woman in front of me shouts to the postal worker: "You must
have to take an idiot test to work at the post office!
Anyone can get their income tax in late. It takes a real procrastinator
to wait until the last day, half an hour before the third and
final deadline. Welcome to my world.
My post office in Manhattan has as much
charm as a prison cafeteria. But a prison cafeteria would have
ventilation. And better lighting. In America, postal workers do
not sit behind a glass plate, and the only thing they do is mail.
No bill-paying, no chitchatting, just mail. For impatient New
Yorkers it's a chore, and tensions run high. So there I am, relieved
to have made it with minutes to spare. The line is long but I
don't care. I'm safe. I kill time looking at the ceiling, watching
the spread of mould.
About 20 people are waiting for two postal
workers. Then one of them puts her "closed" sign up
just as a guy with three huge crates of mail on a trolley walks
up to the counter. Now there's one worker and a man with more
packages than Santa Claus. People begin grumbling: how dare he
wait till the end of the day;what was he thinking? One woman speculates
that it's drugs. I stay out of it. I don't small-talk with strangers
even when they are complaining, a habit I quite enjoy.
Instead I glare at the postal worker. A
man behind me giggles and says how "funny" the situation
is, and across the room the postal worker calls out: "What's
even funnier is you people standing in line."
The next thing I know, I call out: "Well,
some of us don't have a choice!"
She shouts back: "Am I talking to you?"
Everyone in line is silent. I've broken
the barrier, spoken out for the people. I feel exhilarated. Like
The woman in front of me takes it further.
She shouts to the postal worker: "You must have to take some
sort of idiot test to work at the post office!"
The worker exchanges heated words with her
while the rest of us realise that all work has come to a standstill.
Suddenly I don't feel like Norma Rae. I feel like the idiot who's
held up the line and started a riot.
The woman in front of me, getting increasingly
worked up, rolls her eyes and sniffs, dismissively: "Shut
"Shut up?! Shut up?!" The postal
worker is now on her feet, hands on hips.
Images of disgruntled postal workers with
sawn-off shotguns flash through my head. I wonder why they always
use the word "disgruntled" when postal workers go on
a rampage and shoot up a post office. Seems to me they're more
The nasty lady is ejected by the 100-year-old
security guard. She promises to file a complaint. I almost call
out "Like it will matter..." but this time I hold my
The postal worker calms down and resumes
stamping packages. Only two more cartons to go. Paying taxes is
the easy part. It's going to the post office that's painful.