I mailed something to Spain recently. The surreal encounter in the Post Office did little to enhance my faith all things postal. I think Charles Bukowski put in something like 20 years as a postal clerk, if that tells you anything. But then again, John Prine was a Chicago postal carrier, so maybe there is hope after all.
I stood in line for eternity while a blue haired, frail old lady inquired about shipping her pet tropical macaw. The next person mailed Christmas cards. That would be fine except that it’s May. Then I stepped up to the counter and came face to face with someone who could only be described as the guardian at one of the gates of Hell.
“Mailing to Spain you say? Are there any explosives or flammable liquids?” “Um … it’s a flat envelope containing a letter.” (I wanted to say: “I’m mailing Spanish boots of Spanish leather. What does this look like you idiot? It’s a letter envelope!”) But I knew that would only prolong the agony and most likely end with her subjecting me to a thorough and vigorous body cavity search in full view of all the other customers.
“Well, if it’s anything other than paperwork, such as a document, you’ll need to fill out this customs form and sign here, here, here and here. Just remember this may be inspected and you will be subject to prosecution if you falsify this report or enter any inaccurate information.”
“I’ll bet the weather is rather pleasant in Guantanamo this time of year. A black hood will actually go nicely with virtually anything in my wardrobe,” I thought as I turned away from the counter. By this time the line behind me had grown to at least a half dozen impatient customers who eyed me with suspicion. I filled out the form in triplicate, put a checkmark in the “contents” box that signifies “document”, dutifully described the document as a “NY State Drivers License”, and trudged back to the end of the line, whistling “Alice’s Restaurant”.
After another eternity, I slid the form and envelope across the counter. She inspected the form, arched her eyebrow and asked why I would be sending a New York Driver’s License to someone in Spain. I wanted to say “You caught me! I’m a sleeper operative in an al-Qaeda cell, supplying fake IDs to my comrades in arms in Spain!” Once again, I prudently bit my tongue and explained that it was for my next door neighbor here in the states who has been living there with his family, but will be returning soon.
After some deliberation, she began ruthlessly stamping the form and pulling apart the duplicates to be distributed to various places, including one for me, with all the information that would be needed to track me to the ends of the earth. I started to wonder if my black hood would be itchy.
“Do you want this to go Overnight for $45, Express for $23 or First Class for a dollar nineteen?” I chose a dollar nineteen, and hoped that the license would reach my friend before it was time to renew it again in 10 years. I decided to skip the rest of my errands and head straight to the liquor store.