In this case, the sclerosis of the USPS. My wife thought I’d taken care of it, and I thought she’d taken care of it, so neither of us took care of it and our P.O. box rental lapsed. “No problem” says the postmaster to my son on Friday, “you can still renew it on-line by the end of day Saturday.”
After much searching I find the PO boxes link in that grey fine print at the bottom of the page. Then I have to create an account. Funny – I’ve never run into this hurdle before, “profanity in the password. please choose another password”. I always figured no one would ever see your password, so why the hissy fit?
After much fussing around, I finally get to enter my particulars. “Street Address” That’s an easy one. It’s been the same for decades. As far as I know it’s been the same since the house was built, more than 100 years ago. “Invalid Address. Please select from the the alternatives below.” There were none, so I click through and this time it accepts it. Next is “Post Office Box Number”. So I enter that along with my zop code. That box number with that zip code has only existed since that post office was built, sometime in the mid 20th century, so I can understand how they might not have gotten it entered into their database yet. So it comes up “invalid Post office box”. I quit. I did get a nice e-mail notice this morning though, thanking me for setting up an account. It listed four or five things that were really super great about having an account with them, one of which was “manage or renew a post office box”. Super.
So I went in to the post office this morning, saying I’d tried the on-line thing and failed, explaining in detail. “Oh, No!” the flabby man behind the counter says, “you should have entered your PO box number, not your street address…”
“It asked for the street” and I spell it out for him “Ess Tee Awr Eee Eee Tee, Street Address.” He ignores that. “So what can I do” Now this is the Monday after the Saturday that was our last day to renew.
“I have to change the lock, and you’ll have to pay the fee. How many of the new keys do you want?”
“I’d rather keep the same keys if it’s all the same to you. Charge me the fee and you can avoid the absurdity of changing the lock” Well that put him all in a pother.
“I’ll have to fool the computer….” and he pittered and pattered around the office for a bit, printed something off, cussed, threw it away, printed something off again, I wrote the check, thanked him, and was on my way.
All I could think of after that ordeal was the old saying among business owners everywhere; “If they ran a business like that, they’d be bankrupt.” Oh wait.
It also reminds me of Douglas Adams’ Vogons, or of Ayn Rand’s description of the Soviet Union as a “morbid absurdity”.