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Here in the U.S.of A., we joke about the post office, to the point where one of the unintended functions of the United States Postal Service is as a source of humorous anecdotes.

Today I had to return a package to an online merchant. I went to the local branch.This sign in the parking lot said “15 Minute Parking“.

“Shouldn’t be too long”, I say to myself, “if 15 minutes is the top end of a visit.”

Walking in, I see a line at the counter. People are queued up, with parcels and packages to send out. The counters have boxes piled three and four high. There are two clerks at two service stations to handle the crowd. I decide this would be a good day to use the automated kiosk. I press the kiosk’s computer screen, as directed. The next screen tells me I cannot use the kiosk to mail parcels or letters. There is a malfunction, somewhere. Oh well. I go in to stand on queue.

While standing on line, I notice one clerk seems to be spending a lot of time with a couple and their little baby. This couple is applying for passports and this clerk is assisting them. That means we actually have one clerk for everyone else on the line.

Astutely discovering that the line is kinda just poking along, a manager type offers to handle mail pick-ups, drop-offs, and stamp purchases. This syphons off a customer or two. Meanwhile Passport Clerk is administering an oath to the applicants about supporting The Constitution and not giving aid and comfort to any enemies, foreign and/or domestic, The applicants said “Yes!”, they supported The Constitution and promised to not give aid to any enemies, much to the relief of my fellow postal patrons and myself.

By now, I had abandoned all hope of getting out in fifteen minutes. The customers in front of me all had packages, except for the elderly lady with a back brace who used a walker. I believe she was shopping for commemorative stamps, plate blocks in particular .

No sooner had Passport Clerk finished with these two applicants, than a family of four dropped in, all to get their passports, thus taking up more of Passport Clerk’s time.

The line was moving along, but that fifteen minute parking sign signalled an impossible goal. We Wretches With Packages, are known to the postal workers collectively as “Saps”, I am certain.

Finally I get some face time with the clerk.  He rattles off a few mailing options. I go for First Class. They were estimating a three day shipping time to send the package back across the country to Seattle, Washington. And they only wanted to charge $5.66. I promised I was not mailing perfume, volatile liquids, small arms ammunition or Cuban cigars.

I paid the money. They took the package and I was on my way. As I see it, my going to the post office was still cheaper entertainment than going to the movies.