Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Going Postal

Going Postal

I bought stamps the other day. Walked up to the bulletproof barrier and said, “I want 100 first class stamps, please.”

The postal worker held up strips of Liberty Bell stamps.

“No liberty bells, please,” I said and she asked if I wanted American Flag stamps.

“No flags please,” I said. “And no liberty bells.”

Her eyelids drooped and she nodded toward a sheet of Disney stamps lying on the counter.

“Disney?” I might have sounded a little irritated. “Don’t you have any people stamps?”

She shook her head and then, apparently reconsidering, she asked if I wanted Charles Chesnutt stamps. Widely regarded as the first true African-American novelist, Chesnutt would look good on my mail, I thought. I was enthusiastic.

“A person? You bet!”

My postal worker nodded and walked away. The worker at the counter next to her looked over at me and smiled. While I stood there waiting, another post office employee looked around the corner, almost peeking at me, it seemed. We made eye contact and he nodded. I nodded back, constituting at least the fourth nod between two people in that office on that morning that I was aware of.

Then my postal worker came back with 100 41-cent stamps. I had other stamp denominations I wanted to buy and I wished I’d mentioned them before she walked away the first time. I was afraid she would lose patience with me.

“Oh, yeah. I also wanted 20 post card stamps and 20 next-ounce stamps.”

She looked at me.

“Sorry,” I said and she said it was okay and walked away again. When she came back, I had more stamps, 20 26-cent stamps and 20 17-cent stamps, or 20 cougars and 20 mountain goats (a big-horned, big-headed fellow) to go with my 100 Charles Chesnutts.

I paid my bill and thanked her.

“That was fun,” I said. “I should write more letters.”

“Thank you,” she said with a big smile on her face, but I swear I thought she was going to go postal on me. Maybe leap through that bulletproof shield and grab me and throw all kinds of hugs and sloppy kisses my way.

That would have been okay with me. In fact, I’m planning to write more letters.

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