The line wasn’t that long, but people were grumpy anyway. Both of the people being served at the moment had big, awkward packages to mail. A young woman with a bike, going to Alaska in a box. And a guy with something complicated and bulky. The two postal workers, a woman and a man, calmly, deliberately did what they had to do. What they’d probably done a million times. The rest of us stared at them, or pretended not to.
I heard a woman behind me say something snarky about government workers. The old man in front of me suddenly said, “I’ve had enough of this!" to no one, or everyone, and walked off. Which was fine with me — now I was next.
I had two boxes of packages to mail. My Patronopolis Perks. Thank-yous. They were important to me. Precious, even — little boomerangs of the goodness people had so generously shared with me. There more than 80 of them. They were all going to need to be individually weighed and stamped. They were going to make everyone behind me more grumpy, and because of that, maybe the post office lady was going to be grumpy with me.
She was finishing up with the bike. I tried to read her face. She turned away. I walked up. She turned back. I smiled weakly.
"Umm, sorry, I’ve got a lot of packages."
"Oh babydoll, don’t you worry about it! This is how I pay my rent!"
"That’s what I used to tell my daddy," she went right on, grabbing the first package. “People’d come into his shop and buy all the meat and he’d say — now what I’m gonna do! — and I’d say — daddy, you are not gonna complain because people came in here and bought what you’re selling! — and he’d say — but now what I’m gonna do! — and I’d say — go get some more! And that’s just what you got for me here. Job security!"
"Oh, good, I thought…"
"No no no don’t you think nothing, babydoll. This is what we’re here for!"
"So, your dad’s a butcher?"
"Oh no, don’t call him a butcher! He’s a meat cutter, and he’s not gonna let you forget it. Now let’s see where’s this one going?"
And on it went. I’m not sure how long I was there. Twenty minutes? Twenty five? And the whole time, she’s talking talking talking in a lovely Southern accent. Her daughter sings like an angel. So did her mother and grandmother. The old hymns. Her? Oh no. She loves to sing but you don’t want to hear it. But her daughter, yes yes.
"All she has to do when she wants something is say Mama, I’ll sing for ya and sure enough she’ll get it. She knows it. I’ll give her the keys to the castle and the carriage out front, too."
She’s smiling, asking questions, loves that the packages are thank-you gifts, loves that I write my own songs.
"Who do you sound like? What’s your music like?"
I stammer around awkwardly, thinking why can’t I answer this question, still? and then she answers for me.
"You sound like you, that’s who! Who else should you sound like? If you’re going to devote your life to doin’ something you might as well do it like yourself and not like anybody else, right?"
"I just do what I’m going to do and I am who I’m going to be and if someone doesn’t like it well I just love ‘em anyway. I can’t control them or what they think of me but they can’t control me either and I can just love ‘em and they can’t do anything about it. And you can go around being mean and miserable or you can choose to love and I choose to love and no one can tell me I can’t."
"You have fun this weekend, now! I know I’m going to! I try to be good but I gotta have fun!"
I love you, post office lady.
Patronopolis members, know that your perk arrived via this post office angel. If after opening it, good things started happening to you, send her a little mental thank-you. Something tells me she’ll receive it.