I just wanted to buy some stamps

July 28, 2010

I was in line at the post office today, waiting to purchase some stamps. There were two postal workers at the counter, and only a handful of people in line. It should have been a short wait. Unfortunately, it was apparently the day that all the “special” people fulfill their postal needs, because the entire time I was there, one of the workers was helping the same customer. Shortly after I walked in, the second worker finished helping someone mail a package, and the man in front of me went up to the counter. He had a small CD in a plastic case, which he placed on the counter.

“Can you tell me,” he said in his crochety-old-man voice, “what it would take to mail this?”

The postal lady looked at it and replied, politely, “you would need to get an envelope for it sir.”

“Where can I get an envelope? You-all have them back there?”

“Well we have some along our wall over there for purchase, you could probably get away with one of the small padded envelopes.”

Because I was standing between the envelopes and the crochety old man, I grabbed the envelope in question and handed it to the postal worker.

“How much is it?” he asked petulantly.

“It’s $1.26 sir.”

He became agitated. “ONE DOLLAR AND TWENTY SIX CENTS?! For an envelope?”

“You did ask me how to mail it. I’m just telling you how you can do that.” The postal lady replied, in a surprisingly even and respectful tone.

“What if I just put it in a regular envelope? How much are those?”

“I wouldn’t recommend it, sir. Those are for mailing letters. This one is for mailing packages.”

“All right then, how much’s gonna cost me to mail it?”

“Where are you sending it to, sir?”

“Well, I don’t have the address.”

“Um, so you didn’t want to mail it?”

“No, I just wanted to know how to mail it. And how much.”

“Okay, well I have to have a zip code to tell you how much it’s going to cost. Do you know approximately where it’s going?”

“Michigandia.” There was a pause while the postal lady gave him a blank stare. “You know, lower Michigan, upper Indiana.”

She set the package and the envelope on the scale, typed a few things into the computer and said, “That will be $1.76 to mail your package.”

The man let out an exasperated sigh and put his head in his hands. “One dollar and seventy six cents?” he muttered loudly, looking at the floor.

“Do you want to mail it, or not?” the postal lady responded, still alarmingly polite. “That’s what you have to pay.”

“So that’s, what, $1.76 to mail the package?”

“Well sir, you still would have to buy the envelope.”

“And how much was that?”


The math here was obviously quite beyond him, and the postal lady wasn’t inclined at this point to help him out, so there was another long pause while they both stared at each other.

“Fine,” he said, throwing a five dollar bill on the counter. “I’d like to buy $1.76 in stamps.”

At this point, I had finally met my personal limit on the amount of inane conversation and line-waiting that I could handle for one day. The poor postal lady was still searching through her books of stamps to find some combination that added up to $1.76 when I turned around and walked out, empty-handed.


kate said...

*sigh* I feel her pain.