Universally Surreal Postal Service

I had a migraine on Friday. Bad. In hindsight, I suppose I should have expected one — it had been slowly barreling its way northwest for a while now, and its name was Fay. Stress, sleep, hormones, and barometric pressure are all the [mostly] unavoidable migraine factors. I had four aces. The universe had a straight flush. 

I also had a short story deadline for this workshop I’m doing in Portland in a couple of weeks. So I took the day off, turned the air conditioner down, and sat propped up in bed typing in the dark. It was slow going. I took breaks to nap and eat. Needing the story done and printed and in the mail kept me hammering away at it.

Right on the verge of passing out, I finished. I went for a 20-minute walk on the treadmill and took a shower, hoping to perk myself up, but wanting nothing more than to pass out. Dizzy and probably not in the best frame of mind, I read the story over once, and then proceeded to print out three copies in manuscript format. It took forty minutes. I felt every blessed one.

I threw on an old pair of jeans and a stained t-shirt, slipped on my flip-flops, and was ready and waiting the second the last sheet printed. I knew a truck left the main post office at 6pm. It was 5:05. I wrote the address on a post-it note, grabbed my sunglasses, and left the house. The heat hit me like a fist. I took shallow breaths.

When I got to the post-office, the parking lot was pretty empty. I ran inside, grabbed a Priority Mail envelope, and scribbled the address on it. I pulled the strip off and sealed it three seconds before the clerk invited me to step forward. I had my credit card out and ready. It was 5:25. Perfect.

“Is this anything fragile, liquid, or perishable?” the clerk asked.

Like she hadn’t just seen me shove 100 paper-clipped pages inside. But I knew she had to ask. “No.”

“Do you need any insurance, delivery confirmation, or–?”

“No.” God, my head hurt.

“Do you need any stamps, packing supplies–?”

“Nope.” It even kind of hurt to talk. I wiggled my credit card, anxious to complete the never-ending transaction.

The clerk gave me a wry smile. “I have a question you will answer ‘yes’ to,” she said chipperly.

Any other day, I would have been in the mood. Hell, any other day, I would have said the same thing. I used to do stuff like this to grumpy customers when I worked at the bookstore, just because I could. And it never hurt anyone to smile. I raised my eyebrows. Her grin got huge, and her eyes twinkled.

“May I see your ID?” she asked. The woman behind me in line chuckled. Yeah. Wasn’t she clever?

Now, I have this small pet peeve about cashiers who ask to see my ID when I’m purchasing an item that’s less than $5.00. If someone wants a bottle of water/pack of gum/Priority Mail sent badly enough to STEAL MY CREDIT CARD for it, then they’re welcome to it. Seriously. Chances are, I would have given them the five bucks in the first place had they asked for it. Most credit card machines don’t even ask for your signature if the transaction is under $25.00. It doesn’t take but a few brain cells to figure out that all this “asking for ID” nonsense is just a power trip. A few more brain cells, and I would have had my own chuckle.

Unfortunately, my brain cells were otherwise occupied trying to keep me vertical. I flipped open my wallet with all the effortless grace of Fox Mulder, and the clerk made a big show of comparing the credit card to my driver’s license. The TSA give less thorough examinations. And as she handed the wallet back to me she said, “I liked the book.”

I honestly had no idea what she was talking about. “What book?”

“The Sherrilyn Kenyon one.”

I froze. “Oh my GOD, you MUST be kidding.”

She wasn’t. We went on to chat about Sherri, and she asked me how the Acheron signing at the Parthenon went. I told her that after they kicked us out, we signed books on the steps until one o’clock in the morning. She told me about all the “pseudo-writers” who come in from time to time to send a manuscript one place or another. She told me about another children’s author who had never heard of The Giving Tree. I told her about how that book had been banned in several school systems, and why. And because there were still people behind me, I broke off our lovely conversation and excused myself. She invited me to come back soon. I said I would. And then I went straight home and called my mother.

I got recognized by a perfect stranger at the post office. ME. In my ratty jeans and ancient t-shirt and flip-flops and big, dark sunglasses. Like I was Nicole Kidman or something. I may as well have been…that’s just Nashville. Look, ma, I’m a celebrity! Holy crapinoli.

I just hope to god my envelope got on that last truck.