Saturday, September 08, 2007

going postal

I can't even find a space to park and dreading the inevitable I head inside, the line winding to the door. The man before me has several packages, he's hunched over the counter in repose. I sigh, a heavy sigh and lift my own parcels on the long counter that stretches the length of the building. Behind me quickly comes three, four, five more.

Each as they enter sigh deeply, as if the vapid bureaucracy sucks the life out of them the moment they hit the door. I am impatient and I rummage around in my bag looking for some form of distraction. Finding none, I hunch as the others hunch before me.

Slowly we inch forward. I enter the hallowed double doors where the controllers of my morning sit like chattel, stamping and pecking and heaving packages into a bin. They move slowly because time is on their side. Slow or fast they've got eight hours to go.

There are seven stations but only three are open. Another sigh combined with the quick multiplication of the parcels and bodies in front of me. I hunch lower still. As we creep along the endless counter towards mecca there are occasional disturbances, heavy sighs and groans, a seething frustration binds us all.

The people three spaces in front of me are quietly arguing. A mother daughter situation I assume, and wonder what the issue is or how many issues it always is. The daughter turns her head in irritation suddenly fascinated by her chipped blue nail polish while her mother, haggard yet watchful nudges her forward. Sighs. More sighs.

Thirty minutes pass and I am second from the front. One of the three stations has been occupied by an elderly couple who in another language argue and argue and argue some more. Time is wasted on this couple and we all know it and will it to end. They argue on. I focus my energy on the remaining two, willing godspeed and a bit of charity. Please for the love of god move along.

The man in front of me finally gets a spin and lo and behold, he's not addressed his packages. Thirty odd minutes of hunching and he waits till he's sitting on the jackpot to blow his wad. I hate this man in this moment for his inconsideration and also his insensibility and lack of manners. A broken wheel in the cog and man overboard the boat will goddamn sail. Others notice and one man behind me groans and mutters what the fucking hell under his breath and I stand silently in solidarity.

Finally and painfully the person in the coveted next spot shuffles away from the station. The aged indian woman spends a few moments doing god knows what before acknowledging me forward. My entire body grimaces and yet feels strangely close to freedom. I start to itch.

Four parcels all the same. No insurance no delivery confirmation whatever is cheapest I implore and yet she asks me the same three questions for each and I want to weep on the counter from the futility of it all.

Finally she finishes and my parcels are tossed into the great postal abyss. She glances towards the door and says so many people waiting. Yes, I say, it seems it would go faster if there were more of you. She clucks, the universal clucking of women from ancient times till as far as I can see from my little town in America to India and all around the world. The clucking binds us for a moment, the centuries of women who stand in disappointment and resignedly push on.

They don't care how long you wait, she said. They don't care. And I know she is speaking of the Man. I know, I said, and for some reason I feel impulsive and want to give her a long embrace or at least touch her brittle hand. But I don't and my eyes fall downward, exhausted from the tepid peeling paint and the utter lack of anything other than longing for the door. I turn and leave and walk out into the sun and as I make my escape I think of her clucking, clucking for seven lifetimes more.

39 comments:

Christine said...

jen.

do you know what your writing makes people feel? it makes us feel in the moment, in your head, and in your heart.

i loved this post as it went from a tale of frustration to a tale of solidarity.

and i thought MY post office wait this morning as bad!

Pgoodness said...

I enjoy your musings. Your writing is so real - I was standing there with you.

I have to ask though: your post office doesn't have a fancy self-serve package machine? I don't even walk in the door anymore if I can't weigh and stamp my own stuff! It's the little things - a machine like that, a touch of a brittle hand..

The Super Bongo said...

my goodness - you peg it perfectly.

my local p.o. has a station for "self service" -- I've finally figured out how it works - and now I never never stand in line unless I absolutely must. The added bonus is that I'm one of three "people" in my town who knows the secret of the self serve kiosk and thus never have a line.

soul sucking is what happens in the line. soul sucking

Kyla said...

This was great. It is like reliving an experience you've had over and over, but this time someone is standing beside you pointing the tiny glimmer of beauty and solidarity that is in it. You have a knack for that, for sure.

flutter said...

What the fucking hell, for sure. I loved this, as annoying as it must have been for you. Your writing has really matured, Jen.

kristen said...

you've captured EVERYTHING about standing in the postal line that makes me want to gouge out my eyeball with the attached, waiting pen (that apparently your dude didn't use).

How sad that I'm thinking, "at least there's 3 people in your post office"...our post office has one person, ONE, and wearing his brown buddhist beads wrapped around his arm, the man is impossibly slow. I kid you not, that he'll stand there and COUNT HIS CASH DRAWER while a line of 10 people stands there waiting. He is the epitome of I don't care, I've got 8 hours here.
Fantastic post honey. xoxo

bubandpie said...

That feeling of standing in line at the post office? The soul-sucking stifled restlessness, the futility? That's how it felt to me to go past my due date: five days with Bub, six with Pie. As if you've got to the post office and now no one will let you leave.

Julie Pippert said...

You captured that time and feeling so well...just awesome!

I know that feeling, but...not from my current post office. Post offices in small towns are so different.

You know very well what you ought to have done before you hit Jackie's desk, and of course, we all want to stay in good with her. So we take care of our business on the desks outside the swinging doors before going to the line.

Jackie sees you and says, "Girlfriend, where are the little ones?"

"In the car with dad," I say.

"Don't have to keep them off the birthday packaging," she laughs.

I ask about her so at college, she tells me, we wrap it up quickly, and everyone is smiling at one another. I often even run into friends there, or people I know.

