So, ’tis the season. The holidays approach and I’ve made endless trips to the USPS to mail packages to folks back home. Further, I’m an author who’s shipped ARCS and books to readers throughout the world and throughout the years. 😉
I am a Pro at the USPS.
So, when I stumbled into the USPS at the earliest morning hour of my routine, striving again to be first in the door at its 8:30 opening, my shoulders slumped.
I was not first on line today… my packages were heavy, encumbering my triceps and forearms and straining my back. Because there were only three postal workers – each of which I knew by name – in the closet-like post office, there’d be a wait. So, I shuffled over to the side counter where in-house packing could be accomplished, balanced my load, and settled in to observe.
First, I watched someone use nearly an entire roll of packing tape to tighten one package bound to who knows where. I couldn’t help but commiserate with the person on the receiving end of the package, sawing with an Exacto knife for hours – or days. You’d have thought the packer was shipping gold, bricks of cocaine, or a gift for a princess or queen.
Next, my eyes drifted to the woman at the middle counter. She was muttering to herself. While I didn’t understand the words, but I understood the tone. That lady was pissed.
Her shoulders slumped, but not as mine had, in mild pain. Her shoulders slumped in disgust. The equivalent of tapping one’s toe in impatience, disapproving body language the postal worker could see.
My eyes traveled down her body, from the abject head past a frump of a polyester dress that looked like a mauve Rose Parade float. No floral odor, but no body odor either, so that was good, but the dress looked like it had been worn hard and not laundered since 2005. The ensemble was complemented by a hot pink shoulder-strap purse. It twittled-and–twatted and hokey-tonked. In satin.
After my overlong pause to reflect on that dress, I swept my eyes down—the brown boots whose side ties dangled to the floor, limp and ready to trip her everywhere she went. (sorry, peeps – no pictures for this. Use your imagination – wink-wink)
Above the boots—fishnet hose. I grimaced. My image of fishnets was neither Biblical when many of Jesus’ followers were fishermen, nor appropriate for daytime dress. My imagery was the dancers of the high kickers of the Folies Bergere cabaret. Or maybe the Rockettes.
The woman shifted hips, lifted and fingered the plastic package in her hands. Her fingertips edged around the package… which was tenderly, petitely stapled rather than taped. I know because the woman’s body was inches from the “Will Not Accept” list of package closures, generously taped to the counter’s front. Egad.
Since the clerk had hastened away from her station, on some task for the woman, and had not yet returned, the woman whirled to scan the other occupants crammed into the room.
Then I got a look at the kook’s face. It was then that I was shocked. It was then that I was awed, well appalled. Because, because, because she had an entire container’s amount of hot pink and sparkly eye shadow smeared on her eyelids, from the base of the lashes—which were not mascara’d—to the lower edge of her eyebrows. No eyeliner, no brow pencil, no lipstick, no well-applied blush. Just a swath of thick eye shadow, like a full flower bed of pink carnations.
With the rest of her face sallow and pallid, I could not see that she was not a teen. She had the wrinkles and slumpy eye bags of an ancient. I no longer imagined her as a college professor or student because this scene was occurring near UC Irvine. I imagined her as a witch or a hag.
She took no notice of me. Thank goodness for that. But I took full notice of her as the line didn’t move… and didn’t move.
But I no longer cared. In fact, I was glad for the wait. I had time to study this creature, this Orange County anachronism in my full view. Here, where everyone strives to look Hollywood-perfect as if to deserve our days of extra sun, while others’ turn of daylong sun is closing down as winter looms.
Swifter-than-swift, the woman spun around to resume her position at the counter. She was a glum statue because the clerk hadn’t returned.
Moments later I was able to move forward for my turn. The clerk, my favorite, who greets me with “There’s my favorite author,” when she sees me, which is once a week. My buddy who’d give me a deal on stamps if she could—yeah that kind of buddy, an insider friend—rolled her eyes.
We completed my transaction, sighing together at the cost. I told her that the huge box was worth $27.00 to send to the Midwest. Because it was packed with love, nothing liquid, fragile, or illegal. Just a few items and a whole lotta love.
Just then, the woman whipped out to the vestibule. My eyes followed her as if glued to her story, the one that I was going to spin. She fetched… a highly-decorated skateboard that she’d propped against a side wall near the door, so strongly blue and in my full view. The board was nearly her height but she man-handled it in disgust.
And she was gone.
I turned back to the clerk, who winked and nearly guffawed. The clerk whispered, “She comes in everyday.” I could feel my eyebrows arch. “And, she always dresses funky. Unkempt. She always wears that dang floppy hat. A picture hat that wobbles and warps around her head and not like a halo, though the brim is transparent, the top black. Her hair’s always curled and hangs in Shirley Temple coils down to her waist. The hair changed color often…” Significant pause and step back from the counter.
Who’da thought that the post office could be a people-watching hot spot, like the downtown Greyhound bus terminal I imagined in LA?
Do you a story of going postal, dear reader? Tell me in the comments, please and thanks.