Much 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.
I 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.”
By 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.