Going Postal

PostOfficeMuch to my dismay, super helpful postal clerk Chris retired without asking me. For years, she was the only clerk for the first hour after the post office opened each morning. Since not many people realize it opens at 8:30, I skedaddle down there around that time whenever I need assistance.

Last week, I had to mail a package to my granddaughter and discovered Unpleasant Clerk had taken Chris’s place.

Unpleasant Clerk and I have a bit of a history. In the rare times she’s agreeable, I suspect she’s under video surveillance by her supervisor. Her attempts to be nice are so unnatural that they make me squirm.

One busy afternoon a few years ago, an octogenarian woman was in front of me in line. She held a package that was about four-by-six inches. She must have had some bad past life karma because she was next up when Unpleasant Clerk became available. With gentle sweetness, the woman explained that she didn’t have the proper tape to seal the top flap of the package and asked if the clerk would tape it for her. She even said please.

Unpleasant Clerk gave her a look of passing a constipated turd, gestured to the back wall of postal paraphernalia, and said, “You need to go over there and get some strapping tape.”

The woman turned to walk towards the wall.

Unpleasant Clerk said, “You need to take your package and go to the back of the line.” By this time the line was eight people deep.

The woman looked defeated, but graciously accepted her fate.

EckhartTolleI was next in line for Unpleasant Clerk. I wanted to say something really nasty, but at the time I was reading Eckhart Tolle’s A New Earth and learning how anger is the result of the ego rising to defend. I shoved my ego behind me. Otherwise it would have punched her in the face.

I got home and ranted to my husband Gary about the clerk’s despicable behavior until he begged me to stop. Unsatisfied, I called our local postmaster. I attempted to report the incident with as little theatrics as possible, the bottom line being I didn’t understand why Unpleasant Clerk could not have used six inches of tape to help that old woman.

The postmaster patiently listened and said, “Postal Service employees are not allowed to tape customer packages.”

“But we’re only talking about a few inches. Certainly each employee is allowed to use some discretion.”

“Postal Service employees are not allowed to tape customer packages.”

DSC_0015By this time, my ego had grown powerful enough to stage a military coup in a third world country. I went online and filed a formal complaint with the US Postal Service. Their response? “Postal Service employees are not allowed to tape customer packages.”

I went back to Tolle’s book for comfort. I gave my ego permission to stop trying to change Unpleasant Clerk and the entire United States Postal Service. Exhausted, I took a nap.

Since that time, I have used each interaction with Unpleasant Clerk as a challenge in keeping the cork on the hot vial of hatred I hold in my liver towards her. I issue pleasantries. If not reciprocated—hey, look at me, I’m still breathing normally. I compliment her hair and jewelry. If she doesn’t shimmy with appreciation, my life is unchanged. I try my best to role model humanitarian behavior.

Last week’s package for my granddaughter contained a decorative pillow. Unpleasant Clerk asked the requisite questions about liquids, perishables, explosives, and rattled off a couple of prices. I was thinking a pillow should cost no more than five or six bucks to mail. Conflicting with that thought were quotes of $12.99 and $15.99.

My mind went, “What the hell? Did I hear that right?” My mouth went, “I’m sorry, but what are those prices?”

And she said—are you ready for this?—she looked like a bulldog standing guard at a property line and said, “I already told you.”

I stared at her, wondering if she allotted herself a finite number of words each day. Did she carefully meter her morning words to avoid becoming speechless by afternoon?

My ego bored holes into her retinas and forced her to break eye contact. “I know you already told me. I merely asked you to tell me again.”

She did. I paid, went home, and ranted to Gary until he begged me to stop.

I thought about calling the postmaster or filing an online complaint. Given that my last attempts were unsuccessful, I decided a better solution is to stop going to the post office in the early morning. That way, I increase my chances of interacting with another clerk and can save my ego’s energy for trying to figure out why so many people in Fort Bragg have gardens growing in the cracks of their sidewalks.DSC02855

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31 thoughts on “Going Postal

  1. Kate, I sympathize. However, I have to say the clerks at my post office fudge the rules about giving out tape and sternly warn me to come prepared next time. I forget and they do it all over again. You are very, very, clever and make me laugh, so thanks for this blog and all the others too!

  2. Your blog is one of my very, very favorite blogs. However, this post had me laughing out loud over my morning tea. I used to live in Fort Bragg once upon a time. I now live in the UK …because that is where my husband, Gary, lives. Your posts are like a letter from home. Unpleasant Clerk is, I am sure, single handedly responsible for the increase in prayers while standing in line at the Post Office.

  3. Once again dear Miss Kate you nail it on the head with your clever ‘brave’ writing! And stop dissing my sidewalk…wait, maybe another blog idea–what grows & lives in those sidewalk gardens and could they be secret gnome gardens…

  4. Laughing out loud, Kate. I miss Chris too! She was always there with a smile and seemed to love her job and interacting with her customers. I’m sure it wasn’t always easy!

