I grew up in the post office. Sort of. Both of my parents worked for the post office, and I’d visit them often from when I was young, in elementary school right up to college and after.
I knew where the employee only door was to visit my mother, and I’d walk on through even though it said, No Admittance, Employees Only. This was also my way of bypassing the line and I would give my mother my mail and she’d dump it into the sorting tray.
I used to send a lot of letters and cards to friends and pen pals. I didn’t realize that stamps had to be paid for; that thyey cost money. My parents never asked me for money for stamps.I thought they were a benefit of working for the post office.
I’d leave my mail sticking out of the medicine cabinet mirror in the bathroom at night, and the next morning they’d be gone and on their way to the addressee.
I sat at Gloria’s desk, twirling in her chair, pushing around the cigarette butts in the ashtray with a pencil. I’d use the stampers on blank pieces of routing paper: First Class, Air Mail, Fragile.
On ocassion, I’d sort the mail into the carrier’s trays by zip code.
I would address letters to my grandmother by simply writing Grandma and her address.
I knew the importance of the return address and using a zip code. I rebelled against the zip plus four.
For a long time, I could identify a state by its zip code, and I was one of the only kids in class who knew all the postal abbreviations for all of the states.
Even today, two hundred fifty miles away from those childhood post offices, I still feel at home sending out my letters and packages. I sneak behind the second counter to build my boxes, pack them, address them and tape them closed. This isn’t an official counter where the stamps and money are kept. It is alongside the retail section. It might have had a cash register a long time ago for just the retail items, but it’s just a great space to pack up and get my Christmas presents ready for mailing. I do get asked a lot of questions, though because everyone thinks I work there. I can almost always answer the questions, which makes me feel good too.
As a kid, I knew not to put any mail in the blue neighborhood boxes. I still don’t although the problems that happened in the 70s don’t really happen too much anymore – fireworks in July, eggs at Halloween.I do hand my already stamped mail to the clerk about ninety-nine percent of the time.
Fragile, liquid, perishable, or potentially hazardous? My clerk knows I know it, and he has to say it anyway, so I just smile and wait patiently to answer him. Usually it’s the first three, especially around the holiday season.
I automatically hand over my credit card, knowing the clerk needs it for the credit transaction.
I’ve asked for tape and markers and staplers.
I almost always use priority mail. I remember when priority mail was guaranteed like express mail is.
The price of stamps almost always goes up right after Mother’s Day, at least it did two or three times in a row.
I remember when computers came into the station, and at my parents’ first station together, we could walk to the pizza place and back. Joe’s Pizza.
As an adult they kind of frown on you spinning the chairs around, but there was not a chair that I didn’t spin when I was a kid.