June 3, 2010 – A little creative writing.
By The Cerebral Aesthetic Vagabond
“Honey! You home?”, I bellowed as I slammed the door behind me and made a beeline for the kitchen.
“Yes, in here, what’s up?”, Mary asked, alarmed by my tone. Normally I’m a pretty calm and peaceful fellow, but the events of today nearly sent me “postal.”
“I really need a drink! Can you make us some of your strong margaritas?”
“Of course, what’s wrong?”
“I gotta relax. I’ll tell you all about it after I’ve had something to drink,” I replied, plunking myself down into a comfortable chair in the living room and closing my eyes.
“OK, wait right there and relax. Be right back.”
I could hear the blender chattering loudly, then steadily becoming quieter as the ice was crushed into ever tinier particles. I breathed deeply, knowing that a painkilling drink would soon be in my hands. Actually, I felt better already just sitting down, knowing that what unexpectedly turned out to be my sole task of the day was finished.
“Here you are, dear, just the way you like ’em,” Mary said as she strolled over to me and handed me a greenish, foamy, icy drink.
“Oh, that’s good,” I said in all sincerity. “Strong too. Thanks, honey.”
“Now what’s got you so worked up?”
“I don’t even know where to start. It’s like some kind of Kafka story. OK, you know that jewelery of yours we’re selling in order to buy the farm up the road?”
“Well, I took it to the Post Office today to ship it to the buyer.”
“OK. So you saw how carefully I taped it up in those boxes, and that after running all over the place looking for tape and boxes just the right size?”
“Well, when I got to the Post Office, the first thing the gal said is, ‘No, no, that won’t do. You have to remove all the tape and put this tape on.’ I said, ‘Are you kidding me?’ ‘It must be this tape so we can apply our rubber stamp all over the outside for security,’ she said while waving this brown paper tape in my face. ‘I can borrow you this little bit.’ Those were her exact words as she handed me a tiny roll of brown paper tape and a pile of little forms to fill out and shooed me away from the desk.”
“You’re kidding! You mean clear tape is no good?”
“No good,” I replied, shaking my head from side to side. “Apparently, because it’s insured, they have some sort of system to detect tampering that involves stamping a rubber stamp all over the outside. I don’t know why they don’t just use some tamper-proof tape like companies use, or permanent ink that will stick to any surface, but let’s not get too logical about this.”
“So what’d you do?”
“Well, I figured I better not whip out my pocket knife in the Post Office and start cutting the tape off. These days everyone would probably freak out and think I’m some sort of terrorist or a postal worker gone, well, postal.”
“Especially with that big thing you carry,” Mary agreed.
“So I took all the materials she gave me, including the little sponge for wetting the tape and went back to my car to perform surgery on the packages.”
Mary shook her head in dismay as she took a sip from her drink.
“But wait,” I said, “It gets better, much better. So I cut off most of the clear tape, which left the formerly neat boxes in shambles. Then I took the tape the lady gave me and proceeded to tape up one box and part of the second box, which is when I ran out of tape. Then with my sticky hands I filled out two forms for each package before going back inside. After waiting in line again I got the same lady as before. She took the first box that was fully taped up and processed it. But when it came time to process the second box, she looked it over disapprovingly and said, ‘I can’t accept this. It needs more tape.’ ‘Do you have any more?’, I asked. ‘Wait here,’ she replied, and went in the back of the office, returning with two little strips of tape. ‘This is all we have, sorry.’ She handed me the tape and the sponge. I applied the tape to the box, but it was still not enough to cover it, so she said, ‘Sorry, but I can’t accept it.’ Shaking my head in disbelief, I said, ‘Can’t you stamp your stamp all over it and then cover it with clear tape?’ ‘Oh, no, she said, we have very precise procedures for this sort of thing. We can’t deviate from them.’ Amazed at this seemingly picayune requirement, I asked, ‘Where can I get some of this tape?’ ‘Maybe the box store around the corner.’ ‘Thanks. See you soon,’ I said as I walked out, my package still in my arms.
“So you shipped one box?”
“Uh, huh. So I went to the box store and asked if they had any brown paper tape. They didn’t, but when I explained what happened, the guy just shook his head knowingly, evidently wondering, like me, how the Post Office stays in business. ‘You might try Winston’s down the street,’ the guy said, trying to be helpful.”
“I remember that place,” Mary said. “I used to go to high school with Kimberly Winston. God, I haven’t been in there in years. I’m surprised they’re still in business.”
“Well, they are. So I go in there and ask if they have any brown paper tape. The girl says, ‘I’m sure we do, down there on aisle four.’ So I go down the aisle and ask this guy the same question and he says, ‘No, we don’t have that kind of tape here, but maybe the hardware store a block down.’ So I go down to Beasly and Sons down the street, remember that place?”
“So I go inside and ask if they have any brown paper tape, and you know what they tell me?”
“Bingo! By now I’m smiling because this is all just so absurd. The Post Office requires packages to be sealed in a particular kind of tape that neither it nor anybody else has. I’m starting to think this tape should be called unobtainium.”
Mary burst out laughing, almost spilling her drink, then said, “So what did you do then?”
