Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Pandora's Mailbox

I've been really sad to hear about the woes of the Postal Service (the actual government agency, not the electropop band that I gave to Jeff on a mix tape before I learned that he hated them with a burning passion he normally reserves for Billy Joel--who, for the record, I also heart, but I'm really digressing here and I need to end these parentheses, so, fin.)

But yeah, I actually love getting mail. Kind of psychotically. I watch Blue's Clues like 500 times a day now, and I'm not lying when I say that I can really relate to the mail song that the main eunuch character, Steve, performs every episode:

I don't even really care if I get any, I just like checking it, because something about opening the mailbox holds such promise. (This could also be related to the fact that I currently rely on freelance checks, which arrive totally unpredictably. Fun for my mail fetish, sad for my checking account balance! Sad trombone noise, which I hope makes TD Bank feel sorry for me and refund those overdraft fees.) I legit get depressed if I get excited to check the mail and it turns out to be a federal holiday, so this no-mail-on-Saturdays business is bumming me out.

Not that I don't understand, of course. Because regardless of their Santa-like job, the USPS kind of sucks. And anyone who has waited in line at a New York City post office can attest to this.

Some of you small-town folk might have wonderful, Andy Griffith-style post offices with cheery staff and short lines (I have actually witnessed this, in Block Island, Rhode Island, and I kept looking around for Rod Serling, that's how freaky it was), but here in New York it is bleak.

First of all, there is always a line at least 12 people deep. And there are always at least four people visibly working behind the bullet-proof glass. BUT HERE'S WHERE IT GETS CRAZY: Without fail, two of them are not servicing customers.

Now, in my opinion, the bullet-proof glass wouldn't be necessary if anyone not actually working at a service window, oh, I don't know, worked somewhere other than right in the fucking window. But I'm no expert.

Which leads me to the next fundamental problem with the post office:

At any given moment, 99% of the people in front of you in line... have never used a post office before. In fact, I'd wager that at least 50% of them have no idea what it's even for.

I know this because every single person who waits in line at the post office takes at least 25 minutes at the window. I like to imagine that the conversations go something like this:
Patron: Excuse me, where am I?
Postal Worker: [Shrugs]
Patron: Is this a store?
Postal Worker: Kind of.
Patron: What do you sell?
PW: We box up your stuff and send it somewhere else. Also we sell money orders.
Patron: What is a money order?
PW: I have no idea. It involves a lot of paperwork and me disappearing at least four times.
Patron: Well, I definitely want one of those then. Now tell me more about the other stuff.
PW: Do you want to mail a package?
Patron: Maybe. What can I mail?
PW: Anything except explosives and booze.
Patron: Can I mail my left shoe? That's all I really have.
PW: Sure.
Patron: OK, what do I need?
PW: A box, for starters.
Patron: I'll take it!
PW: What size?
Patron: Whichever one is least appropriate for the dimensions of the contents.
PW: Great. Do you want packing tape, too?
Patron: Oh, no, I'm going to go over in the corner and stick it together with gum and affix a few Delivery Confirmation forms for good measure, which I'll fill out incorrectly.
PW: Super. OK, your total is $8.75, just sign here and--
Patron: Where? You'll have to guide my hand, I'm legally blind.
PW: No problemo. Now you go box up your package and when you're done come right back here and elbow whoever is at my window out of the way. Then we're going to repeat this entire scene. 
During this exchange, I think bad thoughts and work on my telekinetic powers, which I will someday use to remove the "closed" but still right in fucking front of us window workers from their seats, ejector-style.

This is why I like to stay home and eagerly wait for the mailman. Actually visiting a post office completely kills the romance.

[Jeff: "Like Billy Joel."]

[Me: "NOT like Billy Joel. Like Steve from Blue's Clues. He's wears pleat-front khakis."]


  1. Years ago, I worked for a magazine and had to go to the main offices near Penn Station. Not the I-need-to-mail-something offices, mind you, but the this-is-where-the-magic-happens offices. It was like stepping 60 years into the past. Think of the most depressing office you can imagine---dirty wall-to-wall carpeting, soul-sucking fluorescent lights, those sticky mouse catchers everywhere. Just walking through the door inspired suicidal thoughts. I sat there in a woman's cubicle for over an hour waiting for her computer (that was probably older than I was) to work. It's really a wonder how they manage to ever get any mail to anyone ever.

  2. I miss my Kansas City post office. It was never busy. The last time I went to the post office here, I actually cried. Like, tears. It was embarrassing, and it probably had more to do with PMS than the postal worker, but still...bad memories.

    I'm sad about Saturdays.

  3. If you want to feel better about any other post office, try the one in the Pentagon. It serves about 20,000 people with three - count 'em - three "service" windows. At any given time, no more than two of them will be occupied by by surly people who want you to know how little they think of your business. At peak times (lunch time and any time between November 15th and Christmas Eve), they will usually cut back to one surly "worker." In general, though, your comments are spot on!

  4. 1. Never, EVER go to the post office on 34th Street. You know the one. The giant, mega post office right across from MSG? Yeah. Hell on earth.

    2. Do yourself a giant favor. Go to and print mailing labels that way. Schedule a pickup and you're golden! You can be naked and no one will even care!

  5. I am laughing to the point of tears here because I honestly have often wondered, while secretly clenching and unclenching my fists in my pockets, what the people in front of me are doing at the post office that could possibly take so long. And I share your affection for the mailbox, despite its almost perfect record of disappointing me. It is the way I am most like my dog: I just can't get over that optimism, no matter how many times I come away with a fistful of grocery flyers and an issue of Bass Fishing from a former resident. (And I don't even get freelance checks.)

  6. This is how I feel about the ATM. Why is it so freaking complicted for some people? have they never been to the ATM before? I can depost 6 checks (sadly, I dont' get paid to write anything- these are checks to my kids from my grandma) beofre the person next to me has finished entering thier PIN. And my bank makes you deposit one at a time and answer 33 questions about the check- is this the correct amount? Do you accept the deposit? Do you have another transaction? Deposit or withdrawl? Would you like a receipt? Are you ready to deposit your enxt check? Please re-enter your PIN.

    I've pretty much typed the Preamble to the Constitution using old skool number-texting and the lady next to me is finally finishing up her PIN. Just go inside and let the teller do it for you! Good grief!!

  7. THIS! Yes, I so completely agree *Especially* around the holidays. Any holiday.

    I just have to say, I found your blog through Pregnant Chicken, and you are freaking hilarious. One of my new favorite blogs. Thanks for sharing!

  8. Wow, this sounds like my DMV experience last week. 400 people waiting on hard plastic chairs for 15 windows where FOUR people are working. And they don't even call the numbers in order. I'm holding a ticket for G101 and they call F632 followed by A215. So, am I next, or last, or (most likely) never? Does the G stand for "Gotcha sucker!"? I blindly waited 2 1/2 hours for a grumpy octogenarian to look up from her email and say, I can't do anything for you, you don't have the right paperwork. I don't think it's the workers they have to worry about "going postal," am I right?


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