Wednesday, December 10, 2008

How to Survive the Post Office in December

I've been to the post office three times in the past three days. Between Christmas cards, Save the Dates, and holiday packages, I've had to venture to the most stressful, most infuriating, most godforsaken place on earth in the month of December three times (so far) this week. I've tried 9:45, 1:30, and 2:50. Each time there have been between eight and twelve people in line ahead of me, at least two of whom have apparently never been in a post office before and seem to have no idea what this animal is. Based on my tedious and exhausting experiences, I've compiled the following suggestions to help lessen the pain for all of you...

1. Wear comfortable shoes. You will be standing for quite some time; neither heels nor flip flops will provide the leg and lower back support necessary.

2. Do not get into the line until you have everything you need. People who get in line, realize they need a mailing envelope, exit the line, flip through six different mailing envelope sizes, choose a seventh, and then attempt to return to their original place in line will be heckled or possibly punched.

3. It is acceptable to pick out a mailing envelope, get in line, and use the back of the person in front of you as a flat surface on which to fill out the mailing envelope.

4. Cranky, tired, hungry, smelly, loud, or rash-ridden children should be left with a responsible babysitter or breathing adult; if you must bring your child into the post office, at least bring along something for them to do. If you think standing in line at the post office is boring, try doing it as a four year old.

5. Do not get in line behind anyone who was alive during FDR's administration. You will either be forced to listen to a diatribe on the price of stamps (you know in my day...) or will risk pulling your hair out when they want to make small talk with the postal worker and then write a check to pay for a $2.56 package. If there is a senior citizen directly in front of you, allow the person behind you to step forward. Trust me - proximity is key. The more you can distance yourself from the frustration, the less it will raise your blood pressure.

6. The postal clerk is God. He/she has ultimate power; forget this, and you will reap the consequences. Treat him/her with due deference, be prepared when you get to the window, allow them to finish each excruciating question (no interrupting!) about whether your package has anything liquid, flammable, or dangerous, and you may make it out unscathed. (Special Note: if one or more clerks closes their window at any time, do not mutter sarcastically under your breath about the number of breaks federal employees get while hundreds of taxpayers wait helplessly in line; you will not be served any faster... do not ask how I know this.)

7. Unless your dog has official paperwork indicating his specialized training and intelligence, he does not belong in the post office (hint: seeing eye dogs need to walk on the ground, not ride in your purse, in order to be effective).

8. There's a reason they put those posters up on the walls with pictures of all of the different stamp designs. Do not stand at the counter, with other patrons lined up behind you, hemming and hawing over the Nutcracker stamps versus the Virgin Mary stamps. Look at the poster, go with your gut, and pick a design.

9. Do not go on your lunch hour. Just don't do it! I don't care if you work, I don't care if that's "the only time" you can go - if you expect to get in and out of the post office between 11 and 1 in less than thirty minutes, you deserve to get stuck in line behind the woman with fifteen different packages for her fifteen different grandchildren. Go after work or on a Saturday morning - those times are still going to be busy, but at least then you aren't standing behind me tap tap tapping your (high heeled) foot, irritated because you aren't going to get back to work on time.

10. Smile. Everyone loves getting mail; no one loves braving the post office to send it. Just remember how fun it is to open the mailbox and receive a letter or package, and hopefully that will help pass the time while you're waiting. (Or do as I do, and try to predict which people in line are Nutracker stamp people, and which are Virgin Mary stamp folk.)

(Sample post office line; note the distraught look on the face of the woman to the far right - I predict she just discovered they're out of Virgin Mary stamps and she'll have to go with the Kwanzaa ones.)


Brooklet December 10, 2008 at 9:58 PM  

So just out of curiosity, does the Anacortes post office also post death notices on the front door? And if so, does EVERYONE stop to read them and then discuss them with everyone in line?: "I can't believe John Smith died. He caught a huge fish last week." If you don't have that entertainment in your post office, you should come down to the one in Oak Harbor :-). People here seem to enjoy standing in line forever because it gives them a chance to catch up on who caught the biggest fish, who's knee is doing better after surgery, who should be going into labor any second, etc. That happens to be a part of small town life that drives me crazy.

Mugs December 10, 2008 at 10:08 PM  

Come to the Anacortes one - as far as I can tell, no death notices... or threats... yet...

Sister,  December 10, 2008 at 11:14 PM  

I wholeheartedly co-sign on #5.

Having that distance is really key, because if you're directly behind him/her, knowing that s/he is the ONLY thing standing between you and the exit to that post office is excruciatingly painful.

So just to be clear, are you SURE you wouldn't want Lucy to wait in the line at the post office?! Cuz at least she'd be entertaining!

ebs handler December 11, 2008 at 4:19 AM  

Get ready for the holidays, daughters! We are going to have a crash course in "senior etiquette." Where did I go wrong in teaching my girls to be considerate of their elders? Remember, I AM one, behave. Or as people I love have told me, when in a potentially uncomfortable conversational situation, wear your headphones!

Mugs December 11, 2008 at 9:17 AM  

Ooooo - headphones! Brilliant! I hadn't even thought of that. Props to the "grand dame" for suggesting such a 21st century solution. :)

Sister - Lucy is the ONLY small dog allowed... and that's simply because you don't carry her around in your purse (like she'd really stay there if you tried).

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