What me hurry?

December 30, 2016 § 43 Comments

I was going to write about how you can improve your life by slowing down and taking time to do things yourself instead of writing a check or swiping a credit card and having someone else do it for you. Coffee, for instance.

I was going to write about how we’ve been cooking our own coffee and it’s not that big a deal and we save a bunch of money and buy our green beans in 30-lb. towsacks and etcetera.

I was going to write about how instead of buying juice at the store, where it doesn’t have any nutritional value and is overpriced and doesn’t taste very good, for a few hundred bucks you can buy something with a lawnmower engine strong enough to juice your old socks or your rock collection, not to mention fruit, and how a few extra minutes doing that instead of watching TV is relaxing and by the way you’ll quit cramping after long rides and experience a huge reduction in the stinkiness of your daily creation and etcetera.

But then I went to the post office for the first time in a long time, you know, the place where time stands still.

All this stuff about slowing down and taking time to do stuff yourself hit a nasty wall in the post office, because that is the place where time goes to die. If you have too much time on your hands, go to the post office, which is a time suck of such proportions as to make Strava and Facebag together look like productivity tools.

I stood in a line of fifteen people, with three clerks working the counter and I use the word “working” in its most elastic sense. I noticed that not only had time come to a halt but that no one in the post office was in a hurry, including the customers. Which led to an observation: No one who has anything going on in their lives goes to the post office.

Everyone was retired or a stay-at-homer or someone who simply wanted to find out what it felt like being dead.

More astonishingly than the corpses standing in line were the corpses at the counter. The PO is deathly silent so everyone can hear everything, and the one thing that was obvious is that everyone at the post office, despite decades of tenure, was doing each job with each customer for the very first time. It’s as if you were standing in line at Von’s and each time a customer’s shit came over the scanner the checker-person got a big happy smile and said, “Well, what have we here? Some bananas!”

I kept waiting for someone to scream, “It’s a fucking letter! Put a stamp on it and take my money and get me the fuck out of here!”

But no. The kind PO employee was not to be rushed, and exhibited genuine interest in each transaction. “Now, where is this letter going to?”


“Oh, well, let’s weigh it and see what the postage is,” the kind employee said. Because in the history of letters no one has ever come in and needed a first-class stamp for a letter of undetermined weight.

If it were me, all contented coffee-roasting and self-juicing mindfulness murdered under the ugly boot heel of raging impatience, I would have screamed to the customers: “Hey, you fuckers! Dump your shit into this box!” Then I would have weighed it with a machine (I’m pretty sure they have weighing machines somewhere in the post office), slapped on the tariff, and been done by 9:00 AM.

But no. The line continued to snake and each tenured person enjoyed the careful consideration of each mailing problem presented by each customer as if it were a complex physics problem trying to synch the extra second per year due to Earth’s variable revolution speed around the sun with the atomic clock and the space station.

Finally my turn came. I had a huge problem, one that, like stamps, my lady had never encountered before. “Well hello, sir? How are you today?”


“Oh, you need a package?” She gazed at the slip for the package that had not been delivered the day before because, I guess, there were too many stairs to climb at our complex and the tenured employee figured, “Fuck it, they can come get this shit.”

I fully expected her to get up and go get my package. The long line, which now stretched to Torrance, watched the transaction. The giantess gazed three counter spots down. “Suzy? You getting packages?”

Suzy lifted her head from the luscious oats she’d been munching, thoughtfully chewed her cud, and nodded. “Yeesssss,” she mooed.

“Would you get his?”

“Yeesssss,” Suzy mooed again.

I briskly strode to Suzy’s counter, but not briskly enough. A spry Korean woman, seeing the open slot, jumped out and dashed up ahead of me. “Yeessss?” Suzy asked.

“This letter to mail Kentucky,” the woman said.

Suzy gazed at the envelope. “Well, let’s see where it’s going,” she said.

“Kentucky,” said the spry old lady.

“Looks like it’s going to Kentucky,” Suzy confirmed, showing off her ability to decipher the written English language. I thought about calling the Foxworthys and having them come out and hand-deliver the thing, as it would probably be quicker, but then realized they only accept payment in good bourbon.

“Whatta postage?” asked the lady.

“Let’s see what the postage is,” Suzy said as my hand trembled with my package pickup ticket.

Suzy carefully weighed the letter, but there was  problem! It already had some stamps on it. The Korean lady had gone through her drawer and randomly stuck on whatever was on the bottom, in between the old lipstick and the replacement pencil leads. “Looks like we’re going to need some more stamps,” said Suzy.

