Last week I went to the post office.
Or, I tried.
See, I had this left over Christmas present that was supposed to go to someone I thoughtI would see over the New Years. But. He didn’t come over. So. I needed to mail it.
I pulled out my trusty google map and looked up “Post Office” near the apartment.
There were two… both about a mile and a half away… and in opposite directions. One was south and not too far from the grocery store and other places that I have walked to already. The other was north and in a whole new part of unexplored Fresno.
I went north.
The day was partly sunny, the air was crisp and cold, my jacket was warm, and my spirits were high. I was actually enjoying the walk. Then the scenery started to change. It seems that this part of Fresno isn’t… well, it isn’t ghetto or bad or anything, but it is defitinly a bit more economically depressed than, say, other parts of town.
Which is fine. I lived in downtown San Jose. I have lived through my share of muggings and dangerous situations… plus it is the middle of the day, so I wasn’t actually worried or anything, just a little more cautious and alert.
I got to the corner where google maps promised a post office only to find…no post office.
Empty storefronts, a liquor shop, a grocery store that looked like it was also closed and abandoned. No post office.
Wandering aimlessly through a parking lot with the sun in your eyes is not my idea of fun. I called the number listed on the google maps for the post office and got the “We’re sorry, the number you have dialed has been disconnected.”
Well, that’s reassuring.
So… figuring that the post office has ceased to be, I turn my footsteps out of the paking lot and start to head home only to be distracted by a tiny (teeny tiny) little blue and white sign in a shop window. This little sign seems to be indicating that this little shop is a post office drop off and pick up point.
Inside the shop are rows of dolls, glass roses, sentimental Bible motivational posters, candles, and various other sorts of random items. At the back of the store there is a man behind the counter yelling into a phone while a line of people shift uncomfortably. I join the line.
The guy behind the counter, let’s call him Bill, finally gets off the phone. He seems disgusted by the caller and I wish I could sympathize but since he was yelling in a foreign language (Indian I think) he can’t get my sympathy.
The gal at the head of the line steps up. She wants to know why a package she sent from this shop, this very shop (dramatic pointing to the ground) hasn’t gotten to its destination yet. Apparently it has been a week.
Apparently she is pissed. Bill tells her that he doesn’t track the packages, “What am I? A Post office?” but that she can go to the actual Post Office and they might be able to help her. Does she have a receipt? No. Did she pay for insurance? No, why should she, she trusted him and this shop, this very shop, to get her package to Nebraska. Bill rolls his eyes. Did she realize that with the holidays the mail is slow and a package to Nebraska might take more than 5 days? She doesn’t care. Did she pay extra for fast shipping. She doesn’t see how that is relevant.
Eventually she leaves and Bill mops his head. I am torn… on the one hand wondering if my package which will also be sent from this shop, this very shop, will actually get to its destination. I also feel a bit bad for Bill.
Next: a father son combo with a question about mail forwarding. The conversation is frustrating to all because Father only speaks Spanish, Son speaks Spanish and a bit of English and Bill’s thick Indian accent keeps confusing son who then has to translate to Father. Eventually it is determined that Father moved to a new apartment. The new apartment hasn’t given him keys to his new post box. He wants his mail. Bill tries to explain (via Son who keeps getting distracted by his cell phone) that the Post Office has keys, the Post Office sets up mail forwarding, and that there really isn’t much he, Bill, can do. Father isn’t buying this. He is getting angry.
I am now wondering if I should just go, walk the mile and half home, walk the other mile and half to the other post office and hope for the best. But… there is now a tall guy in line behind me with multiple large cardboard boxes and in order to leave I will have to try to circumvent them. Plus, I tell myself, this is going to make a nifty blog post. Man with Boxes interrupts Father, Son, and Bill to ask loudly if Bill will ship to Germany. Bill considers for a split second and then nods. Father has lost his train of though and must start his monologue to Son all over again. I realize I need to pee.
Eventually, Father gives up, Son shrugs, Bill gives them a number to call (more drama as they all three search for a pen and paper) and finally it is my turn.
“Hello!” I chirp to Bill, attempting to be his nicest and easiest to please customer of the day –he really is looking fried at this point-, “I just need to mail this package.”
The package by the way is the size of a CD. That is what it is, a CD in a small padded envelope with an address printed in block letters (dark black pen) and a return address label. It is as nonthreatening as a package could possibly be. I probably could have just put 8 stamps on it and sent it on its way via the outgoing mail slot in the apartment but for some reason this seemed like a better idea.
“Ahh, yes, fine fine, very good.” Bill seems relieved. He smiles at me. I smile back and pull out my wallet.
“One dollar and eighty-five cents.” He is beaming now. I have made his day. I am terribly pleased with myself.
“Great!” I pull out my credit card and look around for the little machine.
Bill is suddenly frowning. “No credit card. You pay cash.”
I am suddenly worried, “I umm, I don’t carry cash. You don’t take card?”
The frown has deepened, “No, no card. See the sign on the window You pay cash. Cash Cash only in my shop.”
I am suddenly very hot, my face flushed. “Oh, well, umm okay, I don’t, I mean I don’t have cash… is there an ATM around here?”
Bill’s arms are crossed, he is glowering and leaning over the counter invading my space, “No! I am not an ATM machine! You must pay cash!”
He’s not the only one frustrated, someone in live behind me groans. “Hey,” I say, trying to muster bravado, “I get it, you don’t have an ATM, is there one Nearby? Somewhere I can get to?”
“At gas station, few blocks.” He waves his hand toward the door and punches keys in his computer.
“Where?” I am putting my purse back on my shoulder reaching for my sad little package, cursing my decision to send real gifts and not gift cards.
Bill puts my package behind him on the counter (overflowing with random boxes of… who knows what), “I hold it, you go get cash, come back.”
I don’t like this idea but again… “Where is the ATM?” My heels are dug in, I’m not leaving here without some sense of direction.
Bill waves his hand a again. It appears we are at a stalemate.
“Here, let me pay.” Multiple Boxes to Germany Man steps up and pulls out two dollars. Cash.
“Are you sure?” I am almost giddy with relief. I don’t know why.
“Sure,” he smiles at me.
I feel the need to explain, to convince him that I am not a total looser slacker who doesn’t have money. “It’s just, google maps told me this was a post office and I didn’t know and I walked here and I don’t mind going to an ATM I just need to know where one is and you don’t have to pay for me and I’m not sure why but I just don’t carry cash….”
Bill is hesitant to take the money. He looks back and forth. A fat lady at the end of the line sighs, loudly so that we all hear.
“No, no. It’s fine. Really.” German Mailing Hero pushes the money at Bill, then to me, “Are you new to Fresno?”
“Yes!” Happy to have an excuse, “Yes, just moved, still getting used to it, not sure why google maps didn’t tell me, and I tried calling…”
Bill has had enough. “Yes!” he practically shouts, “Fine, I take his money, I send package. All better now!”
I’m not though babbling though, “Thank you, that is so nice, everyone in Fresno has been so nice, really, I can’t thank you enough.”
He grins again “No problem, Happy New Year, Welcome to Fresno. Maybe I’ll see you around.”
I nod, I smile, I back out of the store ignoring the glares of the line dwellers. I make a bee line from home. I update my list of “Ways in Which Google Maps Has Caused Me Aggravation.”
That was a week ago. Mark called me tonight, he got his package. I am understandably unbelievable relieved to hear it.