I had a package to mail this morning and I stopped at a post office in South Burlington where I rarely go. I had been there once before and it was a standard transaction. I figured today would be the same, but it colored my day in a way I had not anticipated. It wasn’t a big thing, just something that made me think, pretty much all day.
I had to wait in line for a bit. An older couple were in line ahead of me with two packages, one that was in a box that must have held several pounds of Splenda, the other in an old slide carousel box–the kind that had once housed a round tray for photographic slides. The woman was looking through all the literature she cold fine there and it turns out she was seeking a change of address form. She couldn’t find one and her husband kept pointing to a large bin, insisting that they were right there.
“No,” she said. “That is just instructions for doing it online.”
His response: “For-GET it!”
I thought that exchange was interesting in itself, and it made me think about technology and how we adapt or don’t, how we sometimes stick to ways that seem to work for us and then one day find that those ways don’t work so well anymore. Those were the kinds of ideas zipping about my little cranium while I waited in line.
When it was my turn, I greeted the man at the counter and placed my package on it. I have mailed things many times and I always feel bad for the mail clerk who has to ask the same questions every time a customer comes to the counter. “Is there anything fragile, liquid, perishable or potentially hazardous…” and all that, with the added requests for my additional postal needs. That would pretty much drive me batty if I had to ask those same questions in the same way every time. So I tried to be helpful. I wanted to save time for many people who were now in line behind me and save the effort for my helpful postal worker. He was not, however, pleased.
I tried to offer that there was nothing fragile, liquid, perish…but he cut me off. “I have to ask so let me do my job. It’s like a cop stopping you. You let them do the talking.” He was curt. He was grumpy. I noted that I was just trying to be helpful but he merely returned to his list of questions, all of which I could have answered before he asked them.
I left feeling upset. Why would someone get so upset when someone else was trying to be helpful? It was uncalled for. If he had merely told me that he was required to ask the questions, even if I offered the answers first, I would have been informed enough to accept those questions. He was rude, however. As I drove off, I recognized that his emotions had transferred right to me. Now I was upset. Because I recognized that, however, I stopped. Take a lesson, I told myself: People feel like they do and I can’t necessarily understand why and I certainly can’t change it, so accept that and remember to try not to react like he did.
I felt as though I was not treated with respect. Note to self: try hard to be aware so that you treat others as we all would like to be treated. Thinking that made me feel better. My day was still off, and I thought about that interaction more than a few times, but I now thought about it in a more positive way.
My wife later pointed out that perhaps he assumed I was making fun of him. “People make fun of postal workers all the time,” she noted. “Why would you be any different.” She had a point. He perhaps made an assumption about me, regardless of my true intentions. While I was trying to do something that most people don’t do, he may have assumed that I was doing something that too many people do. It is too bad. I hope he was feeling less than stellar just today. I wish him more happiness in his work tomorrow. And every other day, while we’re at it.