Tuesday, June 19, 2007

oh the post office

I've been lazy about going to the post office these past two weeks. Patti, who was staying with me for a few days, asked me to ship a box of books out to Washington so that she wouldn't have to take it on the plane with her. Finally, this morning, I got my act together and lugged the box of books to the post office. Here I've always thought it was just around the corner, practically, but when you're lugging a box intended to carry about twenty Harry Potter books (this would be a box directly from Scholastic to the bookstore, emblazoned on all sides with Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince), the ten minute walk seems nigh on interminable.

I'm finally on line at the post office, only two people in front of me, and thinking to myself, yay, I am just so smart, getting here right when they open their doors at 8am, I'll have plenty of time to mail this box, grab a cup of coffee, and still get to the office by 9. When I'm second in line, one of the two women behind the plexiglass safety wall calls out, "Honey, are you sending that box back to the company?" I, confused, shake my head in the negative. She says, "Honey, you can't send a box like that unless it's going back to the company, but maybe you could wrap it up in brown paper." I ask if they sell brown paper. She says no, but there's a 99-cent store up the block that sometimes carries rolls of it. She then says the 99-cent store opens at 9. I, utterly dejected, turn to go. With my Harry Potter box full of books. She calls me back, says I could just buy one of their ready-to-mail boxes, and since book rate shipping is so cheap, even with the $3.19 for the box and the $.10 for the use of their tape, it won't be so bad. I say okay. She passes me a box, a pair of scissors, and a roll of tape through the pass-through. I start putting the box together. She stops me with another holler across the room. Asks if I want to just send it priority mail instead, because priority won't be too much more expensive than book rate, and minus the $3 for the box, I'll just about break even anyway. And I can use my own box, just wrap their special Priority Mail tape all around the outside of it, completely covering up the Harry Potter, don't you see. I say okay. I send her the partially-folded ready-to-mail box, the first roll of tape, and the scissors back through the pass-through in exchange for the Priority Mail tape. Post Office tape, as it turns out, is crap, and shreds like you wouldn't believe. But I persevere. I wrap up that Harry Potter box so excessively in Priority Mail tape that you would never, ever guess there was anything untoward on that box. I go back to the window. She weighs my box, does a double take at her computer screen, says, "Oh, honey, I'm sorry, I guess I was wrong. Priority Mail must've gone up recently. This'll cost you $32!" I cringe. She pulls out from behind the counter an already-used, only slightly-worse-for-wear ready-to-mail box, hands it over with the roll of non-priority-mail tape, apologetic, says, "Put those books in here instead." She can't find the scissors I just gave her. Two other postal workers help look for the scissors. They're next to the pass-through. She sends 'em on back to me. I go back to the counter by the windows, transfer the books from my originally-Harry-Potter-box, now maniacal Priority-Mail-Box, and get back in line, trying to neither laugh nor cry. Total cost: $7.23. Total time: 50 minutes. I don't know why postal workers would go postal, but I understand why the rest of us might. Patti, you know I love you.

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