Tuesday, December 18, 2012

I may be an idiot, but so is the lady at the post office

Thursdays mornings have become my favorite part of the week.  My simple, little world gets even closer and quieter at these times.  I take Z to preschool and have four delicious hours alone with G.  Unlike Tuesdays, we have no obligations or prior commitments and can spend Thursday mornings how we want.  Often, I run a few errands, but instead of whisking around and struggling to have one by the hand and one by the hip, we take our time.  I let G toddle down the sidewalks and up the steps.  She uses her still-pudgy hands to help me put items on the belt and in the cabinets back home.  We converse uninterrupted.  We discuss what we see out of the window, how the puzzle fits together and how crunchy the goldfish crackers sound. 

One Thursday morning, I drove G through a quaint downtown area and to the post office.  Many of the storefronts were decorated and holiday banners hung from the streetlights.  It was a warm day and we held hands into the building.  As usual, my beautiful girl caused a few to pause along the way.  People stopped to notice her blond hair and bright blue eyes.  The lady behind the counter did the same, even complimenting her winter coat.

"How can I help you today?"

"I would like to purchase three sheets of seasonal stamps please.  Whatever you have."

"We are fresh out of holiday stamps, ma'am."

"Oh, well, um, what stamps do you have?"

"We have these pretty crimson ones with gold trees.  They are Jewish winter greeting stamps."

As she said this, she laid the sheets of stamps on the counter.  They were lovely.  I had been hoping for Christmas stamps, but these looked wintery and I was happy to buy them.  Before long G and I were making our way back to the car.

After we were buckled and settled, I turned on the car and took out the stamps to read them, "Eid Greetings."  Curiosity set in.  I had never heard this phrase before and wanted to learn its meaning before I sent it off to all my family and friends.  My smart phone is so smart.  In seconds I learned that Eid Greetings is not Jewish (or seasonal) at all.  In fact it refers to the end of Ramadan, the month during which devout Muslims fast during daylight.  Eid al-Fitr is "The Feast of Breaking the Fast" an enjoyable time for Muslims families to celebrate the end of the long month of Shawwal.  I also learned that these stamps had been in circulation for 11 years.

I hesitated for a moment, but then decided to exchange the stamps for more generic ones.  There was no way I was going to let my dad or uncles call me out on this one.  Plus, I was still in the parking lot; no harm done.  With toddler on hip, I waltzed right back into the post office and up to the counter where the same lady greeted me.

"Hi, it's you again.  I recognize her coat."

(Smile) "Yep, I'm back.  I would like to exchange these stamps.  Turns out they are Islamic, end-of-Ramadan stamps."

(Stern face) "There are no returns or exchanges on postage stamps.  Read your receipt."

"Oh, I had no idea.  I guess that makes sense, but can you please make an exception?  I just bought these and they are not what I want.  You told me they were Jewish stamps."

"No."

"But, look how cute she is?" (cheek to cheek with G)

"Your baby has nothing to do with this.  There are no exchanges on stamps."

"So you're telling me you are going to stick me with 60 Islamic stamps, which I thought were Jewish stamps, when I am a Christian?"

"Jewish stamps or Islamic stamps, what is the difference?"

"Are you really asking me the difference between Judaism and Islam?  Really?!?  I was fine with the Jewish stamps.  I uphold the Judeo-Christian tradition!"

"Ma'am I don't care what you believe in."

"Well, I do!'

This was point at which she simply stopped talking to me and rudely asked to help the next person.  So, I just stood there.  I stood at the post office counter with my back to her, my daughter in my one arm, and the stamps under the other.  I am also positive I looked grumpy.  However, no more than a minute passed when another lady approached me from behind the counter, a lady I know for certain witnessed my entire exchange with the first, and who simply took the stamps from me, banged a few buttons and then handed me 60 flag stamps in exchange.

"Thank you."

"You're welcome."

