September 05, 2009

The other day, at my local branch of the United States Postal Service, a devoted USPS customer told me in high decibels to go back whence I came. Although I speak and write English at a level this yahoo could not aspire to, I do the former sans an American accent. In the chauvinistic, provincial mind of my post-office foe, my accent condemned me. Even more of a liability was my apparently un-American, unpatriotic audacity. I stood up to a USPS bureaucrat, who has, for the past seven years, faithfully fulfilled her role as a bully. 

Incidentally, the Asian service clerk in question had not managed to master Pidgin English, but somehow I doubt that the brassy American postal patriot would have dared to order her out of the country.

For well over a decade, I have been sending snail mail from North America to South Africa, where friends and family still reside (and where my accent originates). Having used the Canadian, South African and European equivalent services, I can safely say that there is no viler or more inhospitable dump than the United States Postal Service. The latter is far and away inferior to the aforementioned rival monopolies. Enviously I eye the items my mother posts from the Netherlands. Whereas mine are festooned with at least two labels per package; hers are form-free, care free, shipped with ease.  

A seven-year saga has prepared me well: I arrived with the requisite labels filled out and handy. This time, the express package was destined for the in-laws”€”a belated birthday gift, as well as a timely one. The package was boldly addressed. It has to be so”€”for the clearer and bolder the lettering, the more likely the thing is to arrive at its South-African destination. That country moves to its own rhythm. But I should not be forced to explain, or apologize for, the manner in which I address my envelope. After all, I was paying a hefty sum for the privilege.

Politely, I asked the sour, dour postal worker to avoid plastering the express-mail label over the bold, clearly written address. Sullenly she turned away and reached for a new label and envelope, and then hissed a reply. Translated from pidgin: If I wanted to stop her from blanketing this crucial bit of information”€”repeated in Lilliputian letters on the express label”€”I would have to fill in yet another form, place my envelope in a new envelope and readdress it.

How this exercise in futility was supposed to alleviate anything other than this woman’s sadistic urges is a mystery. In any event, I refused to oblige or budge, and informed our Employee of the Month that I was not going to fill in more labels and forms. Nor was I going to entertain repackaging and readdressing my well-wrapped, clearly addressed item.

On an earlier visit to the same coven, I had encountered a slightly more obliging African-American clerk. (It’s hard not to notice that my USPS branch is dedicated to correcting past “€œinjustices”€ by utterly excluding any “€œoppressors”€ from its workforce.) I mentioned the “€œseven-year saga”€ suffered at the hands of his female colleagues. He refused to believe me, and then and there, made me promise I would call on him if ever the “€œladies”€ lapsed.

I did. Whereupon my supposed “€œsavior”€ proceeded to do his subversive best to do me further disservice.

Patronizingly, he told me my tormentor was only protecting me. The need for clear, large lettering on an envelope destined for South Africa was no concern of his or hers. (This last “€œargument”€ made him smirk a bit. I believe he thought it showcased his superior reasoning skills.) His verdict? The “€œwork station”€ belonged to sour-Asian-lady-who-speaks-in-tongues. There was nothing rude-African-American-guy could do to assist. It was preordained: The destination address was to be concealed!

This was precisely the kind of dialogue Joe Bauers, the protagonist in Mike Judge’s superb satire “€œIdiocracy,”€ had conducted with the “”€˜tarded” doctor character:

Doctor (Justin Long): Hey, how’s it hangin”€™, ese?  Well, don’t wanna sound like a dick or nothin’, but, uh, it says on your chart that you’re f—-ed up. Uh, you talk like a fag, and your sh-t’s all retarded. What I do is just like, like, you know … like, you know what I mean? Like—(chuckles)
Joe: No, I’m serious here.
Doctor: Don’t worry, scrot. Now, there are plenty of ‘tards out there living really kick-ass lives. My first wife was ‘tarded.” She’s a pilot now.
Joe: I need for you to be serious for a second here, okay? I need help.
Doctor: There’s that fag talk we talked about.

Back at President Camacho’s post office, I stood my ground. Eventually, the adjacent clerk gestured to me: “€œI will help you, as soon as I”€™m through with a client,”€ she whispered softly. Because of their insistence on scrapbooking over my address, I had been arguing with her “”€˜tarded” colleagues for over 20 minutes. In no time, the young clerk stuck the express label alongside the boldfaced address, without obscuring it, stamped the envelope, took my money, and sent me on my way.

The hold-up was no more than a sadistic display of power, honed in a state monopoly, where captive “€œcustomers”€ are pinned down like butterflies by “€œservice providers.”€ The discretion left to these petty tyrants is wide”€”fear of being fired minimal, if non-existent.

Would this farce have transpired had I been able to grab my package and, at the first sign of insanity, flee next door to a competitor? Imagine competition that had dismissed a disgraced pidgin-speaking-Asian-lady; whose projected losses for 2009 and 2010 did NOT run upwards of $7 billion; which had NOT incurred over $70 billion in unfunded liabilities, and was NOT funding the parasitical existence of 800,000 postal workers by borrowing from the Federal Financing Bank (read: the taxpayer). 

Just you wait until a “€œworker”€ of this caliber, subject to the same disincentives, is in charge of determining whether to schedule your emergency CAT Scan (or maybe not). You don”€™t wish to set that cat among the poor pigeons. Such workers will be the very beasts rising out of the sea of statism unleashed by a government-controlled healthcare system.

The U.S. Government Accountability Office considers the USPS “€œcostly and high risk.”€ The GAO has posed the following telltale questions vis-à-vis the USPS”€”musings that give an idea as to the chain of unaccountability the mailing public endures:

“€¢ “€œShould USPS be held more directly accountable for its performance and, if so, to what extent, to whom, and with what mechanisms?”€ [Read: Right now, no USPS employee pays for the pain he or she causes.]
“€¢ “€œWhat oversight is needed to protect the public interest, including the interest of customers with few or no alternatives to the mail?”€ [Read: Currently your “€œinterests”€ are nothing but curiosities to USPS monopolists.]
“€¢ “€œWhat recourse should customers and competitors have to lodge complaints?”€ [Read: This implies that now there are practically none. You can, however, file a “€œcompliment”€ to a postal worker.]

As I departed, I was accosted by the feral female PO devotee who heaped scorn on me: “€œThey [USPS] do what they do for a reason. This is how we do it in America. If you don”€™t like it, go back to where you came.”€


Sign Up to Receive Our Latest Updates!