‘Tis the holiday season…unfortunately. No matter your celebration preference, there seems to be one thing all holidays have in common: CHAOS. There is chaos at the mall. There is chaos at the local stores. There is chaos at the grocery store. There is chaos at the pet store. But most of all, there is chaos at the post office…
The news on Monday for the U.S. Postal Service was grim. CNN was reporting it to the “most popular day to ship packages for the year.” They showed pictures of packages piling up in postal sorting rooms, over burden postal carriers, and the dread long lines at postal counters. One anchor said, “If you have to ship today, be prepared to wait…in line…” He finished his report off with an evil grin.
I watched Monday’s news from the comfort of my couch. ‘I’m glad that I’m not there,’ I thought to myself. I turned my attention back to the report just as the news anchors begun to discuss how to properly address and pack a box. They were specifically discussing proper postal etiquette on re-purposed boxes. It reminded me of what was sitting in my house at that very moment. I had a package to ship. Looking up I saw the innocuous box sitting on a chair. It mocked me as it sat. I had used an old copy toner box to package a present for a guinea pig rescue. Eventually, I would have to face the post office.
Alfalfa must have known something was bothering me. He snuggled up to my feet and began to chirp very softly. “Oh, dude,” I lamented, “I have to go to the postal office on Tuesday. I am not looking forward to that.” The mere thought of those lines sent shivers up and down my spine. Alfalfa let out a whale of discontentment and snuggled in closer to my feet. “Don’t worry, dude,” I comforted him as I reached down to scratch his head, “I’ll come back after I go to that horrible place.” He squeaked again. “I know, I know,” I sighed continuing to scratch his head. “I know you don’t want me to go to the post office. But I have to…and it’s for a good cause. It’s for the guinea pigs.” Alfalfa shivered and snuggled into my hand. “Be still, dude. Be still. Mom is brave. I’ll be back… I promise.”
Tuesday, D-Day, the day to send my package…
Needless to say, I was not looking forward to sending my package on Tuesday. I woke up the morning, went through my morning ablutions, and reminded myself several times to wear comfortable shoes. I grabbed the package of doom and went to walk out of the house. As I left, Alfalfa darted out from the house into the hallway. “Dude,” I sighed, “I’ve got to go…” He stood his ground and began to angrily chatter his teeth at me. “Cut it out!” I admonished. “You know I need to go to work… and then the post office.” Alfalfa huffed at me. “Yes,” I said plainly, “I’m going to the post office. Deal with it.” Alfalfa huffed again. “Now get back in the house.” Alfalfa slowly walked back into the apartment. He stopped just far enough in so I could close the door. As it closed, he began to wail in discontent. That guinea pig truly thought the post office was going to be my end. “Oh, my poor baby,” I whispered as I walked up the stairs and off to work.
After school, I completed my teacher tasks, went to a meeting, and left as promptly as possible. I thought that if I got to the post office quickly, I would be the after work crowd. After all, I did start and end work earlier than most people. As I left the parking lot, I was caught in a min-traffic jam. ‘Where is everyone going?’ I thought as I waited and waited to leave the school parking lot. ‘Why is everyone going there at the same time?” also crossed my mind as I sat. It was a forewarning of things to come. Five minutes later, I was finally on my way to the post office.
Looking back on it now, there were warning signs outside of the post office that I should have heeded and avoided the whole place. But did I? NO. The first was the lack of parking. There was no on street parking in front of the postal office. I had to park in a lower lot for the community center and hike up four flights of stairs carrying a heavy and package. It was a long and tedious climb and my mind wandered. I almost dropped the package. That incident prompted me to imagine getting to the top of the stairs and launching the package back down the stairs with a flourish. I envisioned hay and pellets and cozies flying everywhere as the package went out in a blaze of glory. But, this package was for the guinea pigs. I couldn’t let them down.
I got to the top out of breath barely able to carry the package. “Oh,” I said breathing, “I need a break.” My second warning sign that I should avoid the post office arrived when a guy at the top of the stairs began to laugh at me.
“That was me about an hour ago…” he said plainly. I nodded as I caught my breath. “Post office?” he asked as he pointed at my package. I nodded again still out of breath. “Yeah,” he giggled, “Good luck with that… Merry Christmas.” I gave him a puzzled look as he continued on and down the stair. I still didn’t get it.
The final warning sign I received was in the form of an argument between a postal customer and a postal worker. She had parked her minivan FULL of packages in the driveway blocking all incoming traffic. He was explaining to her, “you can’t park here…regardless of how many packages you have…” Her argument was simple, “If you want me to move, then either help me with these packages or get me a cart…” He pleaded, “there are no carts available, please move your car…” As I walked by she threw open the side door the minivan and packages leaped out. They happily cascaded to their death in a puddle of water. *splash* I heard a scream of pure horror from the lady as I entered the lobby of the post office.
