Freudian Slips: Going Postal

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Location: Irony, New Jersey, United States

Life takes us many places. It's a box of chocolates and a Hansel and Gretal trail of candy wrappers. I have filmed as an actor in The Happening, Invincible, The Lovely Bones, The Bounty Hunter, The Greek American, Bazookas, Limitless, TV's Its Always Sunny in Philly, Outlaw, New York, The Warrior, The Nail, Game Change, Cold Case, & commercial work includes The Philadelphia Eagles, Septa, Coors, Turbo Tax & Carnival Cruises. Freudian Slips spotlights irony in short story format.

November 17, 2005

Going Postal

The female clerk at my local United States Post Office runs the tightest ship in the mailing business. She is a pint-size emotionless fact seeking missile with no traces of maternal instincts. I wouldn't be surprised if she never raised children because my explanation is that she would have killed them at an early age. The clerk is the kind of worker who memorizes Wanted posters on her lunch break. Under different circumstances, I could easily see her as a high ranking Nazi soldier. The clerk is, however, terribly efficient at her job but her customer relations feel like intolerable cruelty. It took me awhile to not personalize the caustic way she conducts business but I realized that she treats everyone alike. I could do my mailing elsewhere but since my epiphany I now find her both amusing and a source of entertainment. She is like the most annoying character on your favorite TV sitcom. By merely tuning in, you never once doubt that there are characters like this living in the world.
Her eyes meet mine. There is never any time for hellos. She starts the conversation with a typical question.
"Would you please slide your package forward on the counter? Not everyone is five feet tall."
Her shortcomings became mine. "Sorry about that." I replied. "I forgot."
She grabbed the package sure handedly and propped it on each of its four sides before checking the top and bottom for God knows what. I am still waiting for her to learn how to sniff incoming packages for explosives. I patiently wait for the first red flag. It is always something. She could turn the request of a first class postage stamp into the McCarthy hearings. This time I aim to give her a run for her money.
"I want to inform you that this box has a puncture mark. It is substandard packaging."
I defended, "It was a used box that I found laying around my garage without a real purpose in life."
"We sell new cardboard boxes, sir. They are located on shelf two 180 degrees behind you."
I didn't bother to turn around. "I don't know about the US Postal Service but I have my own recycling program."
She replied, "Our boxes are also made from recycled materials."
"But your new boxes don't get rid of the old ones in my garage." I replied. "I think this one will do. It's only going across a couple of county lines."
I knew there would be hell to pay once she inspected the tape. "Weren't you in here last week?" she piped. "Didn't we have a discussion about inferior packaging tape?"
"Yes, you scolded me as recently as last week but I'm still finishing up that inept roll of masking tape."
Her eyebrows raised. "Looks like we might have damaged goods here. I warned you."
"Yes, you did warn me. Twice. It's a sticky situation but I used lots of masking tape."
"I can see that." Her posture stiffened. "You only made it heavier, more costly."
"Considering all of its shortcomings, I still wish to send it media mail."
She asked, "What exactly is in the box?"
"It's my autobiography. When I was writing it, I never imagined my life would fit into such a small box but it does."
The clerk didn't bat an eyelash. She continued her relentless pursuit. "Is it a book, publication or what?"
"A book."
"Is anything else in the package? The law says that you have to divulge the entire contents."
Since I mail out the occasional copy of Stop and Smell the Silk Roses, I have crossed this bridge before with the clerk. I once lacked clarity and admitted to stowing away a handwritten letter on the inside flap of my book. On that fateful day, the clerk explained in no uncertain terms that media mail was a stand alone item that could not be combined with other offers. She disqualified it from media mail discounting which left me a deeper reach into my pockets to cover the cost of first class shipping. I wasn't going to make the same honest mistake again but I felt a prevailing sense of passive aggressiveness come over me.
"Peanuts." I shouted.
"Peanuts? Peanuts, the snack?"
"No. Non-edible packaging peanuts."
"Very good, sir. Media mail it is. Would you like return receipt, confirmed receipt, or neither?"
"Neither."
"Do you care to insure the item?"
"Humm...how confident are you that it will get it to its intended destination?"
My question was entirely unfair. It was like baiting Cheers' Cliff Claven.
"Sir, need I remind you that the US Postal Service is the safest most reliable postal institution in the world?"
"All I needed was a little reassurance. Thank you. No insurance."
She placed the package on the precision scale then grimaced. "Your handwriting on the package is almost illegible. Could you make a mental note to write bigger and clearer next time?"
"It has got to be a mental note. If it were written, I may not be able to read the reminder note."
I laughed. "I'm joking."
She didn't. "Sir, I'm totally serious."
"I wouldn't expect anything less." I wiped the smile from my face. "I will try and improve my penmanship."
I had no inkling what was next. "And next time could you please use a magic marker or a fine point permanent marker and not an ordinary pen?"
"Yes, we have talked about that nuance before but my kid misplaced my blue Sharpie. I got to find it."
"Blue?" she squawked with everything but a call to the police.
She caught me by surprise. "What is wrong with the color blue?"
"Black is the color of choice for postal writing mediums."
"Postal writing mediums? That sounds like a psychic sending a postcard."
She responded, "$1.42 is your total."
I turned behind me and eyeballed the line that had formed. About two people back, I spotted an elderly woman comforting a small perfectly square package. It boasted clear packaging tape and beautiful markings in eyelash thick black ink. I felt like sticking my tongue out at her. Instead, I turned back around and handed the clerk a $50.00 bill to consummate the transaction.
"Do you have anything smaller?"
"Not until I get change."
Begrudgingly, she made change and actually thanked me for my business. I moved out of the line before being told to do so. I thought I had finally silenced a critic. On my way out the door, I reached into the candy dish atop the counter for a Dum-Dum taffy. That is when I heard the crack of frauline's voice.
"Please don't take any more candy than the suggested allotment. The sign clearly limits one piece of candy per person per visit."
"Holy Adolph Hitler!" I muttered under my breath.
The day may be fast approaching when I drag a live baby alligator by the tail into that post office, cram lollipops in its eager jaws, flip it on the counter, ask for free gift wrapping, and insist Wally Gator needs to be mailed return receipt to a PO box in a bogus town in the Florida Keys.

