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.
(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.