Stupid People IV: Going Postal

I hate going to the post office.

Maybe I’m wrong, but there had to be a time in the recent past when the post office wasn’t the local hangout for morons with loads of free time.

I went to the post office yesterday to mail an important letter that weighed more than an ounce.

Yesterday was a Monday.

I hate going to the post office on Mondays.

The parking lot was full, and the line was practically out the door. And it wasn’t moving.

There is an Automated Postal Center at the post office. I have used it many times. It’s a lot faster than waiting in line because there are usually only one or two people standing at the Automated Postal Center, staring wide-eyed at the screen and drooling occasionally, as depicted in this annotated diagram:

(courtesy U.S. Postal Service)

I was sorely tempted to use the Automated Postal Center, but, as I mentioned, the letter was important, and I was thinking I would like to use Priority MailTM Delivery ConfirmationTM. And so I waited in line with the Annoying Idiot Postal CustomersTM.

These people seem to spend half their lives at the post office, and yet no matter what the transaction, they act as though they are doing it for the first time in their lives. It’s like being stuck in line behind the guy from Memento.

There’s the fellow with gray hair, late fifties easily, who is shipping a parcel that appears to be packed in a box that previously held an On-Cor frozen entree. He is looking for a sticker that he can affix to the box and write the address on it. He asks a woman in line for help.

“I don’t know if they have blank stickers,” she says. “There are some Priority Mail stickers on the counter.”

The man is horrified. “No, I not want to ship Priority Mail.”

“Well, you can tear off the Priority Mail part and just use the blank part of the sticker.”

Pleased with this, the man thanks her and begins to fiddle with the label.

The woman decides to be a bit more helpful. “You know, you’ll have to cover up all the markings on that box.”


“The words. You can’t mail it like that.”

He frowns. “No,” he replies. “I want use this box.”

The woman thinks better of it and turns away.

Meanwhile, each of the four open windows is occupied. At the first window, a tall man in a Members Only jacket is trying to conduct what sounds like a major stock transaction. It turns out he is ordering a postal money order, and making it interesting by arguing with everything the clerk tells him. He has a thick Russian accent, and I’m half expecting him to say, “Make money order out to moose and squirrel.”

At the next window, a woman in a hot pink velour jogging suit keeps changing her mind about which shipping method she will use. The clerk takes a deep breath and for the sixth time explains the difference between Priority Mail, Express Mail, and Parcel Post. It’s not sinking in.

“Priority Mail take how long?”

I expect everyone in the whole place to shout, “TWO TO THREE DAYS!”

At the third window, a babushka lady is trying to return unused stamps for cash, and will not take “no” for an answer. She is the Natasha to the money order guy’s Boris.

And at the fourth window, a man in a turban is barely halfway though processing an entire carload of boxes that he is shipping back to his hometown of Whereverthefuckalore, a village so destitute that they enthusiastically welcome his monthly shipments of leftover Punjabi curry and broken appliances.

Ten minutes went by and these same four people were still occupying the windows. Screw this, I thought, and I went to the machine. I’ll live without the delivery confirmation. Sixty-three cents later, I got the hell out of there.

Now, you have probably noticed that the people I described were all furriners. I’m trying hard not to generalize or appear prejudiced, but when a trip to the post office becomes a trip to Ellis Island, I must confess a little xenophobia.

I’m not calling immigrants stupid. Immigrants are just like any other group of people. There are stupid ones and there are smart ones. The smart ones are easy to pick out. They apparently avoid the post office, and are therefore smarter than me.

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