I am standing in the doubly-entendric Office of Letters, surrounded by boxes - six-deep, cardboard and otherwise, forty-eight-ounce scales, and iconographic stamps immortalizing popular political and celebrity figures, most of whom have achieved little or nothing of true note, in front of a host of blatantly-annoyed and overworked postal employees who are staring hawkishly over their wire-rimmed glass frames, frustrated folks. The blue and white motif dominates the walls, the envelopes, and the oddly-pinstriped cotton fabrics adorning said members of the postal union. In front of the abnormally over-elevated counter - a bizarrely-fashioned construction intended to present an exaggeratedly challenging obstacle for those postal workers intending to go, well, postal - stand three customers, all carrying smallish envelopes and an unexplainable random number of variously valued coins, knowing all too well the propensity for stamp prices to change on a whim and wanting desperately to be prepared. The perpetually long line is filled with a mish-mash of the gene pool, the anomalous broken-toothed smiles and Picasso-inspired faces comprising the majority of the clientele. The current cast of characters could easily lead one to mistake the Wanted Posters on the post-office wall for a mirror.
I am standing behind a woman in thick cotton sweats, worn high enough to cover the critically obscene, but clearly indicating a history of heavy drinking and a former relationship on the back of a Harley, evidenced by the tattooed red and white shaped target staring at me from the small of her back, and reading Motorcycle Mike was here. Presently, at the counter, a woman has just landed a large and peculiarly-shaped cardboard box upon the reception desk and the postal employee reached out and clasped it as though his hands were two metal claws from one of those arcade games where one tries to drop the hooks and grab the stuffed teddy bear. There is a window on the West wall now allowing the afternoon glare to glisten off the various metal pens constrained by long protective chains; the glistening is bright. In the corner there is small blue R2D2-shaped mailbox where at least three people have assumed the identifiable obsessive-compulsive act of inserting an envelope into the box, closing the slot door, re-opening it to ensure the letter has dropped, then closing it again then repeating the process one more time.
From my position in line, the shrill sound of a postal worker winding tape around boxes sounds eerily similar to a Nascar lug-nut laborer working at forty turns per second - but only if you elongate the frequency a bit and imagine the pit crew member is suffering from premature baldness and at certain points, attempted to pass the pit crew exam thirteen times before finally being hired due to the millennial computer scare which briefly shut down email access and provided jobs for thousands of government people who could then no longer be fired without reason – an administrative foible now costing us taxpayers millions of unneeded dollars with the side benefit of nurturing and provoking an entire generation of future mass murderers.
The velvety-red rope line delineating those in properly-queued formation, from those simply wandering aimlessly in search of their personal and overpriced P.O. Boxes, is at this moment hanging too low, and a smallish man whose lack of flexibility is palpable as he endeavors to navigate said ropes, trips, knocking into the tattooed woman’s envelopes and scattering them upon the floor. As she bends to recover her mail, her now obscenely descended pant line reveals the second tier of her tattooed backside and I view the tops of the letters And Here, an indication that Motorcycle Mike might also have been a sodomist and suggesting this woman might or might not currently be mailing her letters to a State prison.
Returning my gaze to the postal employee at Station one, I notice an incessant twitching now affecting his neck, a twitching which causes him to squint his left eye and turn slightly to the right, creating a rather absurd means of greeting his customers and leaving me with a new alliterative allusion, the postal profile. I tilt my head with a curious smile, wondering if this is a precursor to mass murder, a previously missed signal that someone is on the edge of insanity and about to succumb to the overwhelming stress of managing the developmentally-delayed group of Darwin’s holdovers currently trying to navigate velvety-red ropes and attempting to tape boxes appropriately for distribution, all while counting out the unexplainably random and seemingly inconsistent delivery prices of the US Post office.
In due time, I see the tiny reflected-from-the-pen-chain speck of sunlight dancing off his glasses, as though some child with a magnifying glass is playing pranks upon this postal worker, poor bastard. He removes his lenses and now resembles a small rodent, dropping below his countertop to claim some stationery item, then bobbing back up with a squint just as the customer raises a finger to ask a question, then he drops postal worker once again below the ledge. The constant disappearing and re-appearing gives the impression of a Whack-a-Mole game gone awry.
Mike’s logo takes a step forward and has now reached the front of the line, lending hope to my belief that this forty-five minutes of snail-crawling might in fact have an end. The smallish man has left, red faced and slightly bruised. The worker with the clasping-hands-cum-claws is going on break, implied by the violent and antagonistic slam of his “This window is now closed” sign upon the counter, and the sneer of disdain he appropriates to each person in line before vacating the premises to consume his watered-down bowl of vegetable soup replete with diced-carrots and tomato skins and a pair of overly-salted crackers which he will crush enthusiastically in a subconscious effort to relieve the interminable stress of postal work. Something about the back of his head reminds me of Greek Historian Herodotus who, during the 500 B.C. war between the Greeks and Persians spoke the following words in reference to the Persian mounted postal couriers whom he observed and held in high esteem, “neither snow, nor rain, nor heat, nor gloom of night stays these courageous couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.” In my review, I noted firmly the absence of vegetable soup, an obvious and overwhelming foe confronting postal delivery.
The sunlight leaves the pen chain about the same time the rodent replaces his glasses and calls Motorcycle Mike’s conquest to the counter. I am now first in line, a dubious title in which I relish briefly before making my way to the center station where I am confronted by a woman whose breath mint has apparently just worn out. She hands me a stamp and I pause, thinking back to those news stories about insect eggs infesting the glue of said stamps, wondering whether this completely un-seductive licking in front of a perfect stranger will place me in the hospital for an extended stay as overly-neurotic nurses endeavor to remove fifty future cockroaches from my tongue, and I will spend three weeks suffering the ghastly and nauseating combination of hospital food, stamp glue, and roach larvae making its home upon my papillae.
I touch my finger to my tongue, taking a bit of saliva and pasting it to the back of the stamp. From the corner of my eye I see Mike’s conquest give me a wink and I get that stomach-turning feeling one gets when inadvertently imagining oneself involved in a torrid affair with the type of woman who uses her sphincter as a billboard. I shrink back – with all of the attendant innuendo- and dig into my pockets for the $5.87 now required to send my letters. Along with my receipt, the woman hands me four gold-dollar coins in some overt and eccentric effort to introduce this new currency into the marketplace, as though printing metal money saves dollars, or trees, or money, or something I am frequently and awfully confused about. As I steer my way through the growing postal line and make my way to my car, an hour of standing and waiting now complete, a final thought forms. In today’s mail system, the one enduring remnant of the Pony Express may just, in fact, be the horse caca.