And there it was! Another new problem never before encountered by Suzy! A letter with insufficient postage! If only there were a solution!

By now time had ceased all relativity and simply stopped. Nothing moved anywhere on earth. Time had gone from a slow drip to a gummed up sewer pipe. Shit was going nowhere. I remembered having read “The Day That Time Stood Still” by H.G. Wells, and wondered when everything would go flying off the surface of the Earth, like when your bike suddenly stops and you don’t.

When I dropped back into reality, Suzy and the Korean woman were disputing the amount of added postage. Suzy argued for $1.41 extra. Korean lady argued for $1.21 extra. Everyone in the line watched to see who would be right, but being married to a Japanese lady for a thousand years I knew who was going to win the battle of the pennies, and it wasn’t going to be Suzy.

Suzy, however, said she would try it with a different calculator, as if that were the problem. “Excuse me,” I said. “Can I just pay the extra twenty cents? And can you please get my package?”

Everyone would have paused at this egregious breach of protocol, not to mention the profane suggestion that twenty cents was an inconsequential sum of money, but they couldn’t pause because everything had already paused. We were stuck on pause forever. We were in the post office.

Suddenly, each ticking second being murdered in the post office begged for mercy. I forgot my mindfulness, my package, my quality of life sermon via slowing down and living for the moment and doing things yourself.

I got the hell out. Whatever was in the package, even if it was Bradley Wiggins’ Fluimucil, it could wait.



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§ 43 Responses to What me hurry?

  • Gilbert Dodson says:

    Been there!

  • DougJ says:

    Brings new meaning to the phrase ” Going Postal”.

    At least your tenured clerks were friendly. At my local PO, They all behave like ex felons with time off for bad behavior!

    • fsethd says:

      Mine are super friendly, and fascinated with each new postal challenge, eager to explore it patiently with each lucky postal patron.

  • Toronto says:

    But your angst transfers to such savory blog fodder.

  • Sandy says:

    In one of Camus’ novels, the hero goes on purpose to the Post Office, stands in a line, and when he gets to the front, goes to the back of another and starts over again. Why? To understand and perhaps grasp time (my thoughts).

  • Todd says:

    Holy crap, I think I spit on my computer I was laughing so hard. Good one!

    You may have seen this clip from the movie Zootopia about the DMV….

  • Mark says:

    Seth, I’m going to pull the PC card and say that comparing a woman to a cow is almost as offensive as comparing the first lady to a gorilla. Your humor doesn’t need to stoop that low.

  • Winemaker says:


  • shano92107 says:

    i wonder what nastiness those people did in their previous lives to cause karma to chuck them into the hellhole of USPS employ (or is it postal dis-service?)

    • fsethd says:

      Plenty of good people who work for the USPS, and I ride with some of them! But let’s just say that Charles Bukowski wrote “Post Office” for a reason.

  • Jah Slim says:

    And just like that I skipped to the last sentence and then posted this comment. Winning.

  • Derek B says:


  • EricW says:

    Ah yes, sounds familiar. At my local Post Office… they drink. Lots. Just Imagine the same process slowed by drunks. Yep. I don’t go there any more.

    To counteract that; the nearby MDR PO has a package weighing and measuring machine to figure postage then print it out. And it takes credit cards. Imagine that: clerks replaced with a robot. You can still stand in the line if you want…

    Package pick up is another office hidden on a one way side street (they sold all the classic centrally located buildings.) There the clerks just disappear into the bowels with your slip, returning in a half hour or so, sometime with the package, sometime someone else’s package. Fun!

  • Spinner says:

    I was going to comment about the relativity of time in regards to my recent visit to the DMV but how could I top the sloth video above????

  • Judy says:

    Almost more important is a mirror. They are required on all other vehicles but no…. Racers think they can turn.their head as safely or scan as often or.be aware of what is going on behind, if they need to make a quick avoidance move in traffic. BETTER FRED THAN DEAD

  • Judy says:

    Mirrors on helmets or glasses are.not.useless. I’ve not had good expereince with mirrors on the bike myself nut I suppose that would depend on the bike. I was not referring to a.bije mirror but a mirror is.invaluable in traffic for safety

    • fsethd says:

      I don’t think they’re invaluable. I think their value is minimal to nonexistent. Every rider I’ve ever come up on who has a mirror, either on the helmet or bike, has not been aware of my presence until I’ve passed and said “hello.”

