Wednesday, December 21, 2011


....It is eleven-fifty-nine-and-a-half when I rush into the post office, where the postmaster is waiting on what he supposes is his final customer of the day. He's poised to push the button that closes the window and officially says, Too late! But by eleven-fifty-nine-and-three-quarters, I'm at the window.
" I exclaim, all out-of-breath and panting, "This one has all the postage, even an extra penny. And this one..."I thrust the larger box toward him, "I don't know how much more I need. I didn't have time to add up the stamps I've put on it." (There were already enough on there to lavishly illustrate an American history book, Dear Reader).

Hmm. He's had a busy morning. I can see it on his face: Shoulda given this woman that darn zip code! (,possibly: Shoulda given this darn woman that zip code!) And me, I'm thinking, Ha! But then he's looking at that mass of stamps and getting flummoxed with his little calculator, and I do, after all, Dear Reader, have some Christmas heart (not to mention that I'll have many future tete-a-tetes with the guy)!
"Here, I can do it," I offer, " if you want, if you'll let me use the calculator."
"Oh, sure!" he says with relief. He hands over the goods.
I work at lightening speed, toting up stamps (you wouldn't believe, Dear Reader, how inscrutable some of those old stamp values prove to be. One of them--what the --?--had no number at all! [my Christmas spirit is taking a hit]). In a flash, I slap on additional stamps, well over-shooting the needed total.
"Okay, here you go!" I return the package to the postmaster, who's been busy at other work, delaying the closing of the window. "It's got more than it needs," I said, "not even figuring the one that doesn't say how much it's worth." He accepts my parcel, gives it an appreciative glance, hand stamps it hurriedly, and tosses it into the outgoing mail bin.
"Okay, great," he says. "Thanks!"
I coast down off of my high dudgeon. It gives one an amazing feeling to be trusted by the United States Postal Service!*

*So why can't the IRS be more like this, I wonder.**

**I'm feeling so good, in fact, by the time I return home, that I'm ready to start layering my outgoing Christmas cards with vintage stamps!


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