taking the passive out of passive-aggressive

Monday, January 31, 2005

The post office in my quaint little village is as peculiar as the coffee shops. It's open from nine to eleven, and then it closes for three and a half hours, and then it's open again til five. One oddly cheerful woman works in a cavernous room behind grilled windows that look like they were installed sometime in 1883. She might be cheerful because she has a three and a half hour lunch. I think I want her job.

I went in today to mail a package (well, once I figured out their weird hours) and there was no one in there but me. The lobby is all dark wood and dusty and the only real light comes from some ancient fixtures and the sunlight streaming in through the weird grilled service window. When I went up with my package I realized that the post-lady's room, back there, is about 2000 square feet, with dusty ten foot windows and a fifteen foot ceiling. It's filled top to bottom with ancient shelving and postal equipment. I swear, the place could be a museum. Postal lady took my package and I asked, "How long will it take to get there by regular mail?"

"Oh, about six months!" she replied cheerfully and without a hint of irony.

I'm unfamiliar with this postal thing, not having mailed anything but a Fedex in about a million years, so I said, "Is there a faster way?" (I'm picturing men on horseback here.)

"Hmmm...." she says. "Well, express mail. That'll cost $13.85."

Shocked, I was. "It's not THAT important," I replied.

"Well, you can get priority mail," she said, "and that's three dollars and eighty five cents." And then she did something I didn't know the U.S. Postal service ever did--she upsold me! "Have you heard about our delivery notification service?" she asked. "It's only 45 cents and you can track your package online!"

The incongruity of being upsold to the Internet-postal package by a weirdly happy postlady in a post office that hasn't changed in a hundred and fifty years was a bit much. Not to mention the fact that why shouldn't you be able to track your package online FOR FREE? The data must exist anyway! I mean, UPS lets you do it for free!

But the post lady was so into it, I went ahead and ponied up the 45 cents and got a little receipt so I could go online and track my package. Why I would even want to track it, I wasn't sure. Like I told the lady, it's wasn't THAT important of a packge or Id have Fedexed it. But I liked her, and I liked the weird little post office, and I liked the fact that she got a 3 and a half hour lunch. And so I think I might start mailing more things. It's a lost art, this postal business.

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