The Post Office Queue

A new follower, here (do check Katie’s blog out; many laughs to be had) raised the subject of the post office queue. Which triggered a rather visceral shuddering. Possibly this is an entirely British phenomenon but if not perhaps this experience will resonate.

You need to go to the Post Office. Many things require you to visit this dwindling line of emporia: specialist stamps and sending letters overseas, applications for many licences; cheaper currency transactions than most banks and such. One thing you can be sure when you arrive: there will be a queue of every version of humankind (not all sentient, some previously demised from the time spent waiting to be disgorged to one of the two open (out of at least six not all open) windows to begin to transact your business.

Which is where my ‘always ready to trap me’ social faux pas gene switches to overload.

You join the queue, noting how those in front of you are set up. There are many sorts. 1. the mother with mewling child who she is trying to pacify on the basis it is necessary to keep the noise in check as if this were the library; she will not be ready. 2. the septuagenarian holding their bag tight to their chest in anticipation of some Al Pacino-esque heist occurring momentarily; they will not be ready. 3. the be-suited business person with smart phone stuck to one ear, tablet being swiped with the free hand and fat leather bag slung across the shoulder while they negotiate the disposal of Consolidated bonds, pay their cocaine bill or pacify their mistress; they will not be ready. 4. the middle aged gentleman with dog, looking furtively to see if dogs are allowed inside and trying hard to ensure the curious mutt does not pee on the envelope display (yes, that’s me); he will not be ready.

This state of unreadiness, to be fair has nothing to do with the characteristics described above. Each and every person tries to check they have everything they need. After all none of us wants to be ‘that person’ who holds up the other silent assassins still in the queue who are thinking how good it would be to be able to ‘look’ a toxic virus into the veins of the unready by the open window and in so doing clear away that numpty who’s spent the best part of a decade at one of the two open tills emptying their Poppins-esque carpet bag of envelopes which they are clearly sending, as some sort of Faustian dare to every one of the 204 countries in the UN.

After a period similar in length to the life of a star, you finally reach the window and, bless me you need to ‘fill in a form’ – why? There’s nothing indicating a form will be needed? They have a screen? Can’t they take down the details and type them in?

Because you see you are now the subject of A DILEMMA.

Do you:

(a) stay put, blocking the window and fill out said form but knowing this is up there on the ‘most despised actions’ spectrum, coming in at equal fourth place with farting in front of the Queen (after all, you should always let Her Maj go first);

(b) move just far enough away so you can let the next customer into the hallowed presence but risk the next social faux pas which is ‘being close enough to overhear/see’ their transaction – this will necessarily mean they have to kill you, at least emotionally;

or (c) move further along the counter to avoid (b) but still in front of the queue thus making it clear, (non verbally but try and stop me Buster and you won’t have seen righteous indignation like it since the Spawn of Satan was called out for suggesting Hell might install some solar panels to cut the fuel bills) that you are going back to that window just as soon as the form is complete and the customer who has filled in has finished their own interminable business…

but then you risk the member of staff deciding, with a logic that would make planetary orbits seem simple, that despite you standing there with the hollow-eyed desperation of a six year old angel in the school naivety being told to wait despite the urge to pee having reached tsunami proportions, they are closing up and off on a break and you should take the next available window.

Which means you are now crossing a line, an invisible line that civilised society has devised to enable close proximity habitation to be facilitated since the growth of urban conurbations following the rise of industrialised power, namely you can return to the same window you generously left but don’t think that gives you any implied rights to first dibs on the one remaining open window.

Do you stiffen your sinews, gird your loins and prepare yourself to confront that most terrible of social interactions namely the shame of silent approbation or do you just slink to the back of the queue to begin again and thus dropping another sliver of your soul into the large and well lined coffin that houses the remnants of your eviscerated self confidence.

I hate post offices.

