Monday, February 1, 2010
Visit to the post office~
Our mail comes to the mailbox at our driveway's end—a black plastic box that replaced the metal one the plow took down last winter. This is where I stick my outgoing mail, as well, flipping the red flag to attention so the mailman will stop, which he'd do anyway, because there are always supermarket fliers to deliver, if not bills. But today I need to mail a book to someone who reviews for the Internet Review of Books, so I go to the post office.
Post offices are funny places--friendlier than the Registry of Motor Vehicles, but not much more efficient. I've met some great people in both, and had some wonderful conversations while waiting my turn. Efficiency is not conducive to chatting; I'm fine waiting and talking.
Today I stand in line with a book in a "Priority Mail" envelope and a five-dollar bill in hand to pay $4.90 to send the book from snowy New England to New Mexico's desert in a day or two.
The line shuffles forward; only one of the two windows is open, but people are patient. Each person has a reason to wait—they send packages to servicemen, birthday gifts to grandchildren, a camera to a winning eBay bidder. And a book to a reviewer.
The clerk is Al. He has a toupee. It's an old one, well-worn, and the part is wide as a pencil… white fabric of some sort, no hair there. He's a serious man and he always asks me five questions:
Do I want delivery confirmation?
Do I want something else?
Do I want another thing?
And when my package is in the bin behind him, do I want stamps, today?
No, thanks. Have a good day. Bye.
Today, when he opens his mouth to ask, I say with a smile, "No, no, no, no, no. I'll save you from asking. You must be sick of saying it."
"I could say it in my sleep," he says.
Puffy eyed from a wakeful night, I say, "At least you sleep."
"First I talk to my uncle Jim," he tells me. I notice his lack of a wedding ring. I picture him, lonely, touching base with his uncle, his mother's brother maybe, before he sleeps.
And I get it. I laugh. "Your uncle Jim Beam?" I ask. "And Uncle Jack…?" I know the name, but I can't bring it to mind.
"Daniels," he says. His eyes twinkle and I don't even look at his toupee. I see the life in his eyes instead.
"You know," I tell him, "I have an Auntie Merlot. Maybe I should give her a call tonight.
"You should," he tells me. He smiles and forgets to ask if I want stamps, which I don't.