of Three, who is busy helping customers far more efficiently, I’m positive, than either of her compadres. Then she checks the two empty employee stations beyond One’s cubicle and comes up with … no postcards.
She moseys back to the vicinity of her stall and starts to say something about looking somewhere else, at which point I cut her off because if I don’t leave within sixty seconds, The Bean will be late to preschool. “I don’t have time to wait; I have to go.” She changes her potential offer to look somewhere else into a flat “We don’t have two hundred.” In my mind, my current favorite phrase hurtles towards her and bops her invisibly in the head: Well, no shit.
Instead of saying this aloud, I shift subjects. I don’t usually bother giving people advice on what to do in their workplace. I’m pretty sure it’s futile, for starters, but this time I’m so peeved, and so stunned at the audacity of 1) their complete lack of customer service and 2) the brazen circus show that is taking place in the back room with the packages of said customers, that I give it a go. What the heck. “It’s just a suggestion, but you might want to tell your people not to throw the packages while we all can see them.”
She looks around, in slow-motion wonder, as though she cannot believe this would take place in her post office, and actually says, I kid you not, “Who’s throwing packages?” Because it’s not her, you see, thereby making it, apparently, impossible that this could be taking place.
“The guys in the back room. The packages are flying across the room,” I explain
nicely with irritation at her stupidity creeping into my voice and my hand showing her the arc the flying packages are making, in case she needs a demo.
Suddenly she shifts from “Wha … people are throwing packages … ?” to … I still kid you not … “That’s how you sort packages.”
That’s what she said, just like I was the idiot not to know that, that I was the idiot to be concerned that something inside at least one of those packages might break, causing consternation and distress to an overcharged customer.
I guess I am the idiot. I mean, I know people throw your stuff around, packages, luggage, what have you, absolutely wantonly the minute they get it out of your sight, but I am accustomed to them waiting at least until I am out of sight. It reminded me of the day I looked out the airliner window and witnessed a ramp luggage guy pulling bags off the belt and heaving them ten feet, where they crashed into the concrete below. He was having fun. I guess I know they do this, but it’s a different matter for them to act like this is how it should be. I guess that’s the way it is and I’m just a sucker to think anybody does their job with consideration to the people who pay for their job, either directly or as part of a larger experience, i.e. airline travel.
I’m now, after a run-in with some UPS gals a couple of weeks ago, a new and fervent FedEx convert. They may throw my packages around, but by golly they know enough to keep the throwing shenanigans out of my sight.