Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Abandon All Hope, Ye Who Enter Here

I had to go to the Post Office last week to deliver a package. I had been putting this chore off for over a week. Why? Because I hate going there. You already know what I'm going to say. It's the lines. They are ridiculous. Last week was no different. I hadn't actually planned on going this particular day but I went right by one and I was surprised because it was still open at a quarter to six. I didn't realize the Post Office extended their hours to 7pm on weekdays. 

Anyway, I go inside and there was indeed a long line. Since I was sending a package I knew that I needed to get one of those mailing slips to put on my envelope. When I walked in, there were 12 people on line. In the thirty seconds that it took me to go from the front door to the window to pick up the slips, three more people had magically appeared on the line. I was number 16 all of a sudden. 

I didn't know which mailing slip to grab so I just took all three that were available. I did this for a couple of reasons. Mainly because I didn't know which one I needed. When you eventually get to the window, you realize that you either don't have a slip or that you have the wrong one. The cashier then tells you to get the proper slip and fill it out on the side. The problem is that while you're doing that, the next customer in line steps up in your place and you have to wait for that transaction to be completed. Then the other people on line are looking at you all crazy like you're taking their place. I meant to avoid all of that.

Another reason I took all those slips was to occupy myself while waiting on the line. About five minutes had elapsed by now and I realized that the person that was first in line when I came in was still first in line. I was still number 16. I figured by the time I finished filling out those three labels, I should be closer to the front. But in reality, by the time I finished with the labels I had barely moved. 

I think Dante wrote the Divine Comedy while he was in some medieval post office. Being at the back of the post office line is like being in Hell. The front of the line is like Purgatory and actually getting to the window is like arriving at the gates of Heaven.

As I burned at the back of the line with nothing else to do, I started noticing things. Waiting in long lines with people you don't know will heighten your awareness of your surroundings. The first thing I noticed was that there were 11 total windows in this post office. Eight of them were for retail transactions. Two were for inquiries, and one was for passports. There were only two retail windows open. There was a postal worker behind another window but she was just sitting there doing nothing. She had something in her hand which I couldn't see because I was so far away. But what I could see was that she wasn't calling anybody to her window.

The inquiry side is where you go when you have to pick up a package. You know when you get that little pink slip in the mail because the delivery was attempted when you weren't home. Then the next day you get another pink slip that says "Second Attempt" because the package was delivered at the same time as the day before when you weren't home again.

Since I was focused so intently on everything around me, I suddenly noticed that there was an irate senior citizen at this inquiry window. His voice was rapidly escalating. Apparently, he was home all day and the package he was expecting never came. Yet, somehow he was left with a "Second Attempt" slip. He started yelling. He wanted to know, "How can two come before one?" He also kept warning the worker behind the bulletproof glass not to "play him like lotto." He kept repeating these statements for the majority of the time that I was there. Every once in a while he demanded to speak to a manager that never came.

I also noticed other little things that became annoying after a while. A baby. A balloon. A woman cursing on her cellphone. She had the baby. The baby had the balloon. Even more irritating was the worker behind retail window number one who was still doing nothing. Why don't they have curtains or something that prevents the public from seeing these people when they aren't working? I don't want to see that. Nobody does. It's the same thing at the bank. It makes waiting in line more frustrating.

However, the thing that frustrated me the most was the relaxed faces of the other postal workers that were actually servicing people. I guess the USPS really did a good job of addressing workplace rage after that spate of killings in the early 90s by so many of their employees. Maybe they did too good of a job. I can't remember the last time I have seen a stressed out postal worker. But I remember the last time I saw some disgruntled customers. I was in a line full of them. I was one of them. This line was barely moving. I wasn't even in Purgatory yet. 

Finally, after about  fifteen minutes, another window opened up. It was for stamps and money orders only. It was the express line and several people got on it. I wasn't one of them but I was able to move up to the front of my line. For some reason I felt cooler. 

Now, I was only two sinners away from the pearly gates. My heart rate increased slightly and the endorphins got happy. I was so close that I could see what was going on behind window number one. Nothing. But I didn't care about that anymore because I was only a few feet from the promised land. I turned my head around to look at the people who came in after me. I could feel their pain, but it was my time to go. I had already paid my dues. John McCain's a fool for staying in that Hilton. 

A couple of minutes passed and then I heard the "Bing!" and saw the flashing light. It resembled the light at the end of a tunnel. I stepped up to the window. The cashier was nice. All stress free and whatnot. I showed her what I was delivering and asked for the envelope that could fit the items inside. I was ready to slap one of my labels on it. But the envelope I needed didn't need labels. I had to write on it by hand. And then the cashier said what I had dreaded hearing all along:

"Fill this out over there and then come back to me when you're done."

But I was already done. In every sense of the word. After all that time, this is what it had come to. Ridiculousness. I could feel the burning gaze of the damned behind me. I read their thoughts. "So now we have to wait for you too?" I moved over slightly and quickly wrote out the addresses for the fourth time. But it was too late. The next person on line was called out of Purgatory, still smoldering. Smelling like ash. She had nothing less than 30 separate pieces of mail that needed to be stamped and weighed. And all I could do was watch and wait as it got hotter and hotter.

3 comments:

Try a parabola instead said...

And a line is supposed to be the shortest distance between any two points, huh. No one mentions the part about it actually moving.

The Talented Mr. Hamilton said...

I'm curious... what do you consider to be hot hip-hop? I've read several of your posts, and it seems like you know a lot about hip-hop... how can rappers make rap better?

~~Charles Hamilton~~
***beep***

constant reps said...

damn...that's some craziness.