Oh, irritating irritations, I had plenty of time to count you up during my lengthy wait at Salem's Vista Station post office today.
(1) Walking in the door at about 2:30 pm on a Tuesday, a time I figured would be pleasingly low key busy-wise, and finding about a dozen people lined up in the small lobby. I only needed to pick up a package that required a signature. Didn't want to come back; didn't want to run the risk of having our mailhuman try to deliver it again at a day we weren't home.
(2) So I decided to do the Post Office Wait Dance. I'm good at standing still. First thought, though, was to see whether any P.O. employee was at the mail dropoff counter on the right. Occasionally when lines are long at Vista, someone will stand there and handle package/mail pickups that don't involve a financial transaction. But, nope, two regular registers were staffed. Nobody else in sight.
(3) After a few minutes, a woman walks in with a young girl. She strides right up to the mail dropoff counter, ignoring the lengthy line. Standing there, she looks at the P.O. employee at the register to her left: "I need to pick up my mail. Can someone help me?" She's told, "No, sometimes a person is available to do that; not today; you'll have to wait in line."
(4) Her child says, "I have to go potty!" The mother says, "You'll have to wait; there's no bathroom here; I thought there might be; that's why we came in." Jeez. How could anyone think a United States Post Office would have restroom facilities for the general public? For one thing, I've never seen a post office with a restroom. For another thing, it's a great idea, so naturally it will never happen.
(5) A guy near the front of the line is called up to the counter. "Good," I think. "I've just moved up a spot." Then I notice the stack of large envelopes he's carrying. "Not good," I think. I've seen this game play out before: a self-employed guy mailing a bunch of his daily whatever's which take forever to process because each has to be individually weighed, stamped, return receipt requested, etc. etc.
(6) I ponder getting my iPhone out and playing with it, check my email, New York Times, Twitter feed. But I'm engrossed in my increasing irritation. Somehow I feel that if I stare sullenly at the two P.O. employees working at the counter, they'll get the message to call for help to deal with the now even longer line of waiting people.
(7) I picture how, at LifeSource Natural Foods and Trader Joe's, staff will ring a bell when just three or four customers are in line, and staff will stop what they're doing and open up another register. I can hear voices in the back of the post office. What the hell are those servants-of-the-public doing that's more important than serving the not-very-patiently-waiting public? The woman with the kid is still having to tell her daughter, "There's no bathroom here; you'll just have to wait; no, I won't put you down, you'll run away."
(8) The guy with the stack of envelopes is still being served at the counter. Quite a few other people have been helped by the only other P.O. employee. I now see that mailing each and every envelope of his requires an astonishing amount of typing into a computer terminal by the employee serving him. I shift my irritated eyeballs to the guy's back. "Why the hell did you choose the busiest station in south Salem to mail your hugely time-consuming stuff?" I mentally beam into his inconsiderate brain. "Pringle Station is just a few minutes away; it's almost always nearly empty."
(9) I do some quick calculations. The guy could have driven to Pringle Station and back in less than 15 minutes. By the time I reach the front of the line, the guy is still standing there, watching the P.O. employee enter hugely complicated codes for sending restricted items to Somalia, or whatever the heck is taking such a long time to do. I swear to Zeus: at least ten people were served by the other P.O. employee staffing the counter during the twenty minutes or more it took this guy's stack of envelopes to be mailed. Each wasted ten minutes or so of his/her life, since the line would have moved twice as fast without the guy's counter blockage. Ten times ten is 100 person-minutes. If he'd driven to Pringle, he would have incurred an extra fifteen minutes himself. Where's your compassionate Buddha-nature, jerk?!
(10) I then get irritated at how irritated I am. Where's my own patient Zen acceptance of How Things Are?
Anyway, another fun day at the post office.
Waiting in line, I fantasized about having the whole damn outfit taken over by UPS or Federal Express, with all of the idiots currently running the USPS fired. But the small part of my brain not consumed with irritation thought: "That'd be no better, most likely. And surely more expensive."
I actually like and appreciate the USPS most of the time. They just need to figure out how to handle lines a lot better. (It's likely, though, that staff cutbacks and foolish interference in post office operations by Congress has made this almost impossible to do.)
Grocery stores have self-checkout, twelve items or less, and regular checkout areas. Sure seems like the post office could figure out something similar, and have some employees ready to jump in and help when the line is going out the door, as happens disturbingly often at the Vista Station.