I don’t visit the post office all too often, but probably more than you do. In the age of high-tech, internet, computer-whatever, our correspondance is usually flying over our heads in invisible little microbits, reconfiguring itself on someone else’s email inbox half a nanosecond later. Information flies all over the place like through the transporter for the spoiled chocolate-loving kid and his mom in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
So, about the post office…I like letters. Plain-old stamp in the corner, old-school address on the front, nasty lick-y seal to keep it all safe letters. Maybe five years of being a camp counselor and trying to stay connected by a thread to real life while I wasted away in the nearly telephone-less expanse of UP forest, maybe that re-fueled my pen-pal tendencies. Who knows. But whatever the cause, I’ll always and still write letters. Even when I’ll see you tomorrow, or I just talked to you on the phone, even if I sent you three emails with attachments earlier today. A letter’s just…different. And I like it.
An affinity which brings me periodically to the post office. There’s not usually many people there at all. Never any employees and only a few folks needing mail services. So I’ve grown accustomed to waiting in line a minute or two, trying to smile and not look impatient or annoyed, getting my business done and hopping back in the car to pump some tunes. There’s always an old man who has forgotten how post offices work and they ask him to step to the side and fill out twelve forms, a young kid who doesn’t address anything on the envelope correctly and doesn’t have any money, and a woman with her small child who’s terrified of the deadly germs her kid will contract from the little roller coaster toys that all the doctor’s offices have. Then there’s me. And there’s Bob.
Bob’s my man. The lady with my name on her nametag is usually only there in the evening, but I think Bob stays there always. And I’m the lucky one behind the yellow line when he says in his monotone I’ve come to love, “Next, please. What can I do for you?”
I bring Bob new challenges every time I come in. I forget zip codes, I wrap packages at home with the wrong tape, I refuse to put return addresses on envelopes with loose cash in them. But Bob never fails, he is always indefinitely the same. I ask for stamps and he has them in a blue basket to his left. One cent-ers are behind him, and he walks slowly back to the shelf like speedier steps might make him forget what he’s going back there for. He never offers to take my now-stamped letters, but when I ask he makes sure not to smile and sticks out his open palm.
“Have a great day, Bob!” is met with silence. Good job, Bob. He never fails.