It's another one of those good social connection spots, in a small town (and good place for nosiness too LOL).

Julie
Using My Words

Beck said...

You ARE a terrific writer.
Our local post office is small and dire, but there are never long line-ups, because there just aren't enough people in my town.

kgirl said...

I'll never look at package delivery the same way again. Spectacular writing.

Her Grace said...

My least favorite errand, described perfectly. You write with perfect insight and detail, Jen. This was great.

meno said...

You have desribed perfectly why i avoid the post office. Soul-sucking beauracracy.

Gwen said...

I always try to avoid the p.o., too, even in my smallish suburb. Post traumatic stress disorder I think from years of standing in that line in the city.

Lovely writing, Jen.

Tabba said...

how you can take something like going to the post office and work it, ply it, and write it the way you did.
art and craft and mastery.

at it's best.

mitzh said...

This made me feel as if I was there with you.

Beautifully written. You are truly amazing!

Lawyer Mama said...

Now this is a perfect post, babe. In your anecdote, you've described how we all feel so often in life. You help us find meaning in the perfectly mundane.

KC said...

This reminds me of my Bowels of Hell post on the DMV...reading this, I trudged along with you, wearing the heavy chains of futility in shackles around my ankles.

slouching mom said...

I, like Julie, live in a small enough town that going to the PO is (gulp) almost pleasurable. But having grown up in NYC, I also know POs like you've written about -- so evocatively -- here.

Oh, The Joys said...

No one but you could bring such eloquence and justice to waiting in line at the post office.

crystal said...

I loved it! I avoid the post office at all costs. I use pack-n-mail now. It's awesome.

ewe are here said...

I have been in that line.

The misery. The sheer misery.

painted maypole said...

I have been there, too. I always feel a bit badly for the workers, because by the time those in line get to their windows they are all angry and frustrated. Must be about as much fun as being a customer service person at the cable company. Blech.

When I went in last week a guy ahead of me was from the sell it on ebay shop. I kid you not when I say he had over 100 packages. You should have heard the moaning from everyone else. And even still I was in line less than 20 minutes.

Janet said...

They don't care how long you wait, she said. They don't care.

I wonder if They have to kill her now that she has admitted it out loud?

Such an evocative post, Jen. A pleasure to read you, as always.

Blog Antagonist said...

I LOATHE going to the post office and you captured why beautifully. I have to say though that the folks that work at ours are amazingly cheerful given what they have to put up with.

Cagey said...

What a beautiful, eloquent, thoughtful post that hit all the right nuances.

About standing in line at the post office.

LOVE IT.

I did not mind the post office very much until my son became mobile. Now, I hate those people with a passion. THEM..... with their "Don't let your precious progeny sit on our precious counters. Instead let them run rampant while we take forever to help you." signage posted everywhere.

thailandchani said...

I go as infrequently as possible. Most of the time I can use the self service but there are those rare occasions when I have to stand in that line.

I hate it! And I rarely say that about anything!

The lines are usually so long that I have to weave through dozens of people, even to get to my post office box.

Couldn't pay me enough, as they say.. to work in that environment.



Peace,

~Chani
http://thailandgal.blogspot.com

urban-urchin said...

ah the dread of going to the post office. I try to always use the self service thingee- it's saved my sanity more than once.

jen said...

you know, i checked out that self service thing but they didn't seem to have a way to choose Media Mail and I was all about the media mail. Dudes. I am all for automated anything.

QT said...

Oh jen, I avoid the post office at all costs. I will go to a Send It Now or whatever those independent places are called. I can't take the PO at all!!!

Nice post, sister ~

Orangeblossoms said...

Oh Jen! For all of your stress, you are still so kind and supportive when you visit my (momentarily uninspired) blog..... I hope you know that we are okay with blowing off a little steam along the way. Wish I could shoulder part of the burden...

jennifer said...

Beautiful post and beautiful writing Jen. I love to read here.
And on another note, if you want a truly glorious postal experience, try it in Italy! Going to the post office here in the US is a true joy for me since I returned to the states...

crazymumma said...

A movie should be done from the perspective of those who serve us in those interminable lines.

I love that in this particular pit of hell, you still made a human connection.

Susanne said...

You made poetry out of a tedious wait. I love it.

Ally said...

wow.

Wayfarer Scientista said...

Somehow in my interest in the Just Posts lists I missed this one. What a beautiful description of the every day. Sometimes I wonder if everybody using a different service then the US Post has made it what it is today - b/c now they're trying to be a "buisness" instead of trying to serve.

slackermommy said...

Only you could take a trip to the post office and turn it into such an eloquent story. I felt like I was standing in line with you.

seventh sister said...

I became exhausted just reading this. You put us right there with you, probably because we have all been there at one time or another.

Binky said...

What a fantastic piece. This is another example of your writing that reminds me how good you are at bringing your readers to the same place. We read this, and we all remember how much we hate the USPS. But on another day you could write about something or someone inspiring that you witnessed at that same post office, and we'll all wax nostalgic about the packages we've sent off over the years. That's very interesting to me. And kinda heavy, too--to think about the power of words and how easy it can be, if you've got the touch, to sway others.

luckyzmom said...

Breathe jen breathe. I love to wait in line, because I like to people watch. In the stores I like to make faces at the babies and little kids or sans kids, see what kind of stuff other people are buying and wonder at their purpose. At the post office is most fun. Oh, and waiting for a table in a restuarant I've had some great conversations. Seeing what people are checking out at the library. So shoot me!