Going postal

16Jun08

My dad has had the same post office box since 1982. He lives in a small town without home delivery, so, almost every day for the last 26 years, he’s been going in to the post office to pick up his mail. For bureaucratic reasons, he had to renew it this year, at which point the clerk he’s been seeing day after day for decade after decade asked to see his photo ID.

As annoying as the rule might be, I can appreciate that it’s there for a reason, and they’re just trying to keep people from stealing your mail. A few days ago, my girlfriend sent me a card from Hong Kong. Because it was sent by registered mail and I wasn’t around when the postal carrier originally tried to deliver it, it was held for me at the post office. There are several postal outlets close to me, but the one where my mail is held is out at Coxwell and Danforth, about 2.2 kilometres east of my house, according to Google Maps. This is kind of a far walk, but it’s just close enough that on a nice day, it’s hard to justify the subway fare when I can use the exercise and vitamin D.

East of Jones Avenue, or maybe Donlands if you’re generous, the Danforth turns into a bit of a skid row, so there are nicer neighborhoods if you’re out for a stroll. I did see a marquee in the window of a bargain shop that read ELECTRONIC PERFUME, which was somewhat intriguing. (I assume it sells both electronic equipment and perfume.) But I was glad to get to the post office, where the Asian lady behind the counter promptly rejected my photo ID and withheld my mail. Canada Post has tightened up its rules regarding identification. My old, expired driver’s license wouldn’t cut it. Neither would a health card. I asked about an age of majority card, and sure, that would work, except that mine’s 15 years old. “You probably got it as soon as your birthday, said the clerk, miming me standing up straight and having my photo taken. “Looking all handsome.”

“You don’t think I’m still handsome?” I asked her. But it was no use. No amount of flirting was going to get me my mail.

So I ended up coming back the next day with my passport. I did notice a sign I’d missed the previous day reading COSMIC JANITORIAL SUPPLY; I imagine Roger Wilco, the custodian protagonist from the Space Quest series of adventure games, probably works there now. But that’s about all I appreciated about what ended up being a 10-kilometre hike to pick up my mail. It was the first hot day of the year, and the back of my shirt was soaked in sweat. I’d worn sandals and gained an enormous blister on my right heel. I had fencing practice that night, which happened to be the night that one of the coaches handpicked me to demonstrate lunges for the rest of the group, which meant repeatedly kicking my foot out, landing square on the blister on my heel, and trying to remain stoic despite the agony this caused. (He’s never seemed to think a great deal of my footwork before, so either my technique has improved or he’s just taken a shine to me since I visited his native Hong Kong recently. I think he thinks I’m dating a Chinese girl. I haven’t the heart to tell him she’s a redheaded small-town Ontario girl who’s just teaching English over there.)

So I was a little disgruntled by the time I showed the clerk my passport, even though rules are rules, and she’s just trying to keep people from stealing my mail. As she turned around to get it, I noticed that there was a little sign off to the side of the counter, against the wall. TRAINING IN PROGRESS, it said. I surreptitiously slid it off the counter and fingered it, thinking of making off with it. Then I slipped it onto the counter in front of her station, behind the screen of her terminal where it was blocked from her view. I collected my mail and left, secure in the knowledge that anyone who came in after me mistook her for a trainee.

Of course, this probably just means that people were extra-patient with her for the rest of the day and told her what a good job she was doing when she inevitably didn’t screw up. So, as revenge goes, it wasn’t very harsh, but then, since she was really just doing her job, neither was what she did to me.



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