“Oh, what a day!” the old lady said with a frown, and clutched her Christmas parcels closer to her wide and generous bosom. She eyed the line stretching from inside the Post Office out through the door and into the lobby of the building and halfway down the aisle of post office boxes.
She edged carefully to the end of the line, avoiding the piles of packages on the tiled floor. “I wonder what everyone is here for?”
“Maybe we all have these,” another woman said to her, waving a long yellow piece of paper. “Maybe we’re all picking up packages.” Several others in the line waved their yellow papers, too.
“I don’t,” the old lady said. “I’m mailing packages.”
“It’s always busy this time of year,” said someone else.
“They only have one clerk at the counter,” said yet another.
“Oh dear,” the old lady said. “What were they thinking?”
“Probably not their fault,” a younger woman, her face nearly obscured by the tower of brown packages she held, said. “I hear they’re cutting funds to the post offices so they don’t run as well, then they can make a case for privatizing them.”
No one replied to that.
“I remember,” said one old man with a Veteran’s cap “when we used to have two postal deliveries a day.”
“Yeah,” another older man said. “Wasn’t Calvin Coolidge president then?”
Someone came in through the door; a middle-aged woman in a Christmas sweater. She looked stunned.
“C’mon in,” another lady with short curly grey hair said. “We’re having a party.”
The woman beside her laughed. “She’s serving refreshments later.”
“Oh no,” the curly-haired woman snorted. “The refreshments will be down the street. Unfortunately, I won’t be there. I have to stay in line.”
There was more laughter.
The newcomer smiled shyly and took her place at the end of the line while a dark-haired man, his arms full of packages, squeezed through the line to walk into the post office and leave his boxes on the counter.
Some of the people looked puzzled.
“He’s already put postage on those,” the man in the Veteran’s cap said. “You can do that from home, now.”
“Really?” asked the old lady.
“Oh sure,” he replied. “Just get yourself a postal scale and print out the postage on your home printer.”
A younger woman near the front of the line was nodding. “That’s right. You can even buy a scale that connects directly to your computer so you only have to type in the address.” She pointed at a display on the wall where a box labeled ‘postage scale with USB plug’ hung.
“I almost bought one,” a slender woman in bib overalls and a flannel shirt said. “But I only do this once a year and I don’t mind waiting in line.”
Several others nodded. No sense in wasting money.
A young professional woman smiled brightly. “I work from home. This is a good opportunity for me to talk with other people.” Many smiled back at her.
“Hey,” a young man with long-hair was reading the local paper and scooting a box ahead of him with the toe of his hiking boots as the line moved. “The newspapers say there’s a big storm coming in late tomorrow night.”
“How big?” someone at the back the line called.
“As much as four to six inches of rain,” the young man replied.
Everyone thought about this.
“Guess we’d all better get our windows closed and keep our batteries handy and make sure our generators work,” the man in the Veteran’s cap said.
Everyone nodded. “Probably be a power outage here in the mountains,” someone said. Everyone nodded again.
The old lady was putting her packages on the counter and answering the postmaster’s questions. “Nice of you to help out,” she told him. Every bit of counter space and nearly every bit of floor space behind the counter was covered in layers of boxes. “You must have a lot of paper work to do.”
The postmaster smiled wryly and admitted that he did.
“Is this kind of a break for you from that?”
The postmaster laughed. “No, just a different kind of paperwork.” He finished processing her packages, handed her two sheets of Christmas stamps and a receipt.
She turned to the others still in line. “Merry Christmas,” she said. “Happy Hanukkah.”
“Merry Christmas!” “Happy Holidays!”
The old lady put the receipt in her bag and walked through the post office door, smiling. “What a day!” she said.