A Book of Stamn Damps


All I wanted to do was buy a roll of stamps. 

Since theoffice closed early, I made it home and realized I had enough time to run out quick for a few errands: a quick trip to the post office, maybe the dry cleaners, maybe a little Christmas shopping. 

Foolish mortal. 

Obviously, none of these things happened. I mean, I did make it to the post office, but the trip was not quick, and I didn’t end up getting a roll of stamps. And by the time that was over, I took the hint and just went home. 

Here’s what happened: first, I drove to the post office and it was gone. I mean gone. Like torn down and nothing left but a hole in the ground. Okaaaay. Clearly it had moved, but to where? The answer turned out to be: the mall. The dead mall. Because that’s a great place for a Post office. 

So I follow Google maps to the new address. It tells me that I’ve reached my destination, but if there’s a Post office then I’m hard pressed to find it on the mighty blank edifice of the mall. But I can see a lot of mail trucks parked nearby in a fenced off area so I park, figuring that I must be close. 

I approached the building looking for a door. There was a loading dock, Then a series of double doors that seemed to lead into a sorting room. A gal coming the opposite way on the sidewalk seemed to recognize my predicament. 

“The Post Office is around the other side.” She said, pointing back the way she came.

Based on the state of the carpeting, the post office looked like it had been there for about fifty years and that no one was responsible for vacuuming.  The line curved around the interior of the lobby: orderly, but not short. I joined the end of it. After ten minutes the line had moved about a foot. 

I realized I was being ridiculous: I was just there to buy stamps, and there was no one in line at theself serve kiosk. I’d have to buy booklets instead of a roll, but potato, potahto. So I went to the kiosk. I used to be able to navigate through the menus with my eyes closed, but the system had changed a little bit. Still, it was easy to find the option to Buy Stamps. The only problem was they only came ten to a sheet and the system only let me order four sheets at a time. 

Well, fine then. I’d just have to rinse and repeat.

So I ordered four sheets. I put my card in. I took my card out. I entered my zip code. Missed a number. Damnit. I put my card in. I took my card out. I entered my zip code. 

Did I want another transaction so that I wouldn’t have to reinsert my card? 

Yes.

The machine printed four sheets of stamps. I could hear them print. One, two, three, four. But when I looked in the tray: nothing. Thinking that maybe they were trapped in the system somewhere, I considered reaching into the chute to feel for them, but immediately had visions of getting my hand trapped like a cheapskate in a vending machine. Option two: try printing the receipt to see if that would push it through the pipes. So I cancelled further plans to buy additional booklets and requested my receipt. The receipt emerged. The stamps did not. 

Option three: take the receipt to the counter and request the stamps there. I got back in line. It was longer now, but what could I do? I’d already paid for forty stamps. The wait wasn’t unpleasant, just dull and a waste of time. When I finally made it to the counter, I explained the situation: that I’d bought stamps but that the stamps hadn’t come out. 

“Did you reach up to feel for them? Sometimes they get stuck.” 

I said that I hadn’t. The post officer accompanied me to the kiosk where a service man was preparing to mail a package and was puzzling over a sheet of stamps that he’d gotten along with his package tags. We explained the situation and he handed them over, but there were still three sheets missing, which the post office worker conjured out of the machine like magic. 

By this time, it was clear to me that this was as much interface as I could stand to tolerate with the United States Postal Service for one day, so I decided to quit while I was ahead and go home. 

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~ by Gwydhar Gebien on December 7, 2017.

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