I dropped the lid for the first time to find the third, and final, key to my mailbox. It was attached to a note. Looking at the note, I smiled. Looks like I WOULD have to take one more trip to the Holt Post Office.
Me: Hello, I was told I had to come here to get the keys to my new lock on my mailbox?
Diana: Yup. That'll be $20 please.
Customer service. If you've ever had a job dealing with the public, then you know all about it and how damned obnoxious it is. Having dealt with it myself, I've long since learned not to let my anger with customer-gouging policies big companies love to implement make me act like a hard, throbbing, veiny, purple-headed phallus to the most unfortunate beings whose job it is to relay and enforce them.
I expect, in return, that the customer service people I encounter not try and and convince me of the validity and necessity of these stupid policies they had no hand in implementing. I understand what it is to take pride in your work and workplace. But taking ownership of faulty reasoning only makes you a sucker. And, therefore, open to the white hot irritability that was not originally meant for you.
My apartment complex used to manage their own mailboxes, much like most every other apartment complex everywhere. When you move in, they give you a key. When you move out, you give it back. Make a copy if you dare. But mail-tampering is a federal offense. In all my life, that's been a fairly effective enough deterrent. Then I moved to tiny little Holt where, clearly, mail-tampering must be what the local thugs dirty their jagged, calloused hands with.
I've also lived in houses and apartments with *GASP* no locks on the mailbox. Again, never had a problem. And I've had all manner of things delivered to me. Checks. Toys. CDs. DVDs. CASH MONEY. Never had a problem with theft.
Enter the Holt Post Office. According to my apartment manager, Sam, the Holt Post Office had difficulty keeping track of all the addresses and the residents because of the rapid turnover. So they took over the mailboxes and Sam would just send them to the Post Office to get it taken care of. What she forgot to mention is that it costs $20.
The $20 payment to the Holt Post Office is for them to change the lock on my mailbox. The actual cost of switching the lock is closer to $35, but they take the hit to provide the service. Yeah, I know. They took over a process they didn't need to so they could lose $15 with every transaction? Perhaps you're starting to see my anger. How about I the fact that I had to wait in line for 21 minutes while their ONE service attendant helped ONE person at a time in a line ten plus ONE deep?
The service attendant, Diana, had the unfortunate position of informing me of the $20 lock-change fee. So surprised was I that I looked at her as if she told me she wanted to impregnate me. I don't like to mess with the people that service me since a job's a job and no one deserves to be crapped on for a policy they didn't set in place, but I was so honestly surprised my reflexes took over.
Diana explained why I had to spend the money. Then I asked the same questions a second time and she dutifully explained again. In shock, I watched myself reach into my pocket, pull out my lone twenty dollar bill, and hand it to her. Smiling, she took it and gave me a receipt and the first two of three keys I'd have to access my mailbox once the locks were switched. Four days later. In a daze I took them and walked out. It wasn't until I got to work that I realized what I'd done.
I had just paid twenty bones to have access to mail I was required BY LAW to receive??!? Nope. Unacceptable. I immediately got back in my car, drove back to the Holt Post Office, waited another 10 minutes in line, handed over my keys and receipt and asked for my money back. Diana had already written up the papers required for the lock switch but, smiling, handed me back my money anyway. I walked out seething.
The next two visits Diana patiently explained my options. I could place my mail on hold until I got the locks switched or I could get a Post Office Box. But no, she couldn't just give me my mail if I stopped by. And no, she couldn't hold it longer than 30 days for free.
I was not gonna pay for my mail and they weren't gonna fork it over without coin. My only option was to go to the source and get the policy changed. So I called a couple days later to speak to the manager.
Dummy: Hi, I'm the manager.
Me: Yes, I want to get my mail, but I don't wanna pay. How can we make this happen?
D: Well, you've gotta get your lock switched, sir. It's policy.
D: Because your apartment complex decided that they didn't want the responsibility of switching the locks.
Me: That's not what they told me.
D: Well, I've been here five years and it's been that way the whole time.
Me: That's fine and dandy, but I'm not gonna pay. How can I get my mail?
D: Well...sir, we don't even make any money on this. It's more expensive for us to change the locks...
Me: Then why do it?
D: Because your apartment complex wanted us to do it!
Me: So who can change this policy so my apartment complex can do it?
D: I don't know. Ask the postmaster!
