Only two people ahead of me in the line at the postal outlet – just in front of me a young black woman with a notice of delivery in her hand. I’ve already fished my notice out of my purse. “She Bop” is blasting out of my head phones. The customer at the desk is an elderly lady who is gesturing broadly, waving what appears to be an empty Purolator Courier envelope. The very young clerk is registering barely contained distress. “Time After Time” starts. Finishes. “I drove all night” becomes “Hat Full of Stars.” Five, ten minutes. I unhook my headphones.
Something about a letter to the passport office not being picked up until 5:00 o’clock, after she paid twenty dollars and thousands of dollars are involved here and what did she pay for if the letter is still there at five o’clock and her son needed that passport and…
You get the idea. I’m not without empathy. I’ve had those days on a regular basis, when everything that can screw up, will. When you hit the wall of bureaucracy and I’m- sorry- but- I- can’t- help- you at high speed, with your face. Where the wheels fall off and the universe seems to have roundly cursed your every effort to stay sane.
Loop loop. Echo trap.
We are now up to “True Colors” though, and there are six people in line. Twenty minutes, thirty minutes. The woman spins through the same story over and over. The clerk, who is too young and good natured to have any idea how to stop it, proffers her best explanation and advice over and over again.
The man behind me explodes, “Jesus Christ!” Everyone else is sighing heavily and shuffling, including me.
Finally I work up my nerve to say, “Ma’am, I’m very sorry to interrupt and I know you’re having a bad time, but there are five of us waiting now.” She whirls around, five feet of grey-haired, tired-out, fight and frustration.
“I have as much right to be here as you do. I have a problem and I’m not satisfied with the answers and my son needed this to be delivered and I paid twenty dollars….” and it’s none of your business!.”
This is a finger on the trigger of the rather large man behind me.
“It’s our business when none of us can get our business taken care of. The lady has answered you. She can’t do anything else. There's a one-eight-hundred number you can call….”
And so on. Raised voices. The air is shuddering with crappy energy. Full moon.
The woman steps aside. It’s the bass voice that does it. The testosterone voice.
As I’m leaving I comment sheepishly to him, “I guess we both get Creep of the Week for that, right?”
“Somebody had to stop it,” he replies. He thinks a second. “You started it but I was only too happy to finish it.”
Hell hath no fury like that of the powerless. I consider that she’s a generation before mine and most of her life, complaint has been met with actual assistance. By a human. No one gave her a 1-800 number and told her to get lost. Certainly no one charged her twenty bucks for the privilege.
Someone had to stop her. She was stuck, looping. There was no foreseeable end to it. But I don’t think that made either of the creeps in question feel a lot better.Drink, anyone?