SLACKJAW by JIM KNIPFEL
September 18, 2011

An Idiot Visits the Post Office, Vol. 18

 

Few things in this world annoy me quite as much as finding an “Attempted Delivery” slip in my mailbox. The fact that I’m here all the time and so shouldn’t miss any deliveries leaves me thinking the mailman was just being lazy and didn’t bother even trying to delivery anything. Leaving a slip is so much easier than ringing a damn doorbell. Beyond that, though, I can’t read the fucking slips, and finding one usually means I have to make an unplanned trip to the post office. It’s a bit of a trek, and once I get up there claiming a package also involves signing one of those electronic screens. Oh, how I hate those screens.

            So I found a slip waiting for me the other day, apparently for a registered letter. I like to keep things as simple as possible, and rarely receive anything so damned important that it requires any kind of registration. But this time, I guess, someone who was sending me a fairly healthy check decided to be on the safe side.

            My first impulse was to wait a day, figuring the mailman would try to re-deliver it. He didn’t. I waited a few more days, all in an effort to avoid making that trip to the post office. Still nothing came. Finally I broke down and called the damn post office to arrange for a re-delivery. (I can sometimes be as lazy as the mailman). The woman on the other end asked me to read a bunch of numbers off the slip, but I had to explain that I couldn’t, as I was blind. She then asked me if the slip had been marked “adult material.”

            “Ummm, what exactly do you mean by ‘adult material’?” I asked.

            “Is the slip marked ‘adult material’?”

            “I . . . honestly can’t say.”

            It was hopeless. Finally she told me that the post office opened at seven in the morning, and that I’d need to go there myself to pick up my adult material.

On the bright side, they opened early enough that I’d be able to get up there and back before the streets got too busy or the sun had risen too high. And what the hell, I figured. I had to bring some packages up there anyway.

            So the next morning at about quarter to seven, I put the slip in my pocket, loaded up the packages, grabbed my cane and headed out. It was a comparatively decent morning, and the sidewalks were nearly empty. That always makes things simpler.

            I arrived about half an hour later. Just in time, too, as the arm wrapped around the stack of packages was starting to quiver. It didn’t occur to me immediately after stepping through the doors that something wasn’t quite right. The place was quiet is all. I’d been there at noon on Friday when it was just as quiet. No big deal.

            I headed toward the row of service windows waiting for a clerk to call me over, but the only voice I heard said, “They’re not open yet.”

            I stopped. “Pardon?”

            “They’re not open yet.” It was an old security guard on the other side of the lobby. He’d apparently been hired for the sole purpose of telling people the place was closed.

            “Oh,” I said. “I guess I was told they opened at seven.”

            “The doors open at seven. The windows open at nine.”

            “Oh,” I said. “That’s an odd arrangement.” This was no good at all. I had to get that damned check, and was not in the least interested in making another trip that day.

            By now the guard had moved closer, and noting the armload of packages he suggested, “You could use those over there.”

            “Um, use what over there?”

            “Those machines.”

            I shook my head. “Oh, I dunno. I’m afraid I don’t get along real well with machines.”

            “Well I sure don’t know how to use ‘em.”

            “That makes two of us, I guess.” I didn’t say anything, but it seemed to me if you were going to park the old man there to tell people to use the machines, you’d at least show him how to use the machines. This was fast turning into a completely wasted trip. “Yeah,” I said, “I was also hoping to pick up a package. I have a slip here.”

            Perhaps noticing the strained look on my face he said, “Tell you what. Maybe we could try over here. Someone might help you. C’mon, follow me.”

            He led me across the lobby to one of the service windows at the end of the row. “Now don’t tell anybody that I did this, okay?”

            “No, of course not—thank—.”

            He turned around and BANGED on the bulletproof glass with his fist, then vanished back to his post, leaving me standing there alone and helpless. Might as well have shot someone then thrust the gun in my hand.

            A moment later a gruff, middle-aged woman appeared behind the thick glass. My first thought was that he’d awakened her. “Yeah?” she barked. “Whaddya want?”

            I’d given the guard my word I wouldn’t turn him in. I was trapped. A bit flustered, I said “Umm . . . I’m real sorry to bother you. I know you aren’t exactly open yet, but . . . I have this slip here.” I reached into my pocket and pulled out the slip. “I was wondering, ummm . . . ”

            “Slip it under the window,” she said.

            She didn’t unlock the heavy window, which left only a sliver of space through which I slipped the piece of paper. She snapped it up and examined it.

            “I’ll go check. I’ll need to see some ID.”

            Astonished that she was actually helping me, I set the packages on the floor. If she was going this far, I wasn’t about to ask her to deal with an armload of packages, too. They could wait. It was the check that mattered. I pulled out my license and waited.

            A minute later she returned. “It ain’t back there. Hang on, lemme check on the computer.”

            Another moment later she was back again.

            “Someone picked this up yesterday.”

            “What?”

            “Yeah, someone signed for it and picked it up. Did you give someone your ID and send them up here?”

            This was all too much. “No—I’d never do anything like that. If I had I wouldn’t be here now.”

            That seemed to make sense to her. “Gimme your ID and I’ll check the signatures.”

            How could they just go ahead and give away my mail like that to some charlatan? Fucking post office. I was counting on that check to get me through the next couple of months. Now what the hell was I gonna do?

            She read off the address.

            “That’s right.” I confirmed.

            “And your name?”

            I told her.

            Then she examined the license more closely. “No . . . ” she said slowly. “This is someone else completely.”

            Well obviously, I wanted to tell her. Otherwise my mail wouldn’t be stolen, dumbass.

            “This name on the slip, I mean. It’s different.”

            “What?”

            She repeated the address, and I told her that was right, yes, that’s where I live.

            “But the name’s William . . . ” she began sounding out the last name.

            “Oh Jesus Christ,” I said. “That’s my upstairs neighbor.”

            “Well this slip’s for him, and he picked this up yesterday.”

            “But it was in my mailbox.”

            “That was a mistake.”

            I was quiet for a bit. “Oh. Well, that’s what I get, I suppose for not being able to see.” I thanked her nevertheless for her help, pointless as it all was, as she crumpled the slip and threw it away. I gathered my packages off the floor and headed back to the doors, pausing by the old security guard.

            “Was she able to help you?”

            “Yes and no,” I said. “But I didn’t rat you out.” I thanked him for his own help and, packages still under my sweaty arm, began the long trip home.

As usual, a great sound and fury, a wild flapping of arms and some jumping about had accomplished absolutely nothing, though I guess I did get an invigorating walk out of it.

 

You can contact Jim Knipfel at this address:

With occasional exceptions Slackjaw generally appears weekly. For email notification of other Jim Knipfel publications (books, etc.) and events please join the Slackjaw email list here.