Silly Grins

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Nearly Going Postal

Today's anecdote concerns a trip to the post office, which was consequently followed by a number of other surreal events. But the main event, so to speak, happened in that place where packages get shipped, postcards sent, and people usually wait in line... usually.

You see, I was waiting my turn at the front of the cue when one of the clerks asked the next person, that's me, to step over to where she was. The counters in front of where I'd been patiently hanging out were marked for mail. Behind the counter and over to the side a little was a slightly older clerk who'd just motioned for me to come over to the parcel section. Okay.

Just as I stepped sideways and was about to slide forward, a sixty-something fellow who was probably no stranger to hard work, judging by his stout frame and unpolished demeanor, stepped over to where I was headed and began to ask a question. 

He was kind of leaning in while making that, "It's okay, I just need something" kind  flick-wave without even bothering to look in my direction.  The clerk politely told him to wait, but he didn't listen in his overriding-request mode. 

The clerk looked both pissed-off and apologetic. 

She was raising her hand, palm up in my direction, starting to explain that I had been first while at the same time asking me to come forward. I gave her an affirmative shrug as if to say, "Plenty of time... no hurry" and titled my head toward the fellow.

The clerk could have easily elbowed the guy in his temple, but she didn't. Though, she might have wanted to.

Mr. Hard-Working Sixty-Something wasn't interested in looking at anybody or anything. But he had leaned in, which indicates that he was, on some level, aware that he was cutting.  Once he'd done got one of 'em forms, he headed to one of the chairs on which he planed his hard ass and started filling in the boxes. 

Then something happened that I hadn't really expected. 

The clerk apologized for the fact that Mr. Hard-Ass Sixty was so indignant and that she'd had to step back from her counter to go and fetch the postal slip. I told her that it was okay, and I wasn't in a rush. 

Still, she insisted on apologizing, one more time, for the actions of that asshole. I returned her smile. We had a short chat during the weighing of my envelope.

On my way out the door, I couldn't help wonder why these kinds of things don't usually bother me. As in, hardly ever. A slight delay is different from a potentially drawn out delay. That was when I recalled one of my first times visiting a post office in Japan. 

One of my first times... I took a ticket and waited for my number to come up. When my number did come up, a not-quite-Jomon-era country humpkin (cross between a hick and a bumpkin of the Hee Haw kind) stomped up to the counter and hauled up a rather impressive sack of change that made a crackling-thud when it was dropped on the counter. 

Defiantly, with a greedy redneck scowl that just doesn't give a fuck about anything but her loot, she started to concentrate as she was obviously doing her best to count out her all her precious coins, ignoring whoever the fuck might have been waiting. That was my first visit to a 'larger' post office in Japan.

My last postal visit, which was today, resonated in a similar way. And it didn't bother me, though the experience was what some might express as peculiar. So much culture with so little shock.

Then it got surreal. 

The surreal bit came on the way out to the paid parking lot. An older lady who was very happy about anything leaned out her window and asked me about being able to fit into the parking space. 

She wasn't in a parking space... she was between them. Kind of lost. But not apparently caring. Still, she just may have wanted to enjoy asking anyone.

It wasn't translating well in my head.

In contrast with the 'cutter' inside, the parking attendant, another version of the Mr. Hard-Working Sixty-Something, cloned in the same culture, was expressing those genes in a somewhat different manner. This other fellow wasn’t such a hard-ass. He looked at me and shook his head when observing that I was trying to make sense of what granny was smiling about. He followed up with the universal gestures for: 

"Friendly, functional Alzheimer... it's okay, she's happy, driving, and not hitting anything(yet). Move along son, I'll take care of this."

Japan's future is certain to be even more surreal. And what's kind of strange, that thought doesn't seem to bother me. No, not usually.

(The blue text is what has been edited for clarity in response to the first comment.)


  1. So he was "cutting" cuz he knew she might be banging into shit and playing bumper cars outside?

    That's a happy ending. For that scene anyway.;)

    1. Thank you for your comment. Care must be taken in how the mental footage in this pseudo-documentary is spliced. Your initial read has a happy ending. Perhaps this last cut does a better job at showing what might have been happening.

  2. This brings to mind an episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm, one where Larry couldn't stand the idea of waiting in line at the pharmacy, so he cuts in and tries to bribe the pharmacist into filling his prescription first.

    I see the cutting-in-line thing way more in the States, but I feel ya about the entitled elderly of Japan...

    1. If anything, what is irritating about the line jumping is exactly what you mention... that sense of entitlement.

      Only saw part of one CYE episode... was interesting. Everybody seems to want to get their fix as soon as possible, be it from the pharmacist or cable guy.