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.

I say nothing, and he says, "I talk to my uncle Jim, or my uncle Jack."

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.

No, thanks.


Tim Elhajj said...

ha, ha! Paging Mr Beam. Paging Mr Danials. Good story Ruth.

Tere said...

I love this very simple interaction. And I love how you take a seemingly routine trip and turn it into something memorable.

Rozel said...

Love, love, love the photo of the family with the mail man. It is so nostalgic. Reminds me of a Norman Rockwell painting. Speaking of which, did you see the google home page?

I used to get all fired up everytime I went to the post office because they are so slow and they never have enough help. Now I am excited that it takes me out of the office for so long - ha! ha!

Ruth D~ said...

Rozel: That photo is my daughter holding our granddaughter and my husband. The occasion the delivery of Harry Potter back when the most recent book came out. :>)

Wanda said...

Love, love, love this encounter at the Post Office.

My favorite line is "the part as wide as a pencil"...I was smiling through the read.... :)

Alice Folkart said...

Ruth, wonderful - the toupee. The uncles. The questions and the five 'no's' - your keen eye and ear, your lively imagination take us with you to the post office where you have time to chat in line and talk to the clerk and let the two of you be humans instead of a postal clerk and 'next in line!' The Dept of Motor Vehicles and the Post Office are two great levelers - everyone (well, almost everyone) has to go to these places and meet everyone else who has to go. Great stories for those sharp enough to see and hear them, like our Ruth!

You've inspired me - I'm going to the PO tomorrow! Thanks.


Pauline said...

Leisurely lines can be fun - all sorts of interesting things can happen if you don't mind waiting. I watched this little word movie with a grin.

sc morgan said...

Hi Ruth-- Back after being without internet for quite awhile.

I loved this, very funny; it reminded me of my mother's post office where one of the clerks has a name tag that reads: Lawrence, don't call me Larry.

Duchess said...

Well now, I thought those loyal to Jack never strayed to Jim and vice versa. But I enjoyed your story very much.

In England post offices are often inside shops. Mostly you don't get much information out of them, but every now and again they surprise you. When I was sending some things to my daughter in Uganda the clerk asked me did I want to send it registered mail, because the post was very unreliable there. I said, What's the difference? Will it help if I send it registered? He said, Oh, yes, if you send it registered they have to sign for it before they steal it.

Willis said...


Nishant said...

I love this very simple interaction.
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