Tag Archives: post office

Where did I put my stapler?

I had to mail something the other day, it was a stack of documents and, for whatever reason, I couldn’t just scan and email, no, I had to put them in an envelope and get it out to a mailbox. And that’s fine, I mean, in terms of things that I have to do that I don’t really feel like doing, sure, this registered on the charts, but it wasn’t that huge of a deal. And so I sucked it up and set about just getting it done.


Which, I didn’t think it would have been such a big project. And now that it’s over, I guess it wasn’t really huge. But there were still a significant number of steps involved, planning, executing, stuff like that. Like, the stack of papers was about thirty or so pages thick. I thought, I had better staple it all together.

So finding a stapler in my house, I’m not even joking, it took like a good fifteen minutes. Again, fifteen minutes isn’t a lot of time, but try spending fifteen minutes straight going from a desk drawer that I haven’t opened in months to a little box that I put somewhere on a shelf inside of my closet, looking for a stapler, a mostly unnecessary office supply that, sure, I know I had one around here somewhere, but when was the last time that I had to use it? When I put it back, did I make a mental note of how I might locate it the next time that I had to poke a hole through and join several pieces of paper?

And going through all of these little holes and spots around the house, it’s depressing. It makes me feel like a wild animal, like I accumulate all of these little pieces of things and stuff, and when I’m not using them, which is ninety-nine percent of the time, I’m just shoving them into weird spaces in rooms where I can only hope that I won’t have to look at them as I go through my regular days.

I did eventually find the stapler. I actually found the staples first, a little red box that, I’m actually fortunate I came across it first, mostly because I wasn’t looking for it, and I tried putting myself in the imaginary situation of having come across an empty stapler, and then having to go about looking for a tiny little box, I probably would have given up, because at least a stapler looks like something, I can see it and I can easily identify it, there it is, stapler. But a little three-inch red box? I had no idea that it was red before I accidentally came across it. I would have never even really known was I was looking for.

But it didn’t even matter, because when I finally found the stapler, which already had some staples inside, thereby negating the good fortune of having come across the box of staples, I found that the power of an everyday household stapler proved inadequate at actually stapling my thirty pieces of paper together. I’d say that the staple got through maybe the first eighteen pages. After that, I had to carefully pry the stapler from the paper, because being unable to finish the entire stapling motion, the device refused to let go completely of that tiny little piece of metal.

This sucked because, should I try again? Maybe I needed to apply a blunter, quicker stapling. Did I have to reprint my document? Or were these two little pinholes at the top not that big of a deal? My mind started putting together what the rest of completing this task was going to look like, and I couldn’t get past how the thickness of these sheets was already foiling what should have been a fairly straightforward operation.

These definitely weren’t going to fit in a regular envelope. I’d have to buy one of those yellow ones at a store somewhere. And since I had to be there, I guess I should buy a paper clip, hope to mitigate whatever damage I’d already done in my botched attempt at using the stapler.

When I finally got to the Rite-Aid next door to the Post Office, I found myself staring at the office supplies aisle, not really understanding why something so simple had the power to derail what should have been a pretty uneventful afternoon. Why didn’t they have any of those big clips? All I needed was like one big plastic clip, you know, the black kind that have the two metal pin handles, you squeeze on them to open up the clip. Yeah, they had paper clips, but they came sold in this plastic box of at least a hundred. I really didn’t need a hundred paper clips.

And after I resigned myself to the fact that I didn’t really have any other choice but to buy a hundred paper clips, I kept thinking, this little box is just going to be another piece of human detritus, some more garbage that I’ll have to add to my slowly but steadily growing pile of cheap manufactured junk. Chances are, I won’t need to paper clip anything together for at least another year or two. And by the time that need comes around, am I really going to be ready to recall exactly where I put that little box of ninety-nine paper clips that I’m positive I bought sometime within the last two years or so?

So I just have it out on my desk, this box of paper clips. It doesn’t look out of place, I mean, it’s a desk, and so it’s OK to have a few desk supplies on top. Maybe if you came over and you asked to use my computer or print something out real quick you’d look at that box and you wouldn’t really think anything of it.

But I’m staring at it and it’s haunting my existence. This box of paper clips is almost definitely going to outlast me. I can’t think of any amount of paperwork that I’d have to foreseeably complete in my lifetime to begin to justify the use of ninety-nine paper clips. Why couldn’t Rite-Aid just sell by the paper clip? Why do I have to buy such a surplus of paper clips, a surplus that, maybe not now, maybe not ten years from now, will eventually make its way from inside of my house to a trashcan somewhere else?

If you think about it, it actually is crazy. Somewhere in the world, somebody is making money manufacturing paper clips. They get sent over here from wherever they’re put together, and after spending who knows how long on a shelf at a Rite-Aid, they eventually get scanned at the register, a whole two dollars in the pocket of a small drugstore, a little box of junk that I’ll eventually have to throw out. There’s got to be a better way.

