Last week, I needed to get a letter sent off via certified mail with some urgency.
Due to the current state of the family schedule, Erin at work late due to a few big projects that need to be completed before the end of the year, and me at home tending youngsters during normal business hours, this left me with only one option: I was going to have to go to the post office and lug the 18 month old and the 5 month old in with me. Normally, this wouldn’t be the most fun thing to do, but tolerable. But there were a couple of things that made this situation grow from minor pain in the ass to major suckage.
This was last Monday, December 15th, and if you Minnesotans recall, that was one bitch-ass cold day. Temps a couple of degrees below zero, and a windchill somewhere near 20 or 40 buhgeees. Not an ideal time to be carting an infant around.
And, as a bonus, not only is this time of year a cold time of year, it’s also one of the most busiest times of year for the USPS. And, even though I made the trip at 1:45, in hopes of avoiding the lunchtime package senders, the sheer number of cars parked around the office made it impossible to find a parking spot that didn’t require a rough and extended meeting of the cold for young Master Vorbis. So it came to pass that I had to traverse nearly a city block in order to reach my goal.
On most days, the 34th Ave. post office is a hot and tiny little place which begins to feel crowded just shortly before opening in the morning. But in the winter, it transforms into a wet and sweaty place as customers in coats, scarves, and fogged glasses squeak and shuffle in the snowmelt as they snake around the rail that’s there to keep an orderly line when the customer headcount maxes out at six. And around the holidays, the headcount surpasses the number that can comfortably occupy the space. Such was the case this day.
When I entered the establishment, there must have been a dozen people were crammed in there, all with packages in hand and all looking miserable, as the postal employees worked at their normal, just fast enough to seem like they’re alive, but just barely. This was a situation that was not improved by a large man carrying two small and loudly complaining children. Fortunately, my glasses had fogged when I crossed the threshold, so I was protected against the brunt of any stink-eye I may have received.
And so there we all were. The stage was set for a horrible 20 minutes filled with heat, claustrophobia, and a crying baby. I felt their eyes on me despite my temporary loss of detail vision. And I felt the tension. And until my dying day, I will believe that the dozen of us owe our lives, or at the very least, our sanity, to an elderly woman whose face I never clearly saw.
At first, she was kind enough to let my and my shrieking entourage go ahead of her in line. Which was selfless enough, and I thanked her for it. Then she went one step further. She addressed the crowd of people before her: “Would anybody mind if this fellow went to the head of the line?”
I don’t know what inspired her to take this action. And I don’t know what caused the other people in line to shrug and mumble things like, “Sure,” “Fine with me,” and “Go ahead.” But I have feeling it was some combination of sympathy for me and/or the children, the spirit of the season, and an undeniable sense of self-preservation and survival.
And suddenly the tension was gone from the room as I squeaked across the three feet of wet linoleum to take my place at the head of the line. As the postal employee and I negotiated the mailing of my letter and a purchase of holiday-themed stamps, Torbin was entertained by the elderly woman, and I think the smile he gave her served as some sort of payment or compensation for her actions. Even through the gray mist that covered my glasses, I could see the way that our savior’s face was lit up with happiness.
And with a “Thanks, everybody,” thrown over my shoulder, our trio once again ventured out into the cold for a quick dash to the car. The sweat from my brief visit to the post office may have been freezing to my skin as I packed the youngsters into the Camry for the return trip, but the demonstration of kindness that I had just benefitted from kept me just a little bit warmer than I would have been.
Moments later, that warmth became a white-hot fire of rage, as I was cut off by some jack-ass at the 4-way stop on the next block.
Short week this week
I’ll be posting a new episode of Q-Burger tomorrow, and then taking the rest of the week off for the holidays. New posts will resume on Monday, Dec. 29th.