NOON, December 18, 2012
We come from all directions, slowly, trudging across the wet parking lot. Our hearts sink and our faces go slack when we see the line snaking out through the front door of the Post Office. But nothing will deter us. We converge on the dreary building en masse, like zombies from The Walking Dead, gunning for the live, fresh meat trapped behind the counter.
We shuffle into the back of the growing line. But we don’t bitch. We remain stoically quiet, aware that acceptance is the key to our survival here. We check our phones or make funny faces at the infant in the woman’s halter. Somewhere deep down we know, despite the wind and the freezing drizzle, that we’re fortunate to be here. We can still afford gifts to send, however meager, and this isn’t a line for bread. And we aren’t at the DMV, thank god. People have actually died waiting there.
Entertainment is scant, but it does arrive via a guy sitting behind the wheel of a powder-blue Lincoln. He’s waving his hands in the air, enraged. The car in front of him has stopped, allowing another diver to back out of a parking space. The hair on the guy’s head looks like he sneezed into his hands repeatedly and then ran his fingers through his hair. He grips the steering wheel with clenched fists, arms straight and elbows locked, and starts screaming at the windshield. Consumed by his anger, he fails to realize a few things: He’s not trapped in a burning garment factory in Bangladesh or dodging sniper bullets in Damascus; his windows are all rolled up, so no one can hear him; he’s not at the DMV.
This is the best time of year at the Post Office. You always find that one person: the lady enraged that her favorite stamp is out of stock; the guy who grumbles through the line only to discover that he could have used the drop box in the lobby; the guy angered by the fact that a package can’t get to Nome, Alaska by the 25th; the person who actually expects the stamp vending machine to work after taking repeated body blows.
This is my last gift run. I planned and organized this year, determined to get my packages out early, before the rush. But watching Mr Sneeze Hair squeal around his adversary and race thirty feet before grinding to a halt at the vehicle drop-box, I start to reconsider. Perhaps avoiding the crowds is the wrong approach to this place. An empty Post Office is never fun — it’s efficient, but boring. I think I’ll come back on the 24th and just hang out for a bit. I’m sure the one person that day will be a doozy.