The line at the post office wasn’t long at first. The two clerks were each busy with someone taking what seemed like an inordinately long time. “Incompetence,” I thought to myself. “It’s in every government office I’ve ever known.” But as I waited I began to watch, and my attention was drawn to the customer with several bags the sort of which you get at Target; the opaque, flimsy, crackly kind.
The counter was covered with these bags. And stacks of small bills. And cellophane wrapping tape. And coins. “$40.75,” I heard the clerk say, and then the customer turned around to the counter behind which I stood, grimacing as he searched his pockets. I smiled at him, and saw that he was a person with special needs. “I got it!” he said triumphantly, while the line behind me shifted their collective feet.
“Maybe I should put some of this stuff in the box,” he said, and proceeded to shove the items from his bags into a white Priority Mail box. They were Cubs World Series memoriablia, being unceremoniously crunched into a box which surely would not bode well for the hats at the bottom.
When the box was finally all taped up, he help up a card. “I forgot this!” he said, after which the clerk slammed down his hand, and reopened the box.
“Should I put it in?” the man asked timidly. “Yes, you should put it in!” the sales clerk shouted.
The box is now taped shut for the second time, and the amount owed is pronounced. “$45.75,” says the clerk.
“But! But, you told me it was $40.75,” the man replied, clearly quite anxious.
“That was before you put it in this box!” said the clerk, holding up the priority box in comparison to the plain brown cardboard one off to the side.
“I want to speak to the manager!” the customer said, and was promptly told he was speaking to the manager.
“Excuse me?” I said. “Is five dollars all that is needed here?” They both turned to look at me.
“Here,” I said, giving the clerk the money, “here is a $5.00 bill. Please mail his package.”
Because I wanted to weep at the insensitivity far outweighing the incompetency in this situation. The postal worker couldn’t summon up an ounce of patience? He couldn’t clearly explain the shipping costs, or even help the man pack his box? No one waiting in line could be patient while waiting for this man to send off his important package?
We cry at the injustice of Syrian refugees, and can’t even lift a finger in a public place to one of our own, a man who clearly needed some compassion. A little understanding. Five bucks. That’s all it took to solve his problem tonight. May all his worries be few.
May we all share one another’s burdens.