Sunday, December 14, 2008

The Post Office: An Allegory

Is there such thing as a dead allegory? If not, there should be, and I nominate the post office. Like a dead metaphor, a dead allegory cannot be a pretty thing, but metaphors die because they are so apt as to be overused, and the post office is so dense in its bureaucratic ineptness, and we are so in thrall to its power, that I must go once more into the breach.

I had four condolence cards to mail and no stamps. Thursday morning, on the way to work, I went to the terrible post office in City--the one I remind myself never to go to again, each time I enter its doors, but which is so convenient I forget. You could hear post office employees chattering in the back, but there was only one such employee at the counter, and you never saw anyone weigh packages so slowly. With two people and their packages in line in front of me, I left. Did I mention there was no stamp machine? Though I'm sure postal policy is made in some bunker-like HQ in Washington, I couldn't help but think that this particular post office's combination of no machine and glacial employees has something to do with the Communist-leaning politics of City.

Yesterday I went to the main post office in Town, just after it closed, but I knew they had machines. It turns out they have only one machine. Apparently the introduction of the mail-your-own-package machine, the use of which I have certainly enjoyed, has made the stamp machine redundant. Which means that even if you just want a packet of stamps, you must wait while everyone in front of you mails their packages, because there is only one machine. Too many people with too many packages, so I left, as I also left the next post office I happened to drive by.

This morning, at the post office again, I finally found a line with just one person in front of me, finishing up her package. I got to the machine, cash in hand, and discovered it only takes debit and credit cards. Not a huge issue in the scheme of things, especially as I had my wallet with me, not just a few bills stuck in my pocket, as is often the case, but, still, an abrogation of individual choice. I pushed my buttons, slid my card, and received, for my effort, Nutcracker stamps.

I deleted the expletive which initially preceded those Nutcracker stamps, because my expletive habit is unattractive in person and less attractive in print, but surely it is visible behind the brevity of phrase and the abrupt end-stop of paragraph. Do I look like the kind of person who wants Nutcracker stamps? OK, you can't see me. But do I sound like that kind of person? No, I do not. I do not want Nutcracker stamps for condolence cards; I do not want Nutcracker stamps for anything. But I did want to send my condolence cards, so I adorned them with Nutcracker stamps, put them in the slot, and convinced the nice woman who had been in line in front of me, and was still organizing her package, to buy the rest.

Remember those stamp machines with the glass windows? The ones where you put in your cash and chose your stamp, and it only took a moment? They were good. They met my needs. They probably met your needs, unless you were my grandmother, and needed the solidity of human contact for every interaction. Now they are gone, and I am left, if the post office has its way, with Nutcracker stamps.


Phantom Scribbler said...

Now I need to go to our post office just to see if the stamp machine is still there.

Kelly said...

I procrastinate most when I need a trip to the post office...because I need a trip to the post office like I need a boot in my arse. Which is not at all. Which is to say, I feel you.

jackie said...

I'm currently procrastinating two packages I need to return (clothes that didn't fit) because I get so frustrated at the post office....

landismom said...


I confess, I've been buying stamps from the ATM at my bank for years. Which are flag stamps--not my favorite.