I know that someday you'll find better things.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Going Postal

You think you know what to expect when you go to the post office. You’ve already steeled your heart against every foreseeable disappointment. You’ve resigned yourself to the long lines. Slow lines. Sticky floor tiles. Toddlers with squeakers in their sneakers, running silly-nilly around the joint like it’s Chuck E Cheese instead of a federal institution. Standing among people who stand too close, who may wear too much perfume, or who may not bathe often enough. High cost to ship that package. Knuckleheads in the parking lot straddling two spots or stalking the one you’ve only just arrived in. (Haha, gotcha sucker!)

You think you’ve prepared for the worst. You think you’re ready for it.

Brace yourself. The post office has a new disappointment in store for you.
When I realized we were out of stamps, I thought about going to one of those Mailboxes, Etc. places. They’re everywhere, and they safeguard against many (but not ALL) of the frustrations of the proper post office.

But stamps can be very special. Beautiful, semi-personal little masterpieces that you affix to the envelopes that will reach your loved ones and creditors, stamps are the federal government’s way of allowing us to say, “Hey, I care about something. Maybe not you, but something.”
Maybe the something is wildlife (Save the Manatees!) Maybe the something is Elvis (Long Live the King!)
Stamps are also a commitment. It takes a long time to go through a book of 20 stamps. Sometimes even months. You have to choose something that will have an importance that can stand the test of time.

What if I went to the one of those strip-mall store-front postal places and they only had booklets of Christmas-themed stamps? I don’t care if they are marked ‘forever’ they are seasonally and spiritually expired.
Nosiree, those are not the stamps for me.
The only place I could absolutely count on to have the greatest variety and most up-to-date artwork was the official P.O., so I tossed an extra container of hand sanitizer in my purse and ventured out.
Upon arrival, I surveyed the scene. It was everything I’d predicted it would be, except for one thing. One very big thing, set off to left side of the foyer: a postage vending machine. It was sleek and digital and completely touch-screen, quite unlike the one it had replaced. The predecessor looked as though it had spent its previous life dispensing snacks in an airport terminal, but this modern marvel looked like it could fly a plane.

And there was nobody in line to use it.
I pinched myself to make sure I wasn’t dreaming and stepped up to its luminous LED display.

Shortly after I initiated the transaction, I was presented the choices I’d hoped for.  It appeared there were several categories. How thoughtful!
Nostalgia briefly clouded my mind. Back in fifth grade, when I’d participated religiously in Mr. Ferron’s after-school stamp club, I used to take such joy in organizing my stamps by category.

The magical machine offered categories of hearts, stars, clovers, and more. Pretty much all the Lucky Charms marshmallow shapes were present and available. There was also a smiley face, which surely represented the “people” category. I was a bit disappointed that none of the symbols indicated an architecture group, which could have been grand.
Someone had stepped up behind me; I could sense it. There would be no time to search through all the categories. I needed something lovely, and I needed it fast.

Aha. Hearts.

I touched the icon, eager to see the options but hoping the choices wouldn’t be too vast, out of respect for the next patron in line.
Something was wrong. The machine was humming a ‘printing’ sort of tune. The words THANK YOU FOR YOUR PURCHASE popped up on the screen.

And THIS is what popped out:

Stunned, I returned to the car with my hearts in my hands and began moving through the five stages of grief amid honks from parking-spot stalkers. Could they not SEE that my soul had just been crushed?

Denial (No one is going to accept these—they look amateur. Bush league! Everything I send out will be returned.)
Anger (How dare they squander my time and money for clip art. CLIP ART!)
Bargaining (Could I stand in the line and return these? Maybe the clerks will pity me and exchange them for something reasonable.)
Depression (The federal government has failed me. Again. Let’s all just hop in the hand-basket and get there already. Pack your ice-water, guys, because the time has come and things are about to get hot.)
Acceptance (I am stuck with these. Stuck! I shall have to use them up before I can even think about getting new ones. I know! I will write to twenty people this month. I’m at least 20 thank you cards behind. Or… I could write five really fat letters and put four stamps on each. Or four really REALLY fat letters and put five stamps on each…)
In passive protest, I mailed nothing for months. When a package I’d procrastinated in shipping could wait no longer, I realized that the solution had been right in front of me all along.

One stupid clip-art heart stamp on a missive is cheesy, but a collection of clip-art hearts, now that’s special. Who wouldn’t love to receive a box covered in hearts?

I planned my return trip to the post office for a time that I hoped would minimize the customary misery. Surprisingly, the postal employee who now had to scan in each stamp individually did not seem disproportionately irked at my decision, and when she asked if I needed more stamps, I gleefully seized the opportunity.

She presented at least twenty options. I chose something that signified my liberation from the clip art stamp debacle.

I hope that if you are ever in a sticky stamp situation, you will think twice before electing to take the easy way out.


  1. DEAR GOD, WOMAN!! You kill me, you really, honestly, genuinely do. I'm completely riveted from beginning to end with your stories. I think there's an excellent chance that I would've done the same thing you did! How horribly disappointing to choose your stamp so carefully, only to have it turn out to be something so hideous! I have Christmas stamps sitting in my purse, and there they will remain until late November. Some might say that's impractical, well I don't give a shit! It is NOT Christmas time, therefore no mail will go out with a Christmas stamp! It's un-American I tell you! I have one Disney stamp left (the last type of stamp I purchased were Disney/Pixar basically for the Nemo one), when I go to the post office this afternoon, I will NOT be using their machine - you've just saved me the time, annoyance and possible anguish by telling this story, for that, I thank you!

  2. Court, I turn down my music before I start to read your blogs, so that I can't possibly be distracted by anything while I'm enjoying every minute.
    I loved the box covered in hearts, and equally as much LOVED the star paper on it. We all know how much I love stars.

    I, as usual, will buck the trend and given that I have Christmas stamps left, use them. Even now.
    No, I don't care.

  3. You guys make me feel like a champ. Thank you so much for reading and taking the time to write such thoughtful, sincere, and bizarre comments. Xoxo