I'm sure your local post office is a paragon of American efficiency and either small-town charm or big-city cool.
I'm sure your post office gives you prompt service with a smile, and, no sooner have you walked in, than you're walking out with a tune streaming from your lips and a spring in your step.
Oh, and your mail, too. Mail, stamps, etc. are the reasons to go to the post office in the first place.
My local post office? Not so much.
There is a saying attributed to John F. Kennedy about DC, which goes, "Washington is a city of Southern efficiency and Northern charm.," and I'm thinking he coined it while waiting for a package at the local post office.
In this particular outlet of the United States Postal Service, one can easily wait for three attendants who all look "free" for about twenty minutes and never get so much as a glance directed your way. I'm not sure if there is an invisible leaden curtain that separates the workers from the customers, but I'm thinking it's got to be physically painful to interact through it. No guesses on how they tolerate having to actually interact when they run out of excuses and call whoever is next in line, but I'm also thinking here that when they sadistically reveal that they cannot take credit cards as soon as you're about to walk forward because the gods smiled upon you and it's finally your turn and you'll be home in time to see your first grandchild being born, has got to do something with excising their revenge due to the comfort level thereof.
But truly, having to deal with long lines, long waiting times, dour-faced workers, beaten-up packages, and unbearable air-conditioning/central heating conditions is nothing compared to having to endure some of the patrons with which you end up suffering waiting through the long, arduous wait.
The problem with braggarts is not that upon first hearing what they have to say, they make you jealous.
After all, this is expected of braggarts: they are going to first shyly talk of whatever they think might make them awesomer than everyone else; and then they fill in the details so that you fully get the awesomeness picture in full, excruciating, every-shade-of-green highlights.
The problem is that, upon the tenth hearing or so, you end up wishing they were pimples so you could squish their heads with wild adolescent abandon and enjoy the sick moment when they would explode in a satisfying, if repulsive, jet of pus.
So it was with two particular women the other day at the aforementioned post office.
As usual, whoever was in charge of scheduling failed miserably and there were only two harried workers standing at the counter and looking intently st some obscure piece of bureaucracy, while a third one actually worked at the retail counter and made eye contact with people. I am still not sure who dropped this Mother Teresa in that sea of uncaring, but I am grateful nonetheless.
This meant that two neighborhood doyennes– both vying for title of "Longest and best-known resident of Capitol Hill" — got to share their stories about how they knew more people and knew them longer and knew them better and knew the people who used to live before where people who have lived there FOREVER live.
It was truly amazing to behold: the way these two women bitched back and forth at a volume that any well-meaning parent would have judged as "not your indoor voice" were it coming from his child about an inane subject that could be perhaps the stuff pissing contests are made on, but not much else.
My fellow patrons an had our ears hijacked by these two obnoxious people for what seemed like an eternity, having to endure their inanity and the self-importance with which they addressed each other for what seemed like hours and hours, just because many of us couldn't somehow pick up our packages electronically. Although I must say, a part of me envied the ease with which they talked about the neighborhood and its inhabitants (and the way they didn't give a flying eff about said inhabitants either).
I wish there were some sort of closure to this story– that perhaps someone called them on their braggart rudeness; that the employees took advantage of their distraction to skip over them and help us quieter patrons; or that the Anacostia river grew to biblical proportions instantly and swallowed them whole leaving no trace; but those things only happen in movies, or in our eager imaginations without fear of retaliation or jail time.
Instead, I realize why working at a post office must be such a drag, and why the internet is so popular. And why it's important to sometimes, just sometimes, remember that others around you are paying attention, so you should strive to be kinder and quieter whenever you can.
Although I'm also starting to think that earplugs and noise-canceling headphones are possibly underrated when you must interact with annoying people.