I've made several trips to the post office recently, mostly because the majority of our family lives elsewhere, forcing us to mail our goodwill and thoughtful gift packages far and wide. Five or six separate packages (I am losing count) are flinging their way to doorsteps across the midwest (and two to Italy).
Fortunately for me, the counter staff at the local post office is a friendly lot. Most of them have worked there since I moved to Corrales and know me by face if not by name. They chitchat about the weather, movies, or the busyness of the postal business this time of year. Chuck cracks silly jokes and makes me laugh. I don't mind the trip to the post, but I'm spoiled because in little Corrales there are rarely more than three people in line at a time.
Whether the packages fare so well is another matter. Last year it was truly with great faith that I used the postal system. After one package went astray never to be heard from again, I took my boxes to my accomodating sister who shipped them all DHL from her office. Alas, she no longer works there and is of no use to me this year. Last Christmas season, the postal system had glitches that resulted in packages being left in storage containers somewhere, and many of them not arriving to their destinations in a timely manner (a month to get across the country? Pony Express was faster!). This year, they recommended sending everything Priority Mail "just to be sure". Yeah, just to be sure they skinned me for a lot of money!
Friendly people aside, I've had issues with the US postal service. For one, we had an incident where our mail was stolen. For three days. During the time my passport was being renewed and expected any day. I frantically called the State Department to determine if my pasport had been sent out. Fortunately they had not yet gotten around to my renewal. It arrived two weeks later by regular post without any kind of tracking or signature required. For a passport! It turns out the contract employee they'd just hired had been stealing all the mail from three or four subdivisions for her husband to rifle through and steal identities. Brilliant thieves that they were, much of the mail (or at least the remains of it) was found in their home.
Further back in time, a few years after we moved to New Mexico, my grandmother wrote me a letter that was delivered more than a month after she sent it. It arrived battered and well-traveled in a plastic "we're sorry it's been ripped apart" envelope bearing markings from Mexico. Somehow it was routed to Old Mexico before arriving in Albuquerque, New Mexico. My mom was indignant and complained about the "incompetent poops who don't know geography from..." well, you know.
So, a few years after that when she was sending a Christmas box of goodies that hadn't arrived after a few weeks, she was livid and stormed down to her post office in a rage, with a map in hand, telling them just how maladroit they were and then proceeded to give them a geography lesson on the difference between "NEW Mexico...which IS a state in the Union" and regular Mexico, "which is a country". They assured her they would do all they could to find the package. Days passed without any word on the whereabouts of the absent parcel. Not long after, my stepfather arrived home and asked my mom, "Uh, hon, what's that box in the trunk of the car? It's been there for weeks!" Yep, that's right. The box was never even mailed. I asked if she'd gone to the post office and apologized. "Are you kidding?" she replied. "I drove to Sandusky and mailed it from there!"
This year, without the DHL connection, I prayed fervantly that my packages would arrive safely and then deposited them into the hands of the Postal Service. They may just arrive at their destinations on time. If not, at least I had a congenial time at the post office mailing them off.
copyright 2005 Valerie Schneider