Did My Post Office Slip Into a Parallel Universe?

As some of my readers know, I hate going to the post office. Something always goes wrong or there’s the line from hell. But there was no avoiding it — I had to go. The Houseguest has been out of town for a couple of weeks visiting her dad in West Virginia, but before she left, she made me promise to mail her early voting ballot to her. Seriously, she kept mentioning I needed to mail her ballot. Incessantly. For like two weeks before she left. Every day. She’s had some challenges over the past year while looking for a new gig in the museum field and voting is her one way of exercising her power. Plus, the whole Trump administration and the GOP at large has been an ongoing source of annoyance to her, so she wanted to make sure her vote was counted.

The day that she left, she drove home how important it was that I mail her ballot to her so she could strike back at the Blow Hard in Chief’s cronies.

“Yes, I know,” I told her (again).

She made me promise that I’d mail it as soon as it came in.

“I will.”

Watering a basil plant.
Living on borrowed time.

As if that wasn’t enough, then she told me she had an equally important task for me and gave me watering instructions for this large pot of herbs she’d been nurturing for a couple of months — they don’t stand excessive sunlight well, which is not good news for them since we live in a desert state, which is why their pot sits in the shade under a tree.

I looked at the herbs burgeoning in the pot and then I looked at the rest of my barren backyard — unless it’s a desert plant, like my Texas Rangers, I’ve killed it, usually unintentionally. The only thing I’ve been struggling to purposely kill is the Bermuda grass and it keeps stubbornly returning like plant zombies and has escaped the dirt circle it was supposed to be confined to and invaded the rock yard and somehow pushed up through the plastic liner — I’m blaming the monsoon rains. Anyway, the poor herbs are probably dead — they just haven’t realized it yet.

Just a text message away

Finally, the day arrived for the Houseguest to depart and I offered to drop her off at the airport. Then, I settled into the quiet house. It was a little weird at first after having her around for the past year plus, but I adjusted quickly to being able to walk around without trousers.

Still, even though she was two thousand miles away, the Houseguest wouldn’t let up and texted me daily to see if her ballot had arrived.

No, I responded and told her I’d mail it out first thing. She impressed upon me yet again the urgency I should exhibit in mailing it once it arrived. I told her I felt insulted at her lack of faith.

Of course, she’s known me for a while and doesn’t trust me because I’m lazy and easily distracted. I also have time management issues. She suspected that I’d mail it too late and it would arrive in West Virginia after she’d returned to Arizona.

Okay, she might have a bit of history on her side.

Plus, I’ve kind of told her to remind me about things, so I have only myself to blame. Back in 2005, as part of her fitness regimen, she joined a crew team through a city rec program. There’d be teams of four and a coxswain, out rowing on Tempe Town Lake like they were from Oxford and Cambridge. Several weeks before her last session, she invited me to watch her team in a final race. I had said sure but had asked her to remind me about it closer to the event.

“I am reminding you,” she had said, lips pursed. “Right now.”

“Remind me a little bit closer,” I had replied.

Her voice had quavered as she started getting mad because, in her opinion, I was showing a lack of respect over something that was important to her. I had tried to explain it wasn’t a lack of respect, that due to my track record, the odds were I’d forget, so I was proactively trying to avoid that. I’d added it was a form of disability experienced by some Y chromosome bearers and she should be more tolerant and understanding and less judgemental. Needless to say, that didn’t go over well. (By the way, I did actually make it out to watch the race).

Doing my civic duty

Finally, the Houseguest’s ballot arrived on a Saturday afternoon, and she started pestering me to take it to the post office ASAP. I promised her I would. Two days later, on Monday evening, she wanted to know if I’d mailed it. I confessed that I had not because I’d gone into the office early, but I assured her I would soon, though I took my time texting her back.

I could sense the desperation in her ensuing texts, but I was getting slightly annoyed and took my time responding.

At 8 a.m. Tuesday morning, I took the ballot, which I’d put in a large envelope, up to the post office. I assumed it was open to accommodate the work crowd. I didn’t even text the Houseguest to let her know I was doing it — I figured I’d surprise her.

Instead, I was surprised as I walked into the post office and this is what I saw.

lobby of closed post office
You’ll notice the ironic messaging of the sign when you view my next photo

The damned thing was still closed. And no, and it wasn’t a government holiday.

