I have to go to the post office.
In New York, we dropped by my Aunt Ethel’s apartment in Long Beach where I saw an old family photo of my paternal grandmother, Miriam, z’l, with my father and his brother, my Uncle Chaim, z’l.
“Aunt Ethel, I never saw this photo. It’s amazing.”
“Yes, I love it.”
“Can I borrow it?”
“Robert, it’s my only copy.”
“I’ll be careful, but please let me scan it into my computer so it’s protected.”
So: I lovingly carry the photo back to Los Angeles, scan it, and now:
I have to go to the post office to send it to New York.
Or face The Wrath of Ethel.
Step into the post office. Oy-vey, there are, lemme count, 19 people ahead of yours truly.
There are seven stations for the postal workers, but only three are open.
I slip into line behind an old hippie with shoulder length gray hair. He’s listening to an iPod—hey, have you folks been keeping tabs on Apple stock?
I told you to buy.
The volume on the old hippie’s iPod is set at maximum. I can actually hear the music.
Hmm, not bad. Richard and Linda Thompson’s Shoot Out the Lights. One of my absolute favs.
Okay, it’s a long line, but at least I have some music.
One of the postal workers has drifted away, and the other two are involved in the extremely complex business of—as far as I can tell—calculating costs of postage.
Oh, wait, a customer is finished and the postal worker signals for the next on line.
We customers exchange smiles and we all—we’re in this together—take one itty-bitty step forward.
A few paces behind me a flamboyant gay guy is on his cell phone yammering away to a, presumably, gay friend about, well, gayness.
Gay guy is talking really loud and saying stuff like:
“It was sooo gay…”
“He was totally gay, he just didn’t realize it…”
“I used to be a clueless gay, but no more, darling…”
In-ter-esting: gayness, for some, is not just sexual orientation, not just a life style, but a religion.
I mention this because right behind Loud and Proud Gay Guy is a tiny, shriveled, ancient black lady who looks, I swear, like she’s about to have a coronary. Listening to gay guy is having a visible effect on her blood pressure. She closes her eyes, mumbles to herself, then turns and looks pleadingly at an enormous black guy standing right behind her.
Enormous Black Guy looks like a gang-banger. He’s got the backwards baseball cap, the bling around his neck, and masses of tattoos on his arms which are impossible to decipher because his skin is so black. It’s like one of those Malevich Black Square paintings.
Enormous Black Guy steps past Tiny Black Lady, gets right into the face of Loud and Proud Gay Guy.
Oh goody: conflict, drama.
“Yo, dude. Mah Aun-tie.”
Loud and Proud Gay Guy is face to face with a scary black guy who is, I do not exaggerate, the size of Rhode Island.
Loud and Proud Gay Guy into his phone:
“Sweetie, call you back.”
Enormous Black Guy nods, gets back in line behind his Aun-tie.
Still, only two postal workers behind the bullet proof glass.
Good idea that glass because we on the line are on the verge of going postal.
I’m counting the people in front of me, including the old hippie still grooving away, 9 customers.
Maybe I should drop out of line and head on over to UPS or better yet, Fed Ex.
But that would be like going AWOL.
I gotta stick with my squad here in the foxhole.
One of the postal workers has stepped away from the booth.
Only one worker left.
Oh, yeah, here’s a scan of the picture I’m sending back to Aunt Ethel:
My father is to the right of grandmother Miriam. Hey, he’s got Dr. Spock ears. My Uncle Chaim fought in the Pacific campaign. He contracted malaria and all sorts of gross tropical diseases. Never said one word to me about his service, but according to my father, it was horrific and Uncle Chaim never recovered from his combat experiences. Photo, 1924, Poland.
The old Hippie buys, get this, one single stamp.
I’m on deck.
The postal worker, a black lady with hair like a porcupine, barks:
Nervous, intimidated, I step up. Slide the package forward.
She punches in the order.
“Anything else, sir?”
“Um, I was wondering, how come you’re the only one working and there are so many people in line?”
Postal Lady narrows her eyes at me:
“What you axing?”
“I’m just curious how come you don’t have more help?”
Step outside, take a deep breath.
Can’t wait for Obamacare.
It’s gonna be so much fun in line, and then kibitzing with all the gracious health care workers.
Done and done.
Here’s Richard Thompson singing Wall of Death from the Shoot Out the Lights album. Linda and Richard were divorced—it was ugly—so it’s just some random back up singer, but you get the idea.