Sunday, April 13, 2008

Other People

I was at the Post Office yesterday, trying to mail a simple box. Not even a heavy or big box -- just a properly wrapped, nicely addressed, medium-size, lightweight box.

When I got in line, there was one person ahead of me, and I thought, well, great, this is going to go like gangbusters.

The woman in front of me was a very well dressed and proper-looking somewhat older woman. Maybe, you know, 65 years old, and really turned out with expensive looking clothes and subtle make-up. Natural gray short hair.

She and I stood and waited. And we waited. And we waited. Turns out Saturday is, like, passport day at the Post Office, and there were two clerks tied up with passport customers with name changes, address questions, all kinds of shit.

The woman started to lose her cool. She could hardly stand it, that it was taking so long. She started fidgeting, sighing, looking around.

I found myself having a completely perverse reaction. Instead of sharing her impatience, I got annoyed at her. I found myself thinking things like, "Hey, chill. They're getting passports. No biggie. Where've you got to get to in such a hurry, Missy? What's your ego trip?"

Who knows why? Totally absurd.

Anyway, after ages and ages, she turned to me and said quietly, "It's just so hard to stay patient." And you know, for whatever reason that totally turned me from critic to friend. I was on her side. "I know!" I said, finally feeling the proper rush of shared feeling. "You'd think they'd have someone just doing regular mail stuff!"
It's funny that Captain C. was just posting about driving, because strangely enough, that's what this interaction got me thinking about. I don't drive, which means I take public transportation, which means I often have interactions like the one in which the woman and I spoke. And shared. And, you know, bonded over our plight. Bonding over your plight is a big part of taking public transportation, even if it's silent bonding.

And I was thinking that driving almost always encourages you in the opposite direction. To think of your fellow person as annoying, aggressive, in your way, to be a critic rather than a friend, is the natural driver stance. In fact, living in most parts of America, most of your interactions are like that. It's a wonder people are as warm-hearted as they are, given the constant reinforcement most of us get for regarding other people as just a big fat pain in the ass.

Anyway, the line grew huge behind us with passport people. Some of them were families; there was even a set of twins there to get passports photos. All swathed in pink. Cute.

Eventually a third clerk appeared and she waved her arms and said, "Anyone just need stamps?" With a gasp of relief my friend strode over and got her business taken care of.

Of course, once she was done I was practically gasping myself with anticipation. "Anyone here for stamps?" the third clerk called out again. I held up my box. I was now first in a long line. "I've just got this box!" I piped up.

"Oh, sorry, I can't do packages. I'm on restriction because of my shoulder."


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