post office feud

Sales were slow on Monday and got slower and slower until stopping altogether on Thursday.

Friday was my first day off after the streak of dead sales so I was waiting outside the bins when they opened at 8 a.m. but I was moody from such a bad sales week and dragged that cloud inside the warehouse and it hovered overhead while I sifted through the bins and I think that’s why I didn’t find anything good, is because I was telling myself that the store was dead, maybe I wasn’t cut out for this, I’ll have to pick up more shifts at the grocery store which means less time for writing, reading, living a life…

When I was working for a ghost writer a few years ago someone paid him a large amount of money to write a blog post about “negative self-talk” and he said OK I can do that and then gave me eighteen dollars and said, “Go write a blog post about ‘negative self-talk.'” In my research I found an interview with a healthcare professional said, in very gentle words, that if you, as a negative self-talker, go home from a social event and you look in the mirror and say, “I made a terrible impression, everyone hates me, I’m sure they were all saying terrible things about me as soon as I left,” you are wrong. You, the negative self-talker, are presuming that everyone at the event was so struck by your presence that they formed a radical opinion.

Nobody is thinking negative thoughts about you, was the healthcare professional’s consolation, because you’re not impressive enough to think about.

On my way home from the bins I stopped at a Salvation Army only because I didn’t want to have so little to show for my two-hour venture. The Salvation Army is cheap but the prices are way higher than the bins’, and since sales had been terrible all week I figured I couldn’t afford the margins, but I went inside anyway and browsed the menswear and found two designer dress shirts (Robert Graham and Frank & Eileen), plus a box of $3 Kodak photo paper that sells on eBay, quickly, for $15—20. Paid $9 for the bunch and went home. Took photos and listed everything.

The photo paper sold for $16, the Frank & Eileen shirt sold for $70.

There were a few sales from the week that I had to take to the post office but I had to find a new post office. There’s a cashier at the USPS closest to my apartment that I don’t get along with. She wears a designer waist bag strapped crosswise on her torso. There’s a passage in Toni Morrison’s novel Sula where she describes a woman walking around with a constant furrow to her brow and pucker to her lips as though in constant disapproval of the choices of others and that is this cashier. I’m reluctant to ever ask a question because she gets snappy and says things like “what do you think?” and then lets the question mark hang there like a condom off the pavement. I once started filling out an address label while paying and she slapped the counter like a gunshot (this post office is extremely old and cavernous and echoey), “Uh-uh,” wagged her finger at me and pointed back toward the line, “nobody writin at the counter. Go back. Back. Go back. Get back.”  

That was a couple months ago. A few weeks after it happened I saw her do the ame thing to someone else. An older man who also just took it on the chin, and muttered about how the reaction “isn’t necessary,” and went to the back of the line and filled out his address label and waited. I thought about hanging back after my transaction to talk with him about the experience.

“Awful, wasn’t it?”

But I did not.

After every transaction with a postal worker they’ll hand you a long receipt with a QR code at the bottom. If you scan the QR code you’re presented with a survey about your experience. Last time I was there and the worker in question saw me and said some passive aggressive things in response to my questions I said, fuck it, and scanned the QR. Started writing a critique about my issue with this postal worker. I said, “I think this person has a grudge against me.” Listed our encounters. Mentioned how she seems a little more scathing toward me than toward other people…

And then I stopped. Read it over. And deleted it.

Last year while bartending at a Coral Gables pizza place (right next to the Coral Gables Post Office) a fiftysomething letter carrier used to swing by around happy hour. Friendly, generous; soft-spoken in a tired way. He’d come in at 3 or 4 p.m. looking like he’d spent the day holding his breath. His shirt was grayed with sweat and his calves were huge and vascular. He’d put his elbows on the counter and stoop so that his posture on the stool was a question mark. He told me that he’d started working for USPS right when they changed the pension plan. Now, instead of getting it after 20 years of service, the pension kicked in at 27 or 30. (Something like that.) He’d shake his head when telling me about his day, his route, the people. Roll his eyes and click his tongue and shake his head.

He seemed so miserable I’d say, “You can’t just quit?”

He let his eyes drift shut and huffed a little patient laugh. “No. I can’t just quit.” Then he thought about it (like maybe yes?)…and shook his head. “Not til twenty-seven years.”

“When’s that?”

“Thirteen to go.”

Mighta been 30 years.

We had the same conversation at least twice. He’d shrug and smile about it and then sip his beer and shrug again. Mention his daughter. Little gestures at small talk that he couldn’t really sustain, he was so tired.

I started thinking about the guy and instead of finishing the complaint I just decided to start using a new post office. Decided that yeah, this cashier is an asshole, but it’s probably nothing personal.

Her job’s obviously pretty exhausting.

And I’m probably not interesting enough to hate.

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