There and Back Again

7 Jan

I wouldn’t go so far as to consider it the Number One Most Loathed Place In All Of Liv Nelson’s Places She Has Ever Visited, but this tortuous chamber, this hot box of impatience, this free-for-all zoo of lines and calls and petitions, floating papers and cigarettes and shouts is by all accounts as far from a picnic and day at Disney as one can get.  I am, of course, speaking of the post office.

This is entirely a personal affair. My sitemates and spouse have an infinite number of pleasant experiences to share.  In fact, my friend even has a lovely photo with the mail assistant – smiling and everything!  One time, the other mail assistant called Matthew and had a charming conversation and assisted in informing him he had a package waiting just for him and he could come pick it up at his earliest convenience, please and thank you and have a nice day.

While my friends are marveling in all the hustle and bustle of the exchange depot, I am bracing myself for entering Mount Doom.  Be it the shuffling hours, the lack of lines, the confusing conversations or the on-again-off-again time of service, my tolerance for this typically well-received establishment is at zip, zero, zilch. It’s a personal vendetta coming from some strange dimension they might never understand.

Nine months in, I feel I have finally figured out how to best prepare myself for tackling that most challenging of tasks, the Herculean feet of strength: mailing a letter.  It’s as simple as 1) blocking off a two hour stint of time 2) completely shutting your mind off; seriously, it’s all about relaxing, taking it easy, thinking only of blankness and cream soda and swirling spirals 3) patiently  waiting. And don’t get offended when someone sneaks ahead right in front of you. Just wait. And wait some more. And smile. Play a game on your cellphone!  And wait. And wait some more. Make sure you bring a fan, cause it gets hot. Just wait!

I braced myself today, team. I had my stack of letters ready to send. I had a big snack in my belly, a bottle of water, a fully charged cell phone battery, and had cleared my mind of all save a funny joke I had heard early and was ready to laugh at when things felt bleak.

I set up camp in front of the postage window. Elbows out, head down, money at the ready.

At the moment I expected the swarm to pour forth, my mailman friend opened the window. “Hello,” he said. “How are you!”  I smiled, taken aback by this quick and friendly attention.

Just as I was about to respond, a young man bolted in from the side. So it begins, I thought. He stuck his letter out, asking for some stamps and pushing me to the side and just as steam started to form in my ears my friend interrupted. “Just a minute. She was first,” he said.

My jaw dropped. Like literally, I stared open mouthed at both of them.  I had to consciously close my trap and refocus. My hero!  He was right – I was first! I asked for some stamps, getting ready to pay for them, step to the side, lick and stick ‘em, and get back to the end of the line in order to repeat the process and mail them out.  I paid for them and as I reached for the stamps, he stopped me. “No. It’s okay – I’ll do it! I checked for packages – none for you today! See you later.”

Five minutes later, I was back out into the sunshine of the day.

I am glad for those letters. They mean so much to me; every card in and out connects me to a dear friend. I would happily tromp through the fires of Mordor and back again if it meant getting in contact with everyone. (On an unrelated note, I’ve been watching a lot of Lord of the Rings, just in case you couldn’t tell…)

I am also glad they gave me the chance to revisit some established ideas I’ve concocted in this brain of mine. This is a Big Year of Big Things. To have this opportunity for all my terrible assumptions, all my built-up anger and expectations completely shattered into a million pieces like the sword of Elendil… It was more than what I needed – it was a big ol’ blessing.

I don’t know if I can guarantee this next visit will be as delightful, but I can say I won’t approach it with the wrath of a thousand Uruk-hai.  I’ll go in, smile at the ready and with an open mind.

But still, bring a fan. Be optimistic, but damn it’s hot in there.

Argue not concerning God, have patience and indulgence toward the people, take off your hat to nothing known or unknown or to any man or number of men.   – Walt Whitman

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