About TanGental

My name is Geoff Le Pard. Once I was a lawyer; now I am a writer. I've published four books - Dead Flies and Sherry Trifle, My Father and Other Liars, Salisbury Square and Buster & Moo. In addition I have published three anthologies of short stories and a memoir of my mother. More will appear soon. I will try and continue to blog regularly at geofflepard.com about whatever takes my fancy. I hope it does yours too. These are my thoughts and no one else is to blame. If you want to nab anything I post, please acknowledge where it came from.
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19 Responses to The Post Office Queue

  1. Darlene says:

    Post offices are the same all over the world! and they wonder why we do most of our correspondence and business via the internet. Oh and for all this hassle, they keep raising the cost of mailing a simple letter or God forbid, a parcel. I have to give up a morning to mail anything in Spain. It wasn’t much different in Canada. I also recall spending two hours of my vacation in Hawaii in a hot, stuffy, crowded post office. I feel a nightmare coming on.

    Like

  2. Whew! I need a nap after that, and it’s only 8:38 a.m. here… Ha

    Like

  3. Mary Smith says:

    Oh, I do remember this scenario in post offices I have known and hated but, I am pleased to report that our post office is a delight to visit. It’s like a social club and everyone chats to everyone else even if they don’t know them. The staff are lovely: helpful and chatty. As long as you accept you won’t be out in a hurry, it’s wonderful.

    Like

  4. Ha! Very funny stuff. Get this, my village is so little that we don’t have local mail delivery, so we have to go to the post office for everything–even to mail a basic letter. Luckily, it’s only busy around Christmas, and the lady who works there (1 lady!) loves dogs and always has treats for those who come in–so yours would be treated like a king!

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  5. It’s a farce here. Three windows, but never all open together, even on the busiest of days, that and they are a miserable bunch. It took my neighbour 45 minutes to get to the front of the queue to check her letter wasn’t too fat for a standard second class stamp. I’d rather travel 16 miles on a shopping trip and be greeted with smiles and a lesser queue as I did by saving all my Christmas posting for one day. 24 stamps, 8 checked for fatness, and the lady appreciated that I wouldn’t hold the queue up by sticking them on at her window and said to leave them all by the parcel scales and she would put them in the bag for me.

    Like

  6. willowdot21 says:

    This is the second blog I have read today that resonates with me ! Post Offices they are a bloody minefield aren’t they! Everything you say is true.
    We have a general postoffice in our little town. Apparently it is to be defunct this year and will become a wine or gin bar, coffee shop or restaurant… None of which we need more of. It might be relocated as a sub postoffice in our Smith’s..until that’s defunct. Darn progress goes to prove we may hate the postoffice but it’s handy! 💜💜💜

    Like

  7. Pingback: The Post Office Queue | willowdot21

  8. 😀 Me, too; but I love Katie. She’ll protect me.

    Like

  9. Ritu says:

    Oh such conundrums!!!

    Like

  10. JT Twissel says:

    I have been in a few post offices run by nincompoops but our little PO is actually a pleasure to visit. If you have to fill out a form that you weren’t aware of then they don’t make you stand in the queue again.

    Like

  11. We are encouraged to do most everything on line that once we used to queue for. Only the very old and the numpties now cue up to have their jar of pennies counted out and put into their bank accounts and the others who like me need to send parcels overseas……. My lovely, friendly, amiable post office closed its doors a couple of days back at the end of March and now I shall have
    to post my parcels at the far end of the chemist shop with the lady who doesn’t really know what she’s doing. ……… and they’ve put the cost of postage up again!! Now if only we could have the ‘beam me up’ thing work on parcels and cards……..

    Liked by 1 person

    • TanGental says:

      it’s like the campaign they wage to eradicate cheques; not here in the Le Pard household. We continue to breed them and release them back into the wild to drive retailers and, especially, Government departments mad

      Liked by 1 person

  12. noelleg44 says:

    Ah, the vicissitudes of the Post Office line, although I understand in Britain you go to to British Mail to post a letter while here we go to the post office to mail ours. The experience very much depends on the postal clerk, I’ve found.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Elizabeth says:

    We are supposed to go over to the self service machine to mail things. Of course the self service machine doesn’t take money, only credit. And it only takes regularly shaped packages(mine are never regularly shaped) and it rarely works. Other than that it is a great alternative!

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Sounds more like the US DMV (department of motor vehicles) you poor soul. . .

    Liked by 1 person

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