I was sorry to see the old postmaster go. Over the decades, we had become friends. I knew I would miss our chats. Then, too, he long ago learned to know the tenant of mine who always brings his rent checks into the post office in person. My tenant arrives with an unaddressed envelope; he hands it across the counter and asks that it be put in my box.
The postmaster knew, too, that I am always interested in the latest designs arriving from the United States Postal Service. He knew my affinity for always using stamps rather than postal strips, no matter the number of stamps needed. He often informed me of new stamps he thought I would appreciate. And it was he who, a few years ago, told me that stamps could be affixed to any spot on the top of a box.
"You mean I can put them down here?!" I responded with incredulity, pointing to the lower edge of the package. "And here?!!" gesturing to the left side of the address label.
When he assured me that, indeed, I could make any kind of design I wished, could place the stamps wherever I pleased, I was pleased as punch, Reader Dear!
Thus, for years I've been bringing my birthday, Christmas, and valentine packages to the postmaster, having him weigh them and tell me the postage needed, then returning later with the stamp-covered parcels to mail out.
The new postmaster is a postmistress, if one wishes to call her such. Sharon is friendly and accommodating, and she always totes up the stamps in a pleasant manner. She doesn't openly admire my artwork as the old postmaster did, but neither has she ever disallowed it.
Last week I had a birthday box to decorate and send to a sister of mine in southern Virginia. I took it to the post office. Sharon weighed it for me and gave me the total stamp value required.
I had already wrapped the box in a city map. It was such a pretty shade of green. I chose stamps in shades of orange and green.
It was close to closing time when I brought the parcel back to the post office to send it out. Sharon was no longer at the window; another woman was there. I've seen her in the post office occasionally, filling in for Sharon. Or supervising, perhaps.
She looked at my package and frowned.
"Sharon weighed it for me earlier," I explained. "I've got seven-seventy-nine on there."
I had jotted a list of the stamps, Reader Dear (I know that whoever she is, she's your employee, too, if you live in the USA and pay taxes). I like to treat my employees well, and I started to show her the list: Five standard 50-cent forever stamps. One stamp worth $1.15 (the lovely green succulent). Two 37s and a 39.
"Oh, no, no," she cut me short. "We can't have this!" She waved her hand at my carefully-placed stamps. "These all need to be in the upper right-hand corner! They are required to be right here!" she reiterated, and placed her hands emphatically around the upper right quadrant of the box top. Reader Dear, I was being scolded for my artwork, much like a small child who has crayoned a masterpiece on the bedroom wall!
"But., but...the previous postmaster told me they could be anywhere on the top," I said indignantly. "I've been doing this for years!"
Undaunted, she insisted that it was the rule. There was just no way I could be allowed to scatter stamps helter-skelter all over the top of an outgoing USPS parcel!
Only a little less vehemently, I insisted that I'd been given instructions to the contrary.
Then the woman told me, "They are likely to throw this package out as suspicious."
"Are you serious?!" I asked, truly curious.
"Yes," she responded. "All these stamps! It could have been mailed by a terrorist."
Dear Reader, I think I may have giggled a little nervously.
"Four love stamps, and...and popsicles, for heaven's sake. A terrorist?!" I exclaimed.
(I got serious quickly, however. I did not wish to be handcuffed).
"Well, and this shouldn't be wrapped in printed paper, either," she grumbled. She did, however, start adding up my stamps. She disregarded my written list.
Ultimately, Reader Dear, she grudgingly mailed out the package as designed.
In the process, she may have stamped her foot just hard enough to stamp out my practice of stamping all my parcels.*
* I stamped out of that place, pondering what's to be done with my colossal collection of vintage postage stamps. Going forward, Dear One, keep your eyes open for the plain brown wrapper and the postal strip!