“Well, what could I do? I just had to find that tape, whatever it took. I thought about coming home and using the internet to find a store that sells it, but I figured it would take no longer to just visit several stores. So I went to the place I went yesterday to buy the boxes, but they didn’t have the tape. Then I went to a package shipping store, and they didn’t have the tape. Then I went to an office supply store and they were closed because of a burst water pipe. At that point I was ready to scream, especially since we’re obliged by the terms of the agreement to ship this stuff by the end of today! Finally, I went to another office supply store and they didn’t have the tape either, but as I was leaving in disgust, the girl asked, ‘Did you check the other half? That’s where our shipping supplies are.’”
“Yeah, they had two aisles for this stuff. So I checked the other aisle and lo and behold, they had the tape. In fact, they had two kinds, the kind that requires water and another kind with its own adhesive, which I thought would be perfect for me since I didn’t have a sponge in the car. I figured I’d buy the one with the adhesive and apply it in the car and ship that fucking box once and for all.”
“So you bought that one?”
“Yep. But no sooner did I unwrap it than I discovered that it was flawed.”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean, it was glossy! It was glossy paper. The rubber stamp would certainly not adhere to the glossy surface and the post office would reject the package again. And unfortunately, I already unwrapped the tape so I could not return it!”
“Crap,” Mary sniffed before taking another sip of her drink.
“So I calmed myself and went right back into the store and bought the other roll of tape that requires water. I’m now up to three rolls of tape, right?”
Mary chuckled quietly at my misfortune.
“Listen, honey, it was your damned jewelery!”, I snapped with unintentional gruffness
“I’m sorry, dear. Please continue.”
“OK, so I buy this second roll – actually, third roll – of tape and head back to the car where these idiots in a hulking SUVs are trying to squeeze into a compact car space right behind me. So I waited, and waited, and waited until they finally gave up! Jesus. I wanted to strangle them! So I finally get back on the freeway, heading back to the Post Office, and all of a sudden the traffic comes to a complete stop on the freeway.”
“What happened is all those little brats who should be in friggin’ school are out for the friggin’ summer! And they’re all headed for the friggin’ beach! I checked my watch and I only had one more hour to ship that damned package, which didn’t help my stress level any.”
Mary stroked my hair and said, “Poor baby” in a placating manner.
“So,” I said, gently brushing away her hand, “I finally got to the Post Office and dragged my package, labels, forms and tape inside. I grabbed the wet sponge and borrowed a pair of scissors and began taping the hell out of the box. After applying, oh, a few dozen yards of tape to the box, I waited in line for the third time today!”
Mary chuckled again, careful not to display too much enjoyment at my plight.
“So there is this long line of people waiting for service and a single person behind the counter.”
“That figures,” Mary chimed in.
“Oh, but they have made improvements. In addition to the one person behind the counter there’s this guy going up the line of people asking them what services they need and filling in their needs on a piece of paper called a ‘Customer Assistant Checklist.’ I kid you not! Like the customers are incapable of articulating their needs to the person behind the counter.”
“They should have had that person behind the counter, helping customers,” Mary observed.
“Thank you! That’s what I thought and so did everybody else in the line. The little checklist didn’t even have a choice for shipping a package registered and insured, so the guy checked ‘priority mail’ and I had to tell the clerk at the counter what I needed anyway. In fact, he didn’t even look at the checklist. Oh, oh, oh, I almost forgot the best part. Before the guy could initiate this invaluable service of filling in this useless checklist, he needed to find a red ball point pen. No other color could be used. So he’s running around the office looking for a red pen. At one point, the only person working behind the counter stops what she’s doing to help look for a red pen! Thank goodness they found one because that vital search brought the entire function of the Post Office to a standstill.”
“Oh my god!”, Mary exclaimed.
“Fortunately, somebody in authority in the office noticed the long line of customers and sent someone to open a second window, while the checklist guy disappeared. So I finally get to the counter and immediately the guy starts examining the package in a disapproving manner. Poking the corners, he says, ‘These are no good.’ So he looks around briefly for some more tape! Can you believe it? What is it with these guys and their tape? At this point I’m ready to explode, but manage to remain calm. So the guy proceeds to process the package, but midway through he pauses.”
“Why?”, Mary asked, while I took another big gulp of my soothing margarita.
“Evidently, he was still disturbed about that tape. So he goes searching around the office a second time and finds some tape! A few hours before the lady told me they had none, which sent me on a wild goose chase all over town for some! Anyway, the guy comes back and applies tape to the box to cover up the corners, saying repeatedly, ‘I hope they don’t send it back.’ All I could think was, ‘they’? As if the Post Office were two different organizations: the guy helping me and ‘they,’ whoever they were. He finishes putting all the labels on the box and stamping it all over with the rubber stamp and the damned thing was finally shipped, I hope.”
“You mean unless ‘they’ return it?”
“Exactly. I spent four and a half hours trying to ship two friggin’ packages! And that’s not counting the time I spent yesterday to buy the boxes and clear tape. I’m worn out!”
Mary put an arm around my shoulders and I rested against her soft breast, the strong margarita finally kicking in. I closed my eyes again and was grateful that I didn’t lose self control during my Kafkaesque ordeal today.