Monday, June 26, 2006

Which came first: the surly post-mistress or the rude customer?

My brother is hitting the Hawaii-Five-Oh mark this week (snigger!) and so I trundled up to our local sub-post office this morning to put something present-like into the post.

I'm never unastonished by the quality of customer care in shops or places where money is exchanged. Not only have you disturbed the person from whatever the mental quivalent of cud-chewing is, but you also want to spend money in their establishment! It really is the limit.

I've had the suspicious looks from the post master before and put these down to one drug-starved raider too many, but yer woman today (whoever she is) took the kibble.

"I'd like to send this by registered post," said a man in the queue in front of me.

She swiped the packet from him and completed the three-second process of registering it. Then she peered over her glasses at him.

"Is there any value in this?"

Like me, the man was probably considering the Zen-like quality of the question. He might be wondering if indeed his business transaction had any meaning in the broader context of financial dealings on a national level. Perhaps the balance of trade deficits would be tipped precariously by the addition of €4.85 into the black part of the ledger book. On the other hand, perhaps she referred to the contents of his packet. Would anything change -- I mean really change -- if the recipient got his hands on what was inside? Maybe she was asking a much bigger question. Would the karma of the sender be increased by the sending? Would his time inside the great wheel be increased or decreased by the transaction? Or was it all an illusion, without meaning?

"Two hundred Euro," he said.

She scribbled the value onto a sheet of paper.

"In a bank draft," he added. Unnecessarily, as it turned out, because she gave him a look reserved for the snail that unexpectedly crunches underfoot as you go out to fetch in the washing on a dark morning. Obviously, once the value of the item was written down, the nature of the item was completely superfluous. Tsk!

The man paid his fee, bowed deeply, and walked slowly backwards out of The Presence.

An African woman was next in the queue. She slapped a payment card onto the drawer and it was pulled inside the counter wordlessly. A docket was produced and slapped down on the drawer with a pen and pushed out to her in silence. She signed and pushed it back.

"Fifty, one-hundred, fifty, two, hundred, and one, two, three, four, seventy-eight."

The money was dropped like hot rocks into the well of the drawer and the cover pulled back.

I was ready when I reached the counter.

"I'd like to send this packet by registered post, please."

She swiped up the list of registered post packets, weighed and franked the envelope, scribbled the address illegibly on the paper, then asked the universal constant:

"Is there value in this?"

I indicated the value. She looked at me. I wasn't going to give her the satisfaction of telling her what was in it just so she could indicate she didn't care. A second passed, a sigh, and she wrote the value on her list.

For the hell of it, I paid with a €50 note.

"Five eighty and twenty makes six and four is ten and forty," she said, throwing the cash in the drawer.

I picked it up with my receipt and walked silently out the door before my nerve broke.

"You know," she'll tell the post master later, "Some people have no manners."


Anonymous said...

Great observations Willie, I really hope yer parcel gets to it's destination on time. I sent our Dad his Birthday gift 5 days before the due date. 10 days later it still had not arrived ! It did get to him eventually which frustrated my intentions of a gift before his day. I remembered then the year before I had the same problem having sent a gift and it got there in 13 days. What the heck is going on with the post offices ? Next time I will send something by post two weeks ahead of time. Tsk Tsk.

Willie_W said...

Parcels, especially, have become "fire and forget". I don't try too hard to set departure dates, as they either arrive by the next day's delivery, or, as in your examples, a long time after the event. On the plus side, it makes the birthday that bit longer as random gifts appear at random times!

Willie_W said...

To follow up: My brother received the gift on the day of his birthday. The slight fly in the ointment being that the postman knocked at 7.00am. I couldn't have done better if I planned it..