And the worst thing is, the plastic box to hold the paper clips is so cheap, when I tried to open it at the Post Office, all I could think was, man, this thing is going to explode open, all of the paper clips are going to get everywhere, I’m going to have to get on my hands and knees and pick up paper clips, one by one, everybody around waiting on line won’t have anything better to do than to watch me collect them all and get them back inside that box. So being really conscious of this happening, I tried as hard as I could to gently nudge the top open. But there was no response, it wasn’t working. I increased the pressure just a little bit, and then a little bit more, just really trying to be careful. But it didn’t matter, because eventually the plastic snapped, way too hard, and while not all of the paper clips fell out, it was a pretty good amount, at least twenty, twenty-five paper clips, all over the floor, I had to pick them all up, apologizing every ten seconds or so as people awkwardly tried to get past me without accidentally kicking me in the face.

I hate the United States Postal Service

I’ve been waiting for this package for forever. I ordered something from Amazon, but I didn’t realize that the product I purchased was sold from a third-party, from somewhere in China. I got an email one day in broken English informing me that my tracking number could be plugged in on the China Post web site.


So I dug in my heels and prepared for a long wait. I mean, it’s China, it’s like on the other side of the planet. It boggles my mind how we’re able to send things even across our own country, but from China? Man, I buy one item, what kind of process is that like, getting that one item from China to New York?

Does it go on a boat? On a plane? And then there’s the whole question of taxes, of customs, I don’t know, I’m sure that the system works, because stuff comes from China all the time. What doesn’t work, and this I’m all too familiar with, is the United States Postal Service. It’s terrible.

Talk about low-hanging fruit, complaining about the Postal Service is almost not fair. It’s like written into their charter or something, that in addition to never stopping for rain or sleet or snow, they also have to make the most routine pickups and deliveries as maddeningly impossible as they can. I’ve had problems with the Postal Service in the past, and I’ve vowed never again, but every once in a while you don’t have a choice.

It’s the default option. I didn’t specifically choose for my most recent package to be shipped via the USPS, but when I plugged that tracking number into the China Post’s web site, it eventually told me that it was located in some sorting center in New York. OK, well that’s something, I thought to myself, at least my package and I are in the same country. It should only be a matter of time before it shows up at my door.

But then a week passed. And then a month. I’d go on to the China Post web site and enter the tracking number, but the New York sorting center was the last information it gave. I tried the USPS web site, and much to my delight, it recognized the tracking number. Apparently the Postal Service attempted to deliver my package on October 15, but nobody was there, so they left it at the Post Office.

I clicked on an option to schedule a redelivery for the 25th. That date came and went without any package. That Monday I figured I’d drop by the branch, see if maybe they had it at the office. Actually going to the Post Office, it’s a last resort, you’re only there because everything else you’ve tried has gone repeatedly wrong.

I opened the doors and the place was jam packed with bodies, a line that had nowhere to go, so it just kind of started snaking in on itself, like I had to ask several people to move and reposition themselves just so I could join them at the very end. And even with four tellers actively helping customers, it seemed as if no progress was being made at all.

I tried to mentally prepare myself for a long wait. I took out my phone, started reading the paper. Still, I couldn’t help but feel my pulse accelerate every time I took stock of my life, standing here on this line, it was getting close to an hour here, every ten minutes or so someone ahead of me or behind me would verbally announce their frustration, a whispered, “Come on!” or an, “Unbelievable,” all laced with several grunts, sighs, these general noises of being totally pissed off yet completely unable to do anything about it.

When I finally got to the window, I told a guy wearing a “Steve” name tag about my problem. He told me to hold on, and then disappeared somewhere in the back for maybe fifteen minutes. He eventually resurfaced, shaking his head, telling me to write down my name and number, that he’d give me a call when they found it.

I never got a call. I came the next day and repeated the same routine. After explaining my situation to someone else, I was told to wait by the side for a supervisor. It’s not just the waiting that got to me, it’s the waiting that’s punctuated by five or ten seconds of ridiculous instructions. Step to the side. Give me your address. Wait here. When I finally spoke to the man in charge, the best he could do for me was hold up his hands in confusion and apologize.

What could I do? I voiced my frustration, I explained how long I’d been waiting, and yeah, the guy acted genuinely sympathetic, but what could he do? What could any more complaining do? I was beat by a faceless institution, a mail delivery service fueled by high wait times and general incompetence. I guess I could have stood there and chewed him out for a little longer, I mean, he wasn’t acting defiant or anything. But would I get my package in the end?