  5. The Unpleasant clerk either hates her job or needs her first cup of morning coffee. Take her a cup to see what her reaction.

    • That’s a good suggestion, but I’m afraid what might happen should my ego get pissed off and I have a hot cup of coffee in my hand.

  6. Oh man. At my job, I execute a program designed by HUD so I get the silly tape rule but I also know precisely who you mean when you describe a certain postal worker who’s super mean. Just because your hands are tied, does not mean you have to pee on the picnic, so to speak.

  7. I too have mourned the absence of the tall, wonderful, smiling clerk who retired. I too have attracted God’s wrath by way of encounters with Unpleasant Clerk, an energy thief that leaves me drained and sorry I ever went to the Post Office. She’s protecting herself from the horrors of dealing with the public. Too bad she doesn’t just crawl into one of those big canvas mail bags and stay there until her shift is over.

  8. Thanks for the laugh, Kate. I, too, have had many issues with Unpleasant Clerk. But I have to say; she’ll whip out that priority tape when she needs to. She CAN tape, she WILL tape! She just won’t do it without the boss’s permission, I guess.
    I’ve had her smiling a few times, but I cringe every time the opportunity arises to make that happen.
    Maybe your ego would have been happiest if you could have traded your place in line with the octogenarian, but who can think straight when you’re trying to not punch someone?!

  9. Chris (or Kiki as my kids and I call her) is like a grandma to my girls. She is amazing and I miss seeing her. She always had to most beautiful flower arrangements too (you should see her yard at home). As for the Unpleasant Clerk, she should’ve taken notes from Kiki. 🙂

    • Oh Mary…I so agree. I forgot to mention Chris’s gorgeous flower arrangements. Chris was one of a kind. I miss her so much! I remember when a smelly drunk came in and hollered, “I want to see Chris!” She asked him to calm down and she would get to him as soon as she could. The entire time she had a smile on her face. He did calm down and waited patiently in line. The Post Office should hire her back as a consultant to train their staff on the right way to treat customers.

  10. oh Kate, thank you for this. I love your name for the clerk although mine, in my head, is a bit different. I think I can up your story on the not giving tape though. She actually made our hospice coordinator turn around, take back all 10+ boxes of ready to mail light up a life envelopes, in the pouring rain, because they were not addressed correctly. After frantic phone calls to everyone except god she finally took them 2 days later. what a saint! please note that no changes were made to the way we have been doing this for the past 4 years!!!! I too miss Chris. And she would do anything to help and did!! Happy Saturday! Come check out my weed garden next to my driveway. It’s breathtaking.

    • Thank you Heidi for sharing this story. I have received so many similar ones after posting this. I have no idea how this woman stays employed. Chris made kindness look effortless. Unpleasant Clerk makes it look like she’ll burst into a million little pieces if she’s nice to someone. Oh well…I will do my best to avoid her going forward.
      Thank you for the weed garden invitation. You’re invited to view mine any time you wish!

  11. When I moved to Mendocino, there were no postal boxes available there, so I was referred to the FB post office. It did not take long for me to figure out how to jump in and out of the line so that I could get Chris, rather than Unpleasant Clerk (aptly named) whenever I had to mail a package or pick up something too large for my box. Throw away a piece of paper that I rummaged out of my purse. Or go look in the recycle box for an interesting catalogue, and so it went for 5 years, as I “kindly” let folks cut in front of me. The only justice I ever got from that unbearable experience was when the September Vogue issue arrived (yes, about 4 inches thick) and I got that little worn out card that said “Mail too large for the box,” and I would hand it to her. She disappeared, usually long enough to take a coffee break, and then slowly, ever so slowly, schlepped back to her station with my frivoulous magazine and shoved it across the counter with the meanest look I had ever encountered (and I’ve seen some). I always felt so good (and now I sort of feel bad) for the opportunity to smile sweetly at the end of that transaction, and say, “Have a nice day!” Feels a little passive-agressive, but hey, what the heck! Love your blog; it makes me laugh and makes me miss all the things that I still miss about FB and the northern coast.

    • Thank you Judy for sharing your experiences about Unpleasant Clerk. After my experience of wanting to punch her in the face and get her fired, I sincerely tried to cleanse my liver and use pleasantries towards her. This went on for at least five years. I found it amusing how she could then so easily rankle me and make me want to punch her in the face again. Thanks for reading my blog.

  12. Just catching up on my blog reads. You’re great, Kate! And oh my, how well you’ve captured that particular postal mistress, so devoid of pleasantness. I just wanna reach across the counter and slap her. She’s like dog crap for the soul… I just wanna scrape her off my ‘aura’ any time I have an encounter with her. So sad.

    • Thank you, David. I’m going to steal your “dog crap for the soul” for potential future use.
      This blog post appears to have hit a nerve. I have received an incredible amount of feedback on it. I’m amazed that this woman is able to maintain employment with USPS. It is sad.

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