      The first problem with mirrors is that you have to use them. I’ve never ridden with a cyclist who uses a mirror who’s advised me of something I didn’t already know about. This is because I can hear traffic and am not ensconced in a car, or on a motorcycle with my ears covered in a helmet.

      There is a second problem. Even if you do have a mirror, and you do use it, by the time you note a car that’s about to hit you there’s not enough time to react.

      But there’s a much bigger problem. Virtually every problem you’re ever going to have on a bike is in front of you. Your attention needs to be in front of you. It’s not like a car where you have luxury of scanning three different mirrors. On a bike, spending time checking out what’s happening in the rear is a terrible use of attention and time. You’re much more likely to hit something and fall than to be hit by behind. And of course vehicular cycling is based on the concept that visibility it the key to safety, and that it’s misplaced to fear being struck from behind if you’re riding correctly.

      For people whose necks are too stiff to turn, perhaps it’s a good idea because you do need to check over your shoulder when you change lanes or turn. But for the average cyclist, the invaluable safety device is the light, and lots of it.

      Lights really do work. Mirrors? I still need convincing.

      • Judy says:

        Doesn’t sound like you’ve actually tried a good one. You sound like me after years af riding without one. They are especially helpful when you are not an edge rider and are controlling the full lane. Everyone who rides as a driver in the full lane and has tried one doesn’t want to do without it. There has been wide discussion of it. Of course the racers are slow to adopt as I was. Ask Gary C or Shawn Wallace

        • fsethd says:

          In theory, maybe. But I’ve yet to come upon a rider with a mirror who ever saw me. I’ve also never been hit from behind. The times I’ve had close calls a mirror would not have helped.

          And “everyone” sounds like a very big sample size. Also, just because people like them doesn’t mean they are invaluable for safety, it just means they think they are safer.

          Saying racers are slow to adopt doesn’t prove anything, as people are often slow to adopt things that don’t work very well. For example, Cat Ears–yes, they shield your ears but there’s no evidence they make riding safer, just people who *think* they can hear better.

          Gary and I disagree on quite a few things, so just because he has one and likes it doesn’t sell the device. They are distracting and give a false sense of security.

          Four thumbs down for now!

  • Naftali says:

    The same at Post Offices worldwide Curious, is this the same in Japan?

  • Judy says:

    No false sense of security. Just more awareness sooner. When you’ve tried one you can give a judgement. Yes it’s important nto be looking ahead. Which is a lot easier to do when you can give quick periodic scans.behind more often without turning around. It makes communicating with drivers easier. Which keeps them far away.

    • fsethd says:

      Actually I can give judgment without ever trying one if the arguments are unconvincing. It’s like saying you can’t judge falling off a cliff until you’ve done it.

      I deny there is more awareness; mirror users are never aware of me when I approach and I always wait until I’m pulling past them to say hello because otherwise they are so startled.

      Awareness of the wrong things does not enhance safety or riding skills. By the time you see the car going to hit you in the mirror, you’re already hit, and the odds that you’ll be checking your mirror at the time that’s happening are minuscule.

      Best safety move is to control the lane and be lit up like a Christmas tree and wear hi-viz clothing of some kind. Mirrors are a gimmick that distract you from where all the action is on a bike: in front of you.

      Moreover, when you’re in a paceline the distraction of even a half-second to check your mirror can cause you to cross wheels and fall. I would never give periodic scans behind me when riding in a tight group or a fast rotation.

      And the “try it” argument works both ways. Don’t knock the dangers of using a mirror until you’ve ridden a tightly bunched group at max speed through twisting terrain when your heart rate is pegged.

      Finally, I have no problems communicating with drivers as long as they see me. No way a mirror helps drivers see me; lights on the other hand are huge.

      So many people have nice bikes and crappy lights or none at all.

  • Judy says:

    I have ridden in a paceline. And I agree.a mirror may mot.be so useful in that situation. I also believe that.that kind of.riding is inherently more.dangeous. The risk may be worth the rewards to you. Usually when.driving a car you are not close.enough to not.be able to stop in time if the car in front has to stop short. The fault is with the driver in back. The mirror’s value is most when driving in traffic sharing the lane with cars either when alone or in a group. Which happens on the way to and from the group ride. I always see riders.behind me. I’m not to concerned with them as it’s their responsibility to give space when passing. It’s not my responsibility to move over for.them. I also had no problem.controlling the lane and communicating without.the mirror it can be done well. There’s a whole new.level of safety with it. And especially a whole new confidence for riders who don’t feel confident controlling the lane. People with mirrors see me all the time so that statement that they Never do is also over the top.

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