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23 Comments:

Blogger Erin said...

Oh my! I don't know that I have laughed this hard in quite some time. I can just picture her in her perfectly pressed uniform, prim glasses and not a hair out of place...

Oh, it puts my postal stories to shame!

11:02 PM  
Blogger Merci said...

I once was taken to task at one of the large PO's in my area because I got in line to have an item weighed (I had postage with me, but didn't know how much I needed). Accustomed to the smaller (OK, tiny) PO's in the area, I was not aware that there was a fancy shmancy do-it-yourself weighing machine (scale)that I could have used without waiting in line and annoying the (well-paid with my tax dollars) postal clerk.

I only go to those tiny PO's now. The clerks seem to be nicer. Much nicer.

1:24 AM  
Blogger Merci said...

Oh, by the way, I still want to buy a copy of your book! Perhaps I can leave the $$ with Pax or Zelda?

1:25 AM  
Anonymous et said...

Funny stuff! Your life is turning into a stage show.

8:18 AM  
Blogger PaxRomano said...

Dear God,
Elsa the She-Wolf of the Post Office!!

11:47 AM  
Blogger honkeie2 said...

You must have the patience of the dead..I would have totally lost it lol.

1:55 PM  
Blogger Lindsey said...

lol. That was hysterical. I probably would have tossed the package at her head...just because.

5:36 PM  
Blogger ell said...

sounds like a seinfeld episode to me!

5:45 PM  
Blogger Joe Tornatore said...

erin,
never hold the baby when reading my blog. lol.

merci,
i chose the same award for my 15th. It took me 15 years to earn it and the calculator broke after 15 days.

et,
stage right....

pax,
or Grendel

honk,
i wanted to outlast her without reacting. she got me rfling through the candy dish though.

liny,
that would have produced downhill speed. lol.

el,
if this is who I think it is, how did I know you would appreciate that story.

10:33 PM  
Blogger lilly05 said...

Wow Joe, You all have some unfriendly postal workers where you live! I can't recall having been treated with such blatant disregard by a government employee...well ever! Sure hope the littlest nazi starts taking her Zoloft BEFORE going to work from here on out. Luck my friend.

3:47 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I worked at the Post Office for many years and this sounds like one of my co-workers! HE was like that with all customers.

12:40 PM  
Blogger Joe Tornatore said...

lilly,
that can only be taken from a nurse. lol.

anonymous,
i will ask if she has a brother.

6:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

just to inform all those the usps does not receive any tax dollars

8:20 PM  
Blogger Joe Tornatore said...

anonymous,
the treatment I got from Mrs. Efficient was taxing enough.

9:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Joe, that is the funniest thing I have ever heard. As you know I work at 30th Street Post Office and some clerks there have come close to her. I actually think she sounded pretty funny in a wierd sort of way. She probably has a Supvervisor or Postmaster who is a real jerk. Not many Postal Workers are happy Postal Workers. We need to hear more postal stories though. Love ya Catherine Mary

3:22 AM  
Blogger Joe Tornatore said...

catherine mary,
if they ever do a sequel to The Postman, I am recommending her for abest supporting actress part.

8:21 AM  
Blogger ell said...

i'm sure i'm not who you think i am, but i sure did appreciate that story. i'm a big seinfeld fan, and even bigger curb your enthusiasm fan. the #1 reason to have HBO.

6:18 PM  
Blogger Joe Tornatore said...

ell,
sorry about the confusion. the person I thought you were doesn't have HBO so your secret is safe. Did you see this weeks Curb with the home health aide with the stowaway compartment?

8:04 PM  
Blogger ell said...

unfortunately i don't have hbo, but if i ever break down and get it, cye will be the #1 reason. so i get the complete seasons as they come out on dvd and just have a marathon! larry rocks!

8:10 PM  
Blogger Joe Tornatore said...

ell,
you sound easy to buy for on birthdays and holidays.

9:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Joe, I will gladly accept my award as a Proud (haha) United States Federal (only when they want us to be) Postal Worker Love Ya, Catherine Mary

7:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry Joe, I thought you were recommending ME for the award. Oh Well!! Catherine Mary

7:51 PM  
Blogger Joe Tornatore said...

Catheirne Mary,
it's all about me here, Catherine Mary. smiles.

8:01 PM  

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