I got on my bike and glided all the way downhill to the post office, leaned it against the glass windows and went in. I didn’t lock my bike. The average post office patron is the last person on earth who is going to want to pedal a getaway bike anywhere, much less up a long hill.
The minute I walked in I was hit with the Post Office Gloom. Everyone was angry. The people in line were angry. The clerks were angry. Even the people checking their p.o. boxes were angry. Angry, angry, angry.
It kind of makes sense. The only reason you go to the post office is because you are cheap. If you wanted it done right the first time you’d shell out an extra twelve cents for the UPS store right around the corner. When you go into the UPS store it’s like that part in The Wizard of Oz where it goes from black-and-white to Technicolor. Walking into the post office is like walking from Technicolor into a slow buzz saw, eyeballs first.
Nope, you’re at the post office because you are a cheapass and you are now in a concentrating tank of other cheapasses. It’s like being at a flea market. No one is there for any reason other than they are a cheapass. And everyone knows everyone else is a cheapass, so no one dresses up. The women are in house slippers. The men are wearing slouchy workout pants and sweatshirts. Everyone notices, no one cares.
The lady in front of me was really angry. I mean, she was steaming mad. She wasn’t holding anything, she was just tapping her foot and fuming. If I’d had eggs in a skillet I could have made lunch laying that thing atop her skull.
There were only two clerks and a bunch of customers, which spread the mad because there were three other clerks milling around in back. “Next,” said the dude at the counter. He said it the same way you say “Fuck off” to someone whose existence you barely even notice.
The lady didn’t move. Instead, she said in a very loud voice from the head of the line, “I want to talk to the supervisor!”
The clerk didn’t bat an eye. He yanked out a piece of scratch paper, scrawled on it, and shoved it over the counter. “Here’s his number, lady.” You could tell he was about as scared of his supervisor as he was of a cockroach. “Next,” he said in that fuck you voice, and next was me.
Every bullet has a billet
People hate the post office because the employees there don’t give two squirty shits about the customers, but that’s what I like about the post office. Why should people have to put up with your bullshit just because they have a job? Why should you have to trade off your dignity for money, ever, for anything? Charles Bukowski used to work at the post office. What more do you need to know?
I pity Starbucks baristas, catering to every spoiled little PV brat who throws a tantrum because she got pink sprinkles instead of green on her juniper spiced latte. “Oh, you wanted green sprinkles? I’m so sorry! Here, let me make you a whole new drink! Sorry about that! Can I lick the spaces in between your toes while I’m at it?”
At the post office, it’s basically “Fuck you” in three flavors, and they are the same ones that have been on the menu since about 1928. Post office clerks have job security and they don’t need you. Don’t like it? Fuck you. Going to trade at UPS or FedEx instead? Fuck you. Going to tattle to the super? Fuck you. “Next.”
“Hi,” I said to the clerk. I’d show him that I wasn’t like the other annoyed, toe-tapping jerks who were angry the minute they walked in. I’d be a little ray of sunshine.
He glanced up and his face said, “Don’t pull that ‘hi’ shit on me.”
His voice said, “What do you want?”
I handed my certified mail to him. He had obviously been at the post office since the 70’s, but it might as well have been the first piece of certified mail he’d ever seen, which is another old hand post office trick. The people in line fumed. “Oh, a certified mail wise guy?” they were thinking. “Now we’re going to be here until February.”
Of course post office customers are cheap, but they also come in with the most complicated transactions, arms full of badly wrapped boxes, purses overflowing with forms incorrectly filled out, or wanting seventeen stamp denominations with certain pictures on them and by the way, what is the postal code for this tiny village in Afghanistan? And since they know their own business is going to take forever, it boils their brains to think that someone else is taking more than twelve seconds to finish up.
The clerk took forever but I smiled stupidly. He messed it up then started all over again. “How’s your ‘hi’ shit doing now?” he seemed to say. I didn’t smile but I didn’t frown.
He finally got it done. Then he reached over and grabbed a giant stamp and slammed it down on my receipt. It was an angry slam, a fuck you slam, a get-your-shit-out of my face slam. Then he shoved the receipt over the counter like he was passing a basketball through heavy traffic in the lane.
“Thanks!” I said. “Have a nice day.”
The clerk’s eyelids raised to the three-quarter mark. He eyed me for the briefest of moments, just long enough for me to get the fuck you loud and clear. “Next,” he said.
My bike was still there when I walked outside.