Post office. 8:25am. Five minutes before opening and there are already three of us in line. We hear one the Post Office employees from behind the accordion wall saying something about ringing up staff before the public. We wait. Not making eye contact, shuffling in place. 8:32am, we watch as they fold open the door and it into the slot in the wall. There is one person behind the desk and now five people in line. Post Office Man readies his space, placing pens to the left of his scale, adjusting the stamp display, lining up his rolls of tape before waving forward the first person in line.
She hauls her big box onto his counter, pushes it towards him and leans forward. She wants to know the difference between priority and regular shipping. “Price point wise.” They can only ship priority or express to that address. Big Box Lady chooses priority. She also needs a label. She would also like him to “Please put priority tape on the box.” She leans over the counter to be sure he does. He doesn’t. She repeats herself only louder and slower as if he’s deaf stupid and doesn’t speak English. He confirms he will before he sends it off, hands her label, stamps the box and they finish the sale. She gathers her purse and steps to the side to fill out her label at the next window.
Second person, an elderly lady, turns to me and says in a whisper but the kind you want everyone to hear. “You’d think they’d have more than one person here the week before Christmas.” I nod and smile. Post Office Man waves her forward. He heard. Elderly Lady would like the Virgin Mary stamp. They are out. She’d like something Christmas. They are out. She’s given a choice from the stamp display on the counter near her shoulder. The display she didn’t see. She chooses one of the heart stamps, “Are you sure you don’t have the Virgin Mary ones?” He confirms that is the case. “I guess, if those are the only ones you have.” She says, doubtfully, like he’s hording them in the back. He walks over to the other end of the counter, pulls the heart booklet from one of the drawers, walks back and hands her the booklet and rings up the sale. “I’d also like to ship this box.” He weighs it, stamps it and puts it to the side and rings up the sale.
Big Box Lady loudly declares she needs another label. She messed up hers. Post Office Man gives her another one. Big Box Lady steps back to her window.
Elderly Lady would also like a money order for $5 and two money orders for $10. “Christmas money for the grandchildren.” And can he break a $100 bill? Post Office Man can’t. He just opened. She’s the second person in line. Maybe later in the day. “I’ll just have to write you a check.”
Big Box Lady needs another label again. “I messed this one up too.” Elderly lady jokes with a little bit of Southern bite in her tone, “Well, we’ll just have to send you home.” Post Office Man gives Big Box Lady another label.
There are eight people behind me when Post Office Man realizes he can’t take a check for a money order. He’s going to have to break her $100. She puts her checkbook back in her purse and gets out her change purse and starts to count out $0.34 cents. “What was the total?” she asks as she counts. “$64.30, ma’am.” She has to get out her checkbook to verify the amount, not taking his word for it. “While I’m at it, could I get another booklet of stamps? Harry Potter this time.” Post Office Man breathes in deep as he walks over to the other end of the counter, pulls the Harry Potter booklet from one of the drawers, walks back and hands it to her, corrects the amount owed. She hands him her $100 from the envelope tucked in her purse and carefully counts out the change he gives back as she slots the bills into the correct sleeves of her wallet, wishes him a Merry Christmas and slowly shuffles away.
Big Box Lady slides her purse back over to his window and hands him her label. “Does it look okay?” she asks. He nods yes. “Can you put tape over it so it won’t run if it gets wet?” He does. “And can you please put priority tape on the box.” There are now fifteen people behind me. I see Post Office Man glance at the line as he is grabs the priority tape. He drops out of sight as he bends down to attach the priority tape all over the box. Big Box Lady watches him, pushed up onto her tiptoes half her body across the counter. Satisfied with his tape job, she gathers her purse up and hustles out.
Post Office Man takes her big box and moves it to the conveyer belt. He then looks at the line, his eyes landing on me as he lets out a breath. I smile, what I hope is a non-threatening smile, as if to assure him I will be no trouble. He waves me forward.
I put my small box directly on his scale, pull out my credit card and hold it ready to swipe. I think about asking what the transport costs would be for a small monkey or a large rhododendron or if he could get me one of each kind of stamp they had but its 8:45am the week before Christmas and I’m only the third person in his very long day. I doubt he’d find me funny. Card swiped, box stamped and on the conveyer belt, I wish him good luck as I quickly walk away. He smiles at me as he waves number four forward. As I push through the doors, I hear her apologizing for troubling him but could she, “Please have a booklet of the Virgin Mary stamps?”
I bet he drinks.
My name is ej. I'm a girl. I say that because with the short hair and the short initials, folks aren't always sure. More brilliant insights to who I am in About me