These are the four stages people tend to go through when they are confronted by a problem out of their control. First we persist on our trajectory, denying that our plans are ruined. Once we recognize the problem, we tend to get angry, trying to fight to rectify the situation to our liking. After anger comes grief, when we realize that we cannot get our way, no matter how hard we may fight. We mourn the loss of what could have been. Eventually, we move through grief into a stage of acceptance, some semblance of peace.
I had errands to run today, and found myself in the vicinity of Rebecca's school around lunchtime. Whenever this happiness, I'll send her a text, and see if she's available to meet up during her rare free time.
Today she had to mail out a package, so we met outside the post office, which is located inside a shopping mall.
I don't think anyone likes going to the post office. I might actually enjoy it, but only because I never go there when I have a time crunch. I always go optimistically, patiently, and ready for a show.
The post office we used to go to in Chicago was always a trip. You could never get in and out of there in under 45 minutes. The people receiving packages from me during those days never knew what it took to get their gifts in the mail. One day, Rebecca and I were lucky enough to witness two customers have existential breakdowns when, after waiting in line for so long, the schizophrenic postal clerk mocked them for being unable to read the broken down credit card terminal screen. "This is the WORST post office in the ENTIRE CITY!!!" the man declared, yelling, stomping off into the Chicago air.
The Downers Grove post office is always fun. I have a favorite teller there, a black man with a bald head, fuzzy beard, and friendly disposition. Every time I go there, I wind up shooting the breeze with him, because he's friendly, and because there's never a line of people waiting at that post office. The last time I was there I needed stamps. I was offended that he brought me the forever stamp. I said, "don't you have anything a little more exciting?" He offered me the Thanksgiving Parade line of stamps. I was outraged. "Come on, give me the good stuff..." He said, "Oh, OK. You'd probably like the Kelp Forest stamps..." You're damn right I do like the Kelp Forest stamps. They come on a huge sheet, a mural, and you have to hunt down each stamp amid the undersea creatures. Now we're talking.
So, today, Rebecca and I met outside the Lombard post office, inside the Yorktown mall. This post office has never been as fun as the one in Downers Grove, but it's usually a quick trip, minimal lines, etc. When I walked up to the post office, the wide entrance was well lit, and there was access to the PO boxes, and some mail slots. However, there was a metal door pulled down over the area where the teller would normally be. "Columbus day," explained Rebecca.
I don't mean to get started on Columbus day and what a crock of shit I think it is. Let's just say that I'm in no hurry to celebrate another white guy ruining an otherwise perfectly good indigenous civilization.
Time was short, so we just sat on a bench outside the post office, eating some fancy potato chips, the kind made out of taro root, and parsnips. The best part of our short time there was watching the occasional person walk down the hallway, packages and envelopes in hand, heading towards the deceptively well-lit post office, their face radiating a silent sense of accomplishment, a confident grin that says, "I did it. I finally made it to the post office to mail this thing. It's been on my list forever, and I finally made the time in my week-on a Monday, no less- to get this thing mailed out and taken care of. What a great day..."
Denial. Everyone went through it. It was hilarious, fascinating. Undoubtedly, the potential postal customer would confidently swagger in, thinking "Wow, no line. This is going to be quick!" only to be frozen in their tracks two steps into the room, when the stainless steel curtain sends the unmistakable message of defeat to their subconscious mind. "Nice try, but not today," says the cold metal. Their subconscious minds know this, but the conscious mind cannot accept the fact. They stare at the metal curtain, frozen in denial. They look around the room. Only when they receive the explanation in the form of a small sign can they move into the second stage.
Anger. Grief. We watched a woman mouth the word "Crap." to herself as she discretely tucked her envelope away into her purse. Another day perhaps. Another woman made eye contact with us as she retreated. She put her fingers into the shape of a gun and discharged an imaginary round into the side of her own head.
Even if none of them believe that Columbus was a war criminal, and human rights violator, everyone who walked out of the post office seemed to agree, Columbus day is a bunch of crap.
We watched a very happy man carrying a large box walk down the hallway, towards the post office. Rebecca nudged my shoulder. The universal law we had discovered was simple: the more optimistic they were, the more entertaining the scene would be. The poor guy, we thought. He had no chance.
Upon his discovery that he would have to return to the post office at a later date, the man kept his smile, kept his grace. He came out and saw us smiling at him, trying to laugh with him. He smiled back, and Rebecca confessed that she had wanted to mail something out today, and had also been stymied by the "holiday."
I don't know if the man ever moved fully into the acceptance phase, but he left us with some words that seemed to put the whole ordeal into perspective.
"It ain't a holiday if I have to work! This is bullshit."
We are all in this together.