by Constance Daley
St. Simons Island, Ga.
March 24, 2011
NO STAMP, NO DELIVERY
ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. -- Normally, a trip to the Post Office is pretty matter-or-fact. Not this morning.
There was no line and a U.S. Postal Service clerk bade me over to her station.
I had a Priority Mail envelope ready but I took the time to ask if she would weigh it for me - to judge the postage difference between the $5.50 for priority service and first class.
She said: "$2.46 for first class." That difference tempted me to rewrap the contents in a plain manila envelope. Instead, I said: "Next time, I'll know."
Just as I finished my transaction, a young man came in and walked directly to the other clerk - but stopped short of the counter, holding a small envelope aloft, hand-addressed and stamped.
He appeared to be holding court. His eyes went from clerk to clerk, swept me into the gaze and even turned to see if the man addressing some registered mail forms was looking at him. He was not.
I got the feeling he was going to register a complaint and needed someone to add a "Yeah! Yeah!" He said, "I mail a letter like this every week and it goes right over there," turning his head to the wall of P.O. boxes. "And each week I make this statement, questioning the need to put a stamp on the envelope since it is not being mailed. And I will continue to complain until common sense prevails!" he declared.
The clerk was calm and respectful but nevertheless recited USPS policy in a way that was conversational, yet official. "And, sir," she said, "if you come in here next week, issue the same complaint and expect a different answer, you will be disappointed."
"But it isn't being mailed," he complained, a little more frustrated this time, and looking directly at me for support. So, I jumped in.
"As soon as you give that envelope to a Postal Service employee, you have mailed it. She will do her job, cancel the stamp, put it in that bin where another employee will do his job, take it to the sorter, followed by the boxes clerk who does her job and so on." I was just getting warmed up.
"If your letter were going to California it would start off the same way - still cost the same 44 cents and have the same personal service you have here. What the revenue pays for is the service. It doesn't matter if it's 30 feet or 3,000 miles.
"Sir, if you decide to drop it in the 'mail' box without a stamp, it will either be postage due from the recipient (if you left no return address), and, if you did, it will be 'Return to Sender.' Failing that, it will go to the dead letter office." I smiled and said, "You don't want it to go there."
"No support from me, sir," I added. "I like the way the post office operates - and they need every 44-cent sale they can get. I gladly pay for this service."
He tossed his small envelope on the counter, turned and left. His mumbled and half-hearted "Have a nice day" was more habit than goodbye.
The man addressing the registered mail forms came up to the counter and then time turned to the exit door just as the young man was pushing through it. With a smile and twinkle he said. "From the Polo shirt he's wearing and the Sea Island cap on his head, I don't think he's hurting for the price of a stamp."
"Hmmm," I mused, "since he mails that every week to a P.O. box here, the recipient must live on the island. He could drop the envelope unstamped directly to 'her' address. I say 'her' since I think it must be an alimony check, and he wouldn't want to run into his ex-wife. She might have taken him to the cleaners, as they say, and every 44 cents saved looms large in his budget.
we all agreed with my instant analysis, and everyone laughed. I turned and hurried out - certain I'd see him driving off in a BMW on this prosperous bit of terra firma.
Not so. It was a Kia - very shiny. He did put up a good front; well-groomed and well-dressed. He could catch a wife if she believes first impressions are lasting. Could he keep her? Not the one I conjured up!