Okay, I was slightly annoyed, but it was fine because I knew I could just use the self-serve machine…

self service postage machine out of order

Well, shit. That wasn’t good. Why does this stuff always happen to me? I figured I must have been a bit of bastard in another life. Nothing wicked, mind you that would result in me returning as a dung beetle, but just enough of an a-hole for karma to continuously inconvenience me in this go around.

I went outside to check the hours of operation. It didn’t open till 8:30 a.m. Great. What kind of a business opens on the half hour? Apparently, the post office.

The Houseguest was never going to believe me, so I took a photo of the shuttered counter and the defunct self-serve terminal for proof of my attempt to mail the ballot, and I texted her to give her the bad news and let her know I’d have to try later. Naturally, she was highly distraught concerned and responded quickly and as I rolled my eyes, she reminded me how critical it was that she get her ballot soon. She fired off several agitated texts in a row. I could sense her anger building, so I didn’t respond.

Decisions, decisions

Sitting in my car, I was about to leave when I stopped to think it through. If I left, I knew the Houseguest would be on my ass all day. True, I could leave work and go down the road to a nearby post office. There was a large one not too far away, but it was always super busy and I’d had issues there before. Plus, I had a lot on my plate at work, and I’d probably forget. I looked at my phone. 8:15 a.m. Even though I had some stuff to take care of at the office and a 25-mile drive ahead of me, I had leeway to go in a bit later, so I decided to bite the bullet and wait till my post office opened. I was just going to get it over with.

[perfectpullquote align=”full” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]Was Asian Sean out sick today? Surely he wouldn’t approve.[/perfectpullquote]

While I was waiting in my car, a guy dressed for the office walked into the post office with a birthdayish looking package. Oh right, people would start queuing up in anticipation of it opening. I decided I better go in and establish my spot in line behind the eager beaver, so I did.


Dude, where’s my clerk?

After a few minutes, the door opened and out of the corner of my eye, I spotted a short person begin to unlock the shutters. For a second, I thought it was Asian Sean. One of the fixtures at my local post office over the years, Asian Sean is probably the most senior clerk. He’s a thin man, dark hair, older, and wears glasses. I used to chuckle at the Irish spelling of his name because it used to strike me as funny. It’s not that I’m culturally restrictive when it comes to names, but when I was a kid — before the name Sean exploded in popularity — if someone spelled his name S-e-a-n, there was a good chance he was probably of Irish extraction. If someone used the Anglicized spelling of Shawn or Shaun, he wasn’t Irish (and was a poser).

Anyway, I’ve never had a problem with Asian Sean and did occasional business with him back during my eBay days ten years ago. He’s very punctilious, efficient, and business-like if somewhat clipped in his speech — but he knows what he’s doing and keeps the line moving. He doesn’t smile or banter, which I think gives him a bad rep. In fact, the Houseguest runs in fear of him and thinks he’s mean. I appreciate his no-nonsense style, but he’s a rule follower. If the sign says open at 8:30 a.m., the counter doesn’t open for business until 8:30 a.m.

But a second glance showed me it wasn’t Asian Sean. It was a female clerk I’d never seen before. She was Hispanic, in her late forties with short hair going silver. She began unlocking various shutters and prepping to open. When she rolled up the steel shutter for the main counter, I didn’t get excited. I’d been there once before at opening time many years ago when Asian Sean had rolled the shutter up 10 minutes early and then got ready for the day by making sure everything was in order. He had stood at his position as he prepped, not making eye contact and his body language had subliminally dared someone to try walking up.

But the Hispanic clerk gestured for Birthday Guy to come forward.

What was going on here? I looked at my phone – 8:21 a.m. and she was already leaping into action. Was Asian Sean out sick today? Surely he wouldn’t sanction this type of devil-may-care customer service.

Have I slipped into a parallel universe of post office efficiency?

Other people were trickling into the lobby and then Birthday Guy started asking questions. Okay I’ve been down this path before and even though I was the only one in line, I knew the queue would grow, and I kept thinking back to the Post Office customs form fiasco when I tried to mail Jose Ignacio Hernandez Polo Rodriguez’s package to Madrid. God, I couldn’t stand in line for 20 minutes with a born question asker holding things up. But the clerk answered the man’s questions efficiently and had him on his way in no time, and then I was next.

And nothing went wrong.

I kept waiting for the inevitable screw up, but she got me squared away. And I left. Crisis averted.

After several days, the Houseguest got her revenge ballot, and as of today, her herbs are still green (though now I’ve been requested to snip some white flowery part from the basil. Seems like a bad idea to me, but what do I know?).

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