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P.O.'d At The P.O. 

In which wasted time is the least of my problems

One bright Saturday I headed out in a sunny mood to the post office, not knowing how quickly and completely that mood would twist into something dark. The first thing that pissed me off before I even got to my branch was a crusty old Cadillac holding up traffic by trying to make a left-hand turn despite multiple signs showing that it's illegal to do it at that spot. My humor began its descent as I thought to myself, Oh great, another asshole acting like the rules don't apply to him.

After a few seconds of sitting there with the other chumps patiently waiting behind the Caddy, I blew the hell out of my horn, which felt great and actually got the rest of the drivers honking, although the car still didn't budge until it finally lumbered across two lanes.

I arrived at the post office in dampened spirits but still in decent shape until I saw that the line was practically out the friggin' door. Not only was it long, just about every other person in it was toting a big box, or in some cases so many boxes that they had them stacked in a tower that they shoved with their foot as the line inched forward.

Keep in mind that this was a mere few minutes before closing time. Just exactly who sits at home on a Saturday morning getting a lot of packages together so they can run down to the post office right before it closes to mail them? Maybe they have a very specific kink that derives sadistic gratification from torturing the poor clerks with the large boxes. I know it was the holiday season, but Jesus, give those who don't mail lawn mowers or furniture a break.

Of course the area called The Postal Store, designed to handle simple transactions like buying stamps, which was all I needed to do, was closed. I think it's actually been open maybe three times since they remodeled the whole post office to create it. The "please use other window" sign permanently affixed to its counter looks like it's growing roots, and why do they still say "window," anyway?

It grated on me that the day's stamp selection was a dutiful gallery of political correctness: Thurgood Marshall, Cesar Chavez, and some surfer dude named Kahanamoku. Poor Audrey Hepburn looked like her head had been cut off and set loose to bob like a balloon on her big stamp.

Also available was a stamp commemorating Ohio, another irritant since that happens to be my least favorite state. In my experience, people from Ohio are a little short in the humor department and like to harp on how much better things are in their home state, even though it seems like at least half of it has left to come live in North Carolina.

The final stamp heralded Breast Cancer Awareness, making me wonder what soul could possibly not be aware of it by now. There can't be a pygmy left in the wild who hasn't heard about breast cancer -- they're probably wearing pink ribbons on their bare tits as we speak. The whole breast cancer thing chapped my behind because just as I was joining the endless line, the lady stepping up to the counter was wearing a Race For The Cure T-shirt, and promptly settled in to tell the clerk all about it. I almost called out, "How about racing to the friggin' exit, lady?"

I am absolutely guaranteed to have at least one of three situations going on right behind me in any line. The first is the person yelling into his or her cell phone. People reach top volume in the P.O., and of course their voices also echo, and they all shout the same thing: "I'M AT THE POST OFFICE," as if reporting their position behind enemy lines.

The second is the comatose mother with the totally-out-of-control toddler. Mom stands there glazed-eyed while her little darling dashes about, flipping the trash lid, wildly circling the column, and repeatedly hollering, "I WANT DAT" about some doodad dangling in the retail display.

The third is the person hacking as if they're in the last stages of SARS. Invariably they lean forward, taking careful aim to spray my neck while dredging up their lungs' contents.

This particular trip, I had a package tower in front of me and a terminal TB case behind. When it was finally my turn to approach the Mecca of the counter, the clerk waiting there was the one who specializes in wearing the zaniest hairdos imaginable. Above this woman's unsmiling face her bulky hair twists and snakes around in the most fantastic contortions. That morning a hunk of it rose straight up like a geyser out of a braided base bulging from the exact middle of her head. I didn't wait for my receipt.

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