I suddenly realized today why the US Post Office is constantly on the brink of financial ruin. And its not because of the mismanagement or the rural post offices that operate for two people. It’s because every single office is either managed or occupied by lunatics. And I have had the pleasure of exploring this system in the past week, I figured I’d write up a little transcript to illustrate the problem.
The first time, I was mailing out a submission and wanted to know how many stamps (as I had a book of them already) I needed to use on it.
ME: Hi, how many stamps do I need for this?
HIM: (takes envelope, weighs it, then turns his back to me and mutters something unintelligible)
ME: I’m sorry?
HIM: (apparently thinking I’m deaf) THE COST IS TWO DOLLARS AND FORTY-THREE CENTS!
ME: So…five stamps?
HIM: (in a normal tone of voice, finally) It would be cheaper to pay the cost.
ME: Yes, I know, but I already bought the stamps. I don’t really care if five stamps technically cost a dime more.
HIM: But it would be cheaper to pay the cost.
ME: Yes. Yes. Could I have my envelope back to put the stamps on please?
HIM: That will be two dollars and forty-three cents.
ME: My god.
At that point, I just snatched the envelope back and slapped on the stamps, because there was a line of fifteen people behind me and I was pretty sure that they thought I was the crazy one, not the gainfully employed postal service worker. As I was leaving, I witnessed the other postal worker (the only other one working at lunch hour on a Thursday) trying to very calmly explain to a white guy with dreadlocks–and not the cool dreadlocks–that he could not reuse an old Priority Mail box and try to pay the same amount of shipping. Why this matters is quite beyond me (if he was still going to pay, why not let him reuse the old box?) but the fact that she had to explain it three times was extraordinary. Meanwhile, he kept repeating to her that he just had to ship out his band’s t-shirts. It was like watching two of those speaking dolls with the pull strings face each other–there’s an awful lot of dialogue but NOTHING IS HAPPENING.
Efficiency, USPS. It’s a concept that was developed after the fall of the mercantile system. You might want to look it up.