Last week, I stopped by the neighborhood post office to mail an application. How quaint.
Still, it was a nice change of pace from the last time I visited one. I have two related thoughts, so in honor of the subject, I’ll resort to bullet holes (even knowing it will butcher the formatting):
- I had a choice to make. The clerk told me an envelope mailed first class would arrive in ‘1 to 5’ days. I needed it to arrive within four; five wouldn’t be good enough. So he mentioned another option: An envelope mailed priority would be guaranteed to arrive within two days, and I’d be in the clear. Of course, there was a catch: the faster priority mail cost four times as much as first class (5.83/1.48 = 3.94). It’s not a huge difference, but it gave me something to think about. I gambled, and went with the first class. Turns out I made the right decision. You see, I later came upon an article describing proposed cuts to postal service. The article included, in part, the following quote: “About 42 percent of first-class mail is now delivered the following day. An additional 27 percent arrives in two days, about 31 percent in three days and less than 1 percent in four days to five days.” I don’t need to explain why this information is critical when confronted by a decision like the one I faced: I would have paid more than $4 to avoid the presumably much-less-than-1 percent chance my envelope would arrive on day 5. It’s also easy to imagine why the information is not easily available at the post office counter – bad for business. We often hear about how the postal service is not allowed to operate as efficiently as its corporate competitors, so it was nice to see it behave as dishonorably as any business might – a promising start.
- No good story leads with ‘I swear I’m not racist’; fortunately, this one starts with ‘No good story leads with’, so we should be OK. I showed up to find the post office nearly empty. Two people busily stuffing envelopes waved me by, and as mine was already stuffed and addressed, I quickly found myself first in line. One problem: the woman in front of me was taking forever. She and the postal clerk were going back and forth in broken accents about the package, its contents, the cost, etc. I started to get marginally antsy, and – as I mentioned above, I swear I’m not racist – the longer I listened in, the more the accents sounded suspiciously similar. I couldn’t help but think to myself – I swear I’m not racist – I bet there’s another language these two could be using to communicate. Sure enough, after about ten more minutes of English negotiations, the clerk popped the question: “Do you speak [language X]?” Breakthrough. The transaction wrapped up in about 30 seconds. It occurred to me how helpful it would be if everyone in America wore a button (like cruise ship employees) that indicated the languages in which they were fluent. I also see why that might be problematic. See, I’m not racist.