Part of me wants to apologize to the postal worker.  I was a bit short with her.  No doubt, especially at this time of year, she works hard on her feet and deals with more than her share of mail-related grief (and probably male-related grief, too.)  Part of me wants to apologize to my little girl.  I did not represent us well this day.  Not that she understood me exactly, but I'm sure she could tell mommy was being a bit naughty and not as nice as she should.  The rest of me wants to apologize to Mr. Goethals, my high school religion teacher.  I have not embraced life-long learning in the subject of world religion even though it interests me and is pertinent to promoting peace.  Perhaps my world has gotten a little too small these last few years.  I still have my textbook from his class and (as a result of this event) a self-designed reading assignment for over Christmas. 

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25 comments:

  1. I applaud you for your assertiveness. I wish I had more myself.

    But, why oh why doesn't the Post Office prepare better for the holidays? They always run out of holiday stamps super early. Lame.

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  2. "Jewish stamps or Islamic stamps, what is the difference?" Wow. On the other hand, maybe it shouldn't make a difference...?

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  3. I opted for bonzai trees this year for my holiday cards. To me they seemed the most hopeful and peaceful.

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    1. Nice! I missed those too. I missed a lot during this interaction.

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  4. Whether it was an Islamic or Jewish message is not the point. The customer should have the right to know what he or she is buying. Good for you for standing up for yourself.

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    1. Amen, sister! I think maybe she was a little embarrassed I brought it up.

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    2. I was thinking exactly what Kathleen said. It's not like you randomly changed your mind a day later. She had just sold them to you and gave you incorrect information while doing so. There was no reason for her to be so ornery about it when she could have just quietly exchanged them.

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  5. "So you're telling me you are going to stick me with 60 Islamic stamps, which I thought were Jewish stamps, when I am a Christian?" Something about this line made me laugh out loud. You would think that after years of not having enough seasonal stamps, someone would wise up and increase the order for next year.

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    1. I am glad it made you laugh. It definitely made me laugh...after I left.

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  6. she just stopped talking to you? and the next person just happily told her what they needed? i'm glad you didn't back down and i'm glad you didn't apologize to her. pfft.

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    1. I think both she and the person behind me really thought I would stand for "no returns or exchanges on stamps." HA!

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  7. I don't think you owe her an apology at all! She told you they were something else - it was her mistake. The religious bit isn't the issue in this case, as far as I see. I got my stamps a few weeks ago at Costco. So easy, but you have to buy 100 at a time.

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    1. You're right. The religious bit just kicks this story up a notch. However, I still maintain I should be more educated, not about stamps, but about one of the fastest (if not THE fastest) growing religion(s) in the world.

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  8. I try to avoid the post office at all costs. Growing up, the ladies in our local post office were so nasty I'm convinced someone forgot to feed them or something.

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    1. haha, nice. I should have known better.

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  9. I would have been very grumpy, too!

    This is the sentence I love the most, though: "We discuss what we see out of the window, how the puzzle fits together and how crunchy the goldfish crackers sound." Both my daughters are in school all day now, and I miss those days!

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    1. That was my husband's favorite sentence too!

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  10. I will now continue my 3 year streak of avoiding the post office entirely with renewed vigor.

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  11. I don't send much mail and I buy all my stamps at my bank's ATM, which solves that problem. I get whatever the machine spits out and I'm fine with that.

    I can also say that I've never noticed the stamp on something someone sent me. Not once.

    Glad you were able to get what you want. I don't understand why the woman couldn't be a little flexible.

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    1. In my toddler speak, she was super fussy muffins.

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  12. Nope. She was rude. No apology necessary. I love that you tried to sway her with your cute kid. :)

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  13. I would have done the same thing. Of course I would have taken it even farther and asked to speak to a manager.

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  14. It sounds to me like she was trying to get rid of the Islamic stamps by misinforming you and when you wanted to return them it was no deal. Maybe I'm just cynical. ;) I would have done the same thing you did and I'm glad the other postal worker exchanged your stamps. The postal worker behind the counter was not only ignorant, she was rude.

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