We interrupt this travelogue for a brief rant. After many, many hours on the phone with AT&T, I finally straightened out the final amount owed on my old Internet service. That done, it was time to pay the final bill, and since I needed to include documentation, I had to do it the old-fashioned way.
That’s right: I had to write a check. On paper. (For you younger readers, back in my youth this was standard operating procedure for paying bills. I know. How quaint.) Then put said check in an envelope, affix a stamp to the aforementioned envelope, and place it in a mailbox.
And therein lies the problem.
I pay most things online so I rarely have stamps. No problem, there’s a post office on my way to work, I can swing by, buy a stamp from the machine in the lobby, deposit my stamped envelope through the little slot, and go on my merry way.
Not so fast, skippy.
Remember the old stamp machines? The kind where you put coins in the slot and were rewarded with a book of stamps or the number of single stamps of your choosing. Well, those days are gone. Now we have this fancy computerized monstrosity of a postage purveyor.
At first I thought this was a good thing. It’s been so long since I bought stamps I had no idea how much they cost, so weighing my envelope seemed like a good idea. Then the interrogation began:
What are you mailing?
Does it include firearms, small furry animals, ice cream, or explosives?
What kind of container is it again?
Where is it going?
How soon do you want it to get there?
Really? Are you sure about that?
Did you really need to eat that garlic bread last night?
OK, maybe the last question was my conscience and not the machine, but seriously, I didn’t think most of the computer’s questions were any of its business. It didn’t even read me my rights! Where’s my lawyer?
All of this would have been forgiven and forgotten, but apparently the plastic postage czar didn’t care for the way I pressed its buttons, because after practically signing away my (nonexistent) first-born child—just to buy one piddling first-class stamp—it had the nerve to tell me, “Unable to serve you. Please return to the post office during open hours.” (Not exact words, but it was something equally snarky.)
In my hometown (or what passes for one, since we moved a lot) the postmaster (postmistress? Postperson?) was my friend Karen’s mom, Imogene. When I sent letters home from college—yes, I went to college in the days before email—I wrote little notes to Imogene on the envelopes. When my family sent me stuff, Imogene made the postage a quilt of crazy stamps, just for fun. Those, my friends, were the good old days
I know the post office needs to be automated for those of us who can’t always get away during office hours. I know no machine can take the place of Imogene or the many fine postal workers across the U.S. Nevertheless, I can’t help but long for the days where all you had to do was put some change in a machine and watch it spit out a stamp without having to spend precious time answering impertinent questions only to be refused service.
Thank you for listening. Oh and since I know you’re consumed with curiosity, one of my co-workers bailed me out with a stamp after I got to work. She didn’t ask any questions at all.