Monday, December 17, 2007

Postal ponderings

At times like this, I really miss my small town post office from the past.

Mind you, my hometown was so small it technically wasn’t a town: it only has 11 people when I was growing up, and even fewer people reside there today.

The post office was connected to a general store that handled mostly groceries. The family that operated the store would occasionally excuse themselves from adding up or packing groceries so they could get the mail quickly for people who might have popped into the post office.

On the day the farm newspaper arrived, that was always the busiest day. Farmers couldn’t wait to get their favorite paper to read the news and classifieds. Sometimes the farmers sat in their half-ton trucks later outside the post office, faces already buried into the newspapers.

Yet no matter what the season, how close was the biggest holiday of the year, there was never a long line-up at this rural post office. If there was more than one person waiting, it just meant there would be a conversation opportunity with one of the neighbors. Everyone knew each other. They even knew each other’s box numbers since there were so few there.

The post office is now closed back home, replaced by a large metal contraption of mail boxes for the community. It stands forlornly across the street from where the other post office once stood.

Instead of having chats with the post office workers about family, weather, roads, crops and anything else that came to mind, farmers instead drive up — dig their little keys out of the truck glove compartments — and take a few seconds to unlock the boxes and retrieve their mail.

It all seems so … sterile.

Today I visited the post office in the city to mail off Christmas packages to friends and family across the country and internationally.

My first clue that this wouldn’t be easy was the 40 minutes it took to make the turn into the post office parking lot and find a parking space.

In small towns, we never have that problem — unless the snowdrifts were too deep.

I managed to get into the post office and started to figure out which way the line-up weaved to fit in the maximum amount of people from protect them from the rain outside.

Inside the main post office room, people were tighter than sardines in a can. The rest of us were in the lobby, hallway, extending past the mail boxes and almost out the back of the building. And still more people kept coming. And coming.

We all came bearing gifts for loved ones. Most of us who work during the day came the only time we could — lunchtime. The line-up barely moved. Snails could have set a faster pace. As the time kept ticking, and minutes began to be measured into quarter-hours and beyond, I realized I had moved … less than a yard.

Counting the amount of people in line, the number of staff at the counter, and the number of packages per customer, I realized the shocking fact that it would take another hour and a half minimum for me to reach the counter. That is in a line-up of increasingly frustrated, agitated people who worried about missing work and were torn with the desire to still try to meet family expectations of gifts for the holidays somewhere far away. Very few of the strangers talked to each other. Usually they just grunted as someone new entered and queried where was the end of the line. Cavemen probably had longer dialogues.

I glanced at my watch. My lunch hour had already passed. I now was up to a yard and a half of moving from my original spot. The victory of slam-dunking my packages on the postal scales and demanding postage still seemed a distant goal.

Gathering my packages, I finally gave up and headed out the door, deciding to return to the post office after the line-ups finally die down.

I hope everyone who knows me will enjoy the pleasant surprise of receiving their holiday gifts — in March.

Technorati tags:

No comments:

Ag in the West social media watch

Capital Press videos on YouTube

Our most popular videos