postage stamps


It's 42 degrees outside.  I'm alone in my car, the only time I can kindle fire, invisible blaze akin to heat lightning except controlled by me, not God and nature.  Well, me and my car's thermostat ratcheted up to high and mighty.

I roll down my window and squinch my nose, indignant winter hasn't yet realized it's March, the month when spring and daffodils are born for cryin' out loud.   My carefully manufactured heat rushes through the crack, an eager traitor I can't convince to stay wrapped around my feet.  I blame irresistible blue skies; gray days have overstayed their welcome far too long this year. 

The car in front of me called dibs on the window line–the one where you talk face-to-plate-glass instead of face-to-squawk-box, but real people work on the other side of both so I guess it doesn't matter.  I hear the window teller greet him.  She's sunshine and good cheer…but her customer is Eeyore.  I wonder how she bears him.

He's grunt and rage, and my word, I hear him the next line over plain as day.

"Well, if the economy was better…"

"The newspaper don't do nothin' but lie…"

and the best for last–

"I can't believe we lost the election…."

Still that?  And all that lady asked – rhetorically, of course – was "How are you doin' today?" and he seethes his reply in anger and hate and frustration.  

I have to ask the speaker-teller to repeat herself when I realize someone is talking to me - I'm a dumbfounded eavesdropper – the same "How are you doin' today?" as her co-worker, and I say "Fine" because we all know she's not expecting a real answer.  

I'm shivering a little but I don't know if it's because of the chill in the air…

or in my soul.



I like going to the post office, especially when it's not Christmas, the lines are short and the clerks are well rested.  

It's mystery and magic bound to place, the way I can hand over a package or a letter and in a day or two, it turns up at the address I've scribbled on the front.  

We take this for granted.

Ours is an electronic age and nothing proved that more convincingly to me than when I discovered I was a failure as a mother:  one of my children, one of my teenage children, placed the stamp in the left-hand corner of the envelope.  Shameful, for me more than him.

Clearly, I have heartfelt regard for the postal institution and it is not bothersome when I have reason to errand there.  I always ask for the pretty stamps and the clerks willingly oblige with anything but American flags–fine on the 4th of July but if I'm paying 46 cents to mail something, I want a colorful sticker with a little pizazz. 

So after the bank I needed to stop by the post office.  I'm chatting with the clerk, fanning through her stack of pretty stamps, vaguely noticing the clerk and customer to my left…  

Until the clerk cuts to the chase and asks him "What can I help you with today."  The man says, "I need a book of stamps…or a sheet of stamps…or a sleeve…or WHAT do you call it now…?"

and the clerk is nodding and agreeing to "sheet" when the customer says – I kid you not – "…just not some effing stamps, right?!"

The jaws of both clerks hit the floor, and I snap my head to see WHO said THAT.  I'll be durned if it's not an elderly gentleman, who is much more elderly than gentleman, his skin red and crusty, his hair a perch of snow. 

He's grinning and wild-eyed and I wonder DOES HE EVEN KNOW WHAT HE JUST SAID?

Is it dementia or plea for attention?  A slip of the tongue or joker gone wild?  Torn between pity and disdain, I grab my stamps and rush out the door, shaking my head at the second bizarre conversation I've overheard today.  


Both conversations left me speechless.  A rarity.

So I guess that's all I have to say about that.

This time…. 


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