The lobby was a pool of pure chaos. Supervisors attempted to ‘fix’ lines of customers in order to ‘expedite’ the process. It wasn’t working. People were everywhere. Kids were crying. Old ladies were walking around with a stunned look on their face. ‘What is going on here?’ I thought as I got into the line labeled “PackAgeS”. The supervisor called, “Make sure you’re in the right line…packages here, mail there, picking up only can come to me…” His announcement made me worry, ‘Am I in the right line?’
So, I asked him, “Am I in the right line?”
He looked down at me and said, “Do you have a package?”
“Yes,” I said looking down at my package.
“Are you in the package line?” he asked next.
“Yes,” I said plainly. I was totally confused and must have given him a confused look.
“Well, then… YES, you are in the right line…” he said with a frown on his face and walked away.
“Bah-humbug,” I called from the line to the supervisor. He didn’t hear or want to hear my comment. The man in front of me giggled at me. “What?” I said a bit defensive. “He deserved that…”
“True,” the man said, “But they are under a lot of stress right now.”
“Yeah,” I agreed. I sighed and dug my phone out of pocket. This was going to be a long wait.
*15 minutes later*
I was finally out of the lobby and in the main area of the post office. I was making progress. Unfortunately, I saw that the counter persons were in no hurry to do any ‘expediting’ of the lines. They were taking their time. There was no sense of urgency or holiday cheer. I saw that I had not made it half way through the line. My spirits sunk. ‘I may be trapped for the rest of my natural life,’ I thought, ‘Just like that Dr. Who episode with the whole city in the traffic jam. But my trap is the post office…’ I sighed. “I’m going to die,” I said out loud to myself.
The guy in front of me offered up a bit of advice, “You’ll survive. Patience Daniel-Son, patience…”
“Yes, Seine,” was all I could say in response. I was miserable. My phone was boring. My wait was boring. ‘Why am I here?’ was all I could think. The weight in my arms reminded me of my package. I needed a distraction. The universe must have heard my plea. The distraction arrived in the form of a supervisor’s wrath.
“What the hell happened here?” I heard a man yell from behind the counter.
There were two post office clerks on duty. I’ll call them ‘left lady’ and ‘right lady’. “The holidays…” right lady said and left lady giggled.
“Why hasn’t anyone taken these packages to the back?” he asked both.
“We are busy,” left lady said not missing a beat.
“We have a long line,” right lady added. The supervisor stood with his hands on his hips to survey the situation. ‘He’s going to make an ‘important’ decision,’ I thought watching him.
“Ok,” he said, “I’ll help.” I was surprised by his reaction. He bent over and started to pick up boxes. Once they were stacked as high as possible, he began to make his way back to the sorting room. There was one problem. He had stacked the boxes too high. As he tried to duck through the door, the top package caught. It fell over and tumbled towards the other precarious stacks of packages.
The errant package hit the bottom of one of the piles. Gravity and momentum took over. The first stack slowly tilted and started to tumble. Then those boxes took out two more piles. It was a game of life sized dominoes…with packages. It was an awesome sight. Crash, bang, fall, bong, scrape went the boxes as they all fell to their deaths. I took in a swift breath and held it as silence fell over the lobby of the post office. No one dared break the moment. No one dared mention what had happened. All of that holiday joy, that bundled love, those potentially fragile, but not liquid, flammable, or explosive gifts, all, all, of that fell to the floor. How could this be?
Then a little boy of about 4 broke the silence. He began to clap and yelled, “Do it again! Do it again!” That was all that was needed to start the laughter, comments, and lively discussion on what just had happened.
The supervisor came back. He hadn’t realized what he had done. “What is this mess?” he yelled. “Who did this?” he yelled louder. The room erupted with, “YOU!” and “You’re a moron,” and “Do you treat all packages like that?” and “No wonder my stuff is always damaged when I ship it.” Me? I just stood there and took it all in. A third clerk joined the fray at the counter allowing the line to move much faster. As I moved forward, the packages were checked and moved into the sorting room. The giant wheels of the post office began to turn smoothly again.
I got to the front and was finally graced with a “NEXT!” It was my turn! My transaction went smoothly and I was out of there…an hour later. As I walked out I saw minivan lady and her nemesis working together to pull her sled full of gifts up the ramp to the lobby. He had finally managed to free up a cart for her. But, her minivan was still blocking most of the driveway. “As soon as we get this in there, I need you to move your car,” the guy was explaining in an urgent tone. “I’m not supposed to do this but it’s the holidays…” he added.
I crossed the street and greeted a weary person at the top of the stairs, “Happy Holidays. Good luck with your package.” The man grunted at me. I walked past and started down the stairs. I couldn’t resist and called back to him, “Tell them not to bowl with your package!” He gave me a perplexed look. I just giggled and continued on my way. He would hear about it in line. The incident would live on in postal office line lure forever. I could hear it now, “This one time a the post office…”
All was right with the world. I had survived the post office. I was on my way back to my surely worried guinea pig. I’d regale him with the stories of my conquest over his fresh greens and veggies. It was going to be a good holiday.
Happy Holidays to you and your loved ones. Thank you for a wonderful year. Alfalfa and I look forward to you joining us on another year of Adventures.
– Kerry Anne and Alfalfa