Dummy promptly gave me the postmaster's number and hung up. I can understand his aggravation with me. I did conduct that conversation more like an interrogation. But he handled it all wrong from the start. Much like Diana, he believed in the policy like it was his own and tried to convince me of its validity with reasoning bordering on nonsense. It's like explaining to me that the sun is blue, or that Lite Beer is delicious, or that TARP was started during Obama's administration, not Bush's. You know. REALLY stupid stuff. This is how the conversation SHOULD have gone for his sake:
Me: Yes, I want to get my mail, but I don't wanna pay. How can we make this happen?
D: I don't know, sir. Here's the number to the postmaster.
I wish most people in Dummy's position would be so thoughtful as to not involve themselves in a battle not brought to them. But it was his choice to get caught in the crossfire.
I waited a few days to call the postmaster. Had to cool my jets after talking to Dummy and get ready to hear some Grade-A horse puckey from The Man himself. His name was Gordie. Gordie was unavailable the first couple times I called, but the third time's the charm. I explained the situation and he sounded pretty much the same as the previous two people I dealt with. Maybe a little dumber.
Gordie: In order to get your mail you're gonna have to get the lock switched.
Me: Who put this policy in place? You?
Gordie: No, but it's been in place for a while. I've been here four years.
Me: Do you have the authority to change it?
Gordie: I don't know. I never looked into it. Why would I need to?
Me: So my apartment complex can take over the process so I don't have to pay.
Gordie: Sir, your apartment complex asked us to take over the process. That's why we do it. We don't profit from this.
Me: My apartment manager says you guys took it over.
Gordie: Well, that may be the case. Again, this was before I was here...
Me: Do you do this for other apartment complexes in Holt?
Gordie: Yes, we do.
Me: Are there any apartment complexes in Holt that don't benefit from your servicing?
Gordie ....I don't think so...
Me: So you handle all the apartment complex mailboxes in Holt then?
Gordie: I'm pretty sure we do.
Me: So did my apartment complex get together with all the other complexes and ask you to take over the process then?
Gordie: I don't know, sir. I wasn't h...
Me: But you said they asked you to take over the process. Didn't you?
Gordie: Well...sir, I...Look! We don't profit from this sir! We do it as a free service! We actually LOSE money doing it!
Me: Gordie, why not let my apartment complex do it then and save yourself the expense?
Gordie: Because they ASKED us to do it, sir!
Me: Gordie, how can I get my mail without paying for it?
The whole place is full of idiots. But the biggest problem is that they have a policy that no other post office I've EVER encountered has and they adhere to it despite the fact that they're losing money on it. The long-ass waits also suck, too. But que sera sera.
I called Sam to ask her what we could do about it since I refused to pay. She said to come to her office the next morning and we'd settle it out. When I showed up she handed me a $20 bill. Befuddled, I looked at her.
"It costs us about $40 to change the lock. So we just figured we'd let them take the hit and give you the money."
Ah. At least SOMEONE could make some sense in all of this.
Despite the fact that I'd been a direct pain in the Holt Post Office's ass for the last couple weeks, Diana didn't flinch when she saw me. She merely smiled when I handed her the $20.
Diana: So what changed your mind?
Me: I didn't. It's still a stupid policy, but my apartment manager figured it'd be cheaper for you guys to take the hit than for them to do it.
Diana: Can't argue with that.
She handed me the two keys and receipt all over again. While she did it we continued polite banter over the stupidity of the policy. She still tried to defend it. I continued to drop my balls all over it. As we talked and filled out the papers, a line had gathered behind me. And many of them agreed with me at how stupid the policy sounded. I walked out satisfied that I'd never have to enter that stupid place again.
I walked into the Holt Post Office on a Tuesday afternoon. The LAST Tuesday, or any other day of the week, on which I'd ever have to see this place again. Diana was behind the corner serving the first of six people before me. Fourteen minutes of waiting was but little sacrifice considering this would, most likely, be my last visit.
Uncertain, she mouthed "huh?" in response. I reached into my back pocket and pulled out a piece of paper. Attached to that paper was my third and final key. On the paper was a note, written to whoever installed the new lock who didn't have the good sense to detach the note:
I detached the key and set the note in front of her, smiling. The surprise washed over her in shrugged shoulders and crooked smiles. Phase one complete. For phase two, I flipped it over.
"Face...book...dot com...slash span...daniel?"
Smiling, I nodded and walked out.