Monday, January 24, 2011

What Was In The Package


The package was from my friend Elizabeth and contained a Christmas card and Nunzilla!, another "thank you" for letting her stay in my apartment during a recent visit to New York.

In the name of fairness, I should point out that the post office manager quoted in the previous entry was not trying to be difficult. He was trying to be helpful, short of the one thing I needed him to do, which was give me the package.

The postal system is in trouble for the same reasons as record companies and dvd stores are. They have a huge infrastructure set up to deliver less and less media to fewer customers. The infrastructure was put in place to deal with a much higher volume than is currently shipped. I can remember just a few years ago we used to get two large plastic bins full of mail every day at work. It took one of the assistants the better part of an afternoon to sort it all. The fact that the he liked to take his sweet time and peruse whatever magazines and catalogs came in is only partially relevant. Now our daily mail fills about half of one bin and the items being sent don't ever seem particularly important.

I have mixed feelings about the post office. I only go when work compels me, mostly to drop off certified mail. The post office we use inevitably has a long line, yes, but otherwise seems well run and the people who work there are pleasant. It's the opposite of the post office we used to frequent which seemed to be deliberately living up to the stereotype of unhelpful arrogant bureaucracy. Rules changed arbitrarily, without warning and never to the customer's advantage. It was staffed by people who were, in a word, assholes. The postal workers at the counter talked and joked with each other but didn't hid the fact that you were interrupting their chatting time. I did get to have a heaping dose of tasty schadenfreude when, in the wake of anthrax being discovered in the mail shortly after September 11th, I went to the post office and saw the formerly obnoxious staff wearing breathing masks, goggles and plastic gloves. They seemed fairly tense and very unhappy, which is good.

My grandfather Hanlon worked for the post office. (In a nice bit of contrast, my other grandfather worked for the phone company). The stories that have been passed down, of employees who could tell just by feeling an envelope if it contained cash, have given me a certain mistrust of the service, which is odd because I think the service is probably as good now as it has ever been. Various frustrations aside, getting something unexpected in the mail is one of those little pleasures I will miss if it's ever gone.

Look how well Nunzilla! gets along with the others in my black and white collection.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

P Off

Included with my mail yesterday was a crumpled card, dated the day before, informing me that I had something at the post office that the mailman was unable to deliver and that I needed to pick up. Looking at the card I saw my local post office was open till 7:00pm. I had time, why not go?

But when I get to the post office, a sign in the window says they are only open until 5:30. The doors were locked but a guy on a bicycle by the front door explained that one of the managers would occasionally unlock the door and help people, "but I don't know if he'll help you."

When the manager came to the door, I showed him the card and asked if I could pick up my package.

"No, we're closed. You'll have to come back."

"You can't just get my package for me?"

"Well, I can tell you if it's here, but I can't give it to you. We're closed."

Showing him the card: "It says you're open until 7:00."

"Those are old cards. We close at 5:30 now."

"Um, are you going to get new cards?"

"We have them, but we're not allowed to use them until we use up all the old cards."

"Okay, can I have the package rerouted to another address?"

"No, you can't do that. But you can have the package redelivered to your apartment."

"But I'm not at my apartment when the mail comes. That's why I'm here now."

"Can you come before 5:00?"

"I'm not taking time off work to come pick up a package."

"Saturday? We're open Saturday. Can you come then?"

I don't know what the package is, but whatever it is, it better be pretty spectacular.