Thursday, May 28, 2009

$6.66 Due

"You superstitious?", she winked as I perceptibly shook at the amount that appeared on the postage meter.
"I mean, about the $6.66?", she wondered, clearing up the matter in question. Or so she thought.

It’s a quirky little post office here in town, below the canal. I love it. The folks working at the counter there come in all range of friendliness, warming up to you over the years in indirect proportion to their natural wariness. I go there often enough, 2-3 times a week, to have packages shipped to various friends and family.

"Not another batch of movies?", one asks me as I dump another three self-returning Netflix envelopes in the out bin.
"Hmmm, hmmm, hmmm!", she continues. Weighty opinions via two consonants.
"Is she right?", I wonder calibrating the "mmm"'s loaded in her "Hmmmmm"'s.
"Am I spending too much time watching movies, instead of shifting my eyes to the passing clouds by my window, watching life go by?"

"Oh, another package going up to Canada with the Customs tag labeled "Family CD’s"?", another asks me as I fill in all of the requisite shipping documents.
"Don't you think they’ve had enough of your family’s pictures? Give their eyes a break, why don't you? Let their minds savor your packages so they start wondering what's up with you, instead of loading them up with pictures and CD's. That's too much information too soon, don't you think?"
"You know, she may be right!", I cogitate, my mind's cogs imperceptibly engaging.
"I'm no longer even a whisper of a mystery to my friends and family! I'm a drudge. No! Worse! I'm a self-recorded drudge!" I hesitate, before reluctantly letting the package go, vowing I will delay the next shipment for at least a month to allow a patina of inexplicability to coat my daily life.

"They forget something? Again??, he asked and laughed simultaneously as I pondered whether to overnight the forgotten items to one of my kids or make them suffer and send it Priority Mail.
"You'd think with their young minds they'd be able to remember all this stuff. Well, maybe they just have too much stuff. Maybe living without would make them appreciate what they live with?"
I nod, taking in another Post Office gristy observation that I'll roll around into a pearl later.
"The regular?", he inquires, not so much as expecting a negative reply as going through our routine exchange.
"Yep, the regular"
"O.K., Two Day delivery. $4.95. See you tomorrow?"
I hand over a five, wait for the change, and first shake and then nod my head, thus covering all possible answers to his question.
"Ha!", he notes, "Kids! They've got you to where you don't know "No" from "Yes". See you...whenever.", and he turns around chipping my package into a rolling bin.

So, today the $6.66 incident. My passport had expired 2 years ago; an indication that I'm losing it. Since I was a teen, I'd never had my passport expire without having a renewed one in hand. If you're going to be a self-perceived Man-On-The-Go, you best be sure you’ve got the legal documents to Go-Where-You-Want-To-Go. How I’d let the expiration date slip by 2 years ago sadly indicated that my On-The-Go had been going nowhere. An application was quickly filled out, passport pics taken (you don’t want to ask), check written, and expired passport shoved all together in a padded envelope destined for Philly. Registered Mail, of course, the only accepted method of Slavic Mail Paranoids.
"So, are you superstitious?", she quizzed me again.
"Me, superstitious?", I muttered to myself, the Ever-Suspicious One.
I had all reasons to be! Sure! This passport was going to be with me for 15 years. Fifteen Years! And it's begun its decade and a half life's journey by being marked with the postal total of $6.66!?
What is that saying?
Will my letter, registered,yes, but still...will it arrive at all?
Will the State Department employee who receives my letter notice the $6.66, scream and toss my letter and application into a shredder?
What if the State Department employee, droning away, misses the $6.66 postmark, processes the application, and mails the new passport to me, not realizing that the sign of the $6.66 has burned itself into my passport thus guaranteeing some horrible, nasty, unforgivable act to be done to my person in the next 15 years that I have this passport.
I hesitate. Do I take back the envelope, rip it open and shove blank pages inside to up the weight and the postage?
"Look, I know this will sound peculiar. Can you mark it up to $6.67? Can I pay $6.67? Please!?"
Slyly, she tempts me with a pause."I understand, but I can't overcharge you. It would be against the postal code. Do you want to take it back and add more blank pages?"
What! I know now that she's cruelly toying with me. She's reading my thought. Quick! Wipe out that ATM card access code from your mind!
"Uhmmm, no. That's o.k. Just send it in as is"

"As is? You mean...", she stares at me as she combs back her horns, " $6.66!??".

I leave, then turn around as I see her putting my package in a special bin. I take out a nickel and surreptitiously slip it onto her postal scale and quick step out the door, just barely hearing her laugh and yell, "This Washington's not going to shield you from the $6.66!!"

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It sounds to me like US Post is attempting to outsource the capacity for "going postal."
It sounds to me like the postal workers are a little too much in your bizness.

And now, I'm going to check the expiration date on my passport.
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