Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Hug Your Mail Man (or Woman)

I can really understand why postal workers are so grumpy. They do what I've been avoiding my whole life: dealing directly with the public. I was at the post office today and the line was a slow-moving fifteen people deep when I walked in. Some of these people had children with them, one of which was running wild, playing with the stamp machine and one of the mailboxes.

I don't know about where you live, but where I live, the postal workers are all behind double panes of bullet-proof glass. You speak through an intercom, and any time you give them something (or vice versa) you open your side of the window to place the item on the counter and after you close your side, they open theirs to retrieve your goods. National security at its finest.

So you can see, perhaps, why the line of customers moves slower than molasses in January. Mailing a letter requires quite the rigmarole - opening and closing windows, etc. - and if you're the attendant dealing with a cranky old woman (my neighborhood has its share) who can't hear or can't lift the heavy glass or just feels like being difficult, it's going to take that much longer, and you're going to wish that much harder for a freak tornado/tsunami/nuclear explosion to blow up your postal district.

Enter my new best friend, the Automated Postal Center. The APC, or, as I like to call him, the MailBot, is a lovely little machine that I've seen in several post offices that will do almost everything a human postal worker can do without any attitude or security systems. And, in my neck of the woods, there's never a a line. There was one man in front of me today, and the only other time I've had to wait was so that the receipt paper could be replaced. So, why on earth would you wait in that long line to mail a letter when, using your debit or credit card, you can purchase stamps, weigh and mail a package, and purchase delivery confirmation or insurance.

I'm in the post office every week at least once. I mail out submissions to lit journals like a well-oiled machine. On top of this I have friends all over the globe, not to mention a boyfriend in Texas and a wee sister at her first year in college up in Maine. Care packages are necessary. The MailBot gets me. He doesn't judge the amount of mail I send — though I'm sure the mail carrier considers it odd that I receive so many small manila envelopes addressed to me in tag-like print (my goofy handwriting) without any return label (rejection letters). And the MailBot is just so fun to use! With a touch screen and perfect postage you can affix yourself, there's nothing better. Except, well, a lot of things. But, as an individual obsessed with mail, I have to give props.

And let's give those postal workers a break, eh? They have to deal with plenty of stooges every day. I'm sure they love the MailBot, too.

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