No, so now I have to file a claim and hope that I get my money back. What a waste. How absurd is it that I can buy something from across the world only to have that delivery totally botched right at my doorstep? It’s got to be somewhere, right? Was it delivered to the wrong house? Is it buried in the back of some truck somewhere? I have no idea. I’ll never figure it out. All I know is that, going forward, I’ll pay whatever it takes to make sure that USPS stays far, far away from my stuff.

Every once in a while I’ll hear something in the news about the Postal Service, how it’s going bankrupt, how without assistance from Congress they’re going to have to cancel Saturday delivery or even fold up all together. Normally I’d be like, come on, let’s get our act together. But seriously, just shut it down. What a waste. Quasi-government run operations like the Postal Service only exist for groups like the Tea Party to point at and rail about the government’s inability to get anything done. Enough wasting everybody’s time and money on the USPS. Just let UPS and FedEx take over completely.

Assert yourself. Get aggressive.

Sometimes you’ve got to really assert yourself, you’ve got to get really aggressive. Like when you’re on line at the post office, and it’s one of those lines that’s just snaking all the way around the poles, those fabric strips that come out of the poles, is there a name for those things? Line formers? Am I making myself clear here? They use them at airports. Like you’ll be waiting forever to give your passport to the ticket lady so she can take your baggage. But maneuvering around those line formers, with all of your suitcases, and your luggage. Is there a protocol? What’s the protocol? What’s the protocol for when you’re on one of those lines, it’s moving so slowly, and maybe you’re having some trouble getting your two rolling suitcases around the corner, and there’s a guy right behind you, he’s only got a carry-on, and so when you both round the corner, all of the sudden this guy’s standing not behind you, but next to you, and he’s creeping up. Now there’s another turn coming up. Does this guy think he’s going to weasel his way ahead? Just because he’s only got one small bag? And to be perfectly honest, the bag looks a little big, like he probably should be checking it in. And you know you’re going to get on the plane and of course this guy’s going to be sitting right in front of you, and his oversized carry-on, it’s going to take up way too much space in the overhead compartment.

But assert yourself. Get aggressive. At least passive aggressive. As you go to round that second corner, maybe try to block him with one of your rolling bags. Maybe knock over one of the line formers, try to make it look like he knocked it over, and when the airline representative comes over, she’s not saying anything yet, just kind of walking over as a result of the line former falling down, the fabric’s stretching, compromising the integrity of not just this pole, but potentially the entire zigzagged line. And right as she’s about to say something like, “What’s going on here?” you point to that guy, Mr. I’m-Such-A-Great-Packer-I-Don’t-Have-To-Respect-My-Fellow-Line-Waiters, and you say, “He did it.” Watch. That guy’s going to be taking a special trip to the TSA security office.

That guy’s in trouble. That guy might end up on some sort of a problem list. But what about all of these little kids? If you had little kids, you might think to yourself, this would be a lot easier. It might seem harder, having to navigate them plus your luggage plus your kids’ luggage. Think about it, kids are always knocking over those line formers. Or they’re pulling out the fabric. Or they’re jumping under the fabric, back and forth, knocking somebody else’s luggage into a line former, a TSA guy shows up, “I’m sorry sir, you’re going to have to come with us,” every mess these kids make, whoever they bump into, it’s like, “Did you just get knocked into by some kid? Yeah, you’re going to have to come with us.” And then finally after you’ve fended off the carry-on guy – you were very assertive! – you still can’t get your kids to sit still, to just stop running around and wait in line, please. So they stand quiet, for a minute, because you yelled at them, but every time they get to a new line former they silently unclip the fabric and it zips all the way back into the pole. And then you have to try to fix it. And that’s when the airline representative is going to turn on you. It’s unavoidable.

But wasn’t I talking about the post office? It’s all very similar, just no TSA. And I don’t know how your post office is laid out, but at mine there used to be this shortcut line, like if you were just picking up a package, you didn’t have to wait on the general line. But they’ve since done away with that, and now everybody waits. So you’ll be waiting for ten, fifteen, forty-five minutes when you see somebody just head right over to the last window, like pretending that they didn’t know the express line has since been eliminated, and nobody’s saying anything, not a clerk, no other line waiters.

You’ve got to get aggressive. You’ve got to assert yourself into the situation, tell that guy, “Listen buddy, back of the line, all right?” to which he might just kind of look at you, not responding but thinking to himself, “Why don’t you just mind your own business, all right?” So then you repeat yourself. And maybe there’s a postal police officer there, it doesn’t always happen, but they make rounds to the branches every now and then, and he might come over and be like, “What’s the problem?” so you can say something like, “No, I was just asking this guy where he gets his fireworks shipped in from,” and the postal police guy won’t even say anything, he’ll just look at the line cutter and point to that door in the corner, like let’s go have a little chat in that office over there, OK?