It’s been just about a year since I relinquished my ten pounds of keys to both of my post offices and bid the world of the USPS an appreciative adieu. That one October Monday morning, when I signed on to my email account and found 238 URGENT messages, sealed an option that I had been considering for a few years. I haven’t been a counter customer since. Well, until last week.
It was a small office. I walked through the door to be almost immediately greeted by “Madge”, a pleasant looking woman with a friendly smile. I returned her smile (sort of, I’m not a grinner) and placed my small package on the counter. Madge picked it up and looked it all over. Good for you Madge. I waited for the barrage of questions she was mandated to ask.
Madge then asked me if there was anything in my package that was fragile, liquid, perishable or potentially hazardous. I felt a little playful and Madge wasn’t busy sorting mail or anything, so I said, “Well, what do you mean?” She looked up and repeated her question. I think her smile was a little forced. I told Madge that it was just a small bottle of perfume, some cookies and a fake grenade.
Madge must have been new, because she didn’t see the humor. She informed me that the bottle of perfume should be surrounded with material that would absorb the liquid should the glass break. She continued with explaining how she would stamp the package “perishable” because of the cookies. Then she said, “I’m sorry, I cannot accept the grenade.”
Just as she said that the man walking in through the door stopped dead in his tracks. Oh, this was going to be fun. I asked her if she could mail it if I showed her the “actual grenade”. She pondered the legality of mailing a fake grenade for a few seconds, and said “I’ll have to check the manual.” The guy’s eyes bugged out of his head. I suggested he go ahead of me because I might be a while.
He sheepishly stepped up to Madge and asked her why he had to put a bid in for snowplowing since he had done it for 20 years. Madge professionally explained the bidding process, which the man knew more about than she did. She told him the previous OIC said he never shoveled. He said no, he didn’t. He plowed. He wasn’t hired to shovel, he was hired to plow. He plowed before anyone arrived, and throughout the day during a blizzard. I was so impressed I told him if Madge didn’t hire him, I would.
Madge took down the bid notice, and said she would be contacting him. He said he might be busy. Things just weren’t going Madge’s way that day. While she was tied up with the plow guy, I had been looking around her office and saw the tell tale desperation signs of a new postmaster with no help. Her computer screen was loaded with unopened emails, and her desk was a disaster. As she dragged out the ten pound DMM and began thumbing through the pages I said, “Madge, are you new at this?”
As Madge looked up, I thought I noticed a little trembling in her bottom lip. She defensively assured me she knew what she was doing. In that moment I took an unexpected trip down memory lane. I was Madge, struggling with new responsibility, new bosses, demands from all sides, and no help.
My thoughtless stab at amusing myself had backfired, and as I watched her scan page after page of that tome I was actually ashamed of myself. I said, “You know what Madge, maybe I should take this home and repack it.”
The sigh of relief was audible, and, still the professional, she replied, “I think that would be best.”
Before I left I took one more look around her tiny office. It wasn’t half the size of one of my two offices, but size isn’t always comparable to work load. Madge was still flipping through the DMM as I was walking out the door. Something made me stop and tell her she might want to tab section 601.
It was going to be a long winter for Madge. I hope she knew enough to keep the plow guy.
To read more from this retired Madge please click here