In the list of things I hate most in the world (yellow, Kirsten Dunst, Tobey Maguire, crocs and beetroot) the post office would be the most depressing. The lacklustre green walls and brown carpets squeal of gloom, dejection and hopelessness.
The tiny fan in the corner of the brown, grey and lighter grey room is taped up, buzzing along as if its screws were about to burst open. The room is filled with elevator music, tunes that drab along featuring in no real genre. That’s why its elevator music – it’s incompetent and dreary and ‘entertains’ from one level to the next. So, the post office decided to adopt the elevator music genre (cue instrumental humdrum and dire ballads) so that people who enter find themselves wanting to gallop out, choking on their own mental breakdown and world-weariness. Sometimes, post office people turn on an old radio, searching for the frequency. The radio crackles and we’re transported into another decade where flutes and tambourine solos are the manner of the day. It’s a tedious man who is mumbling on about Cosatu or its accordion hits from the sixties. But mostly, it’s that elevator music.
The post office booths are cages with small vertical gaps in between so they can reach out for the bills, envelopes and money without actually obtaining ‘outside world stuff’. This brings me to the post office people. There’s a fifty-something woman with short blonde hair wearing a hand-made maroon jersey. I bet she made it herself.
Maybe it was from gran years back. Anyway, it looks like moths breed in the sleeves as white pieces of fluff fall off the back of the jersey. Through thick, chunky and murky glasses, she looks at the queue with judgement and uniform hate as if to say “Why are you here…in my land?”
I say “Dear me, I don’t have a choice”
Hunched forward, tight-lipped, her thin, dry lips hang as her eyes scrunch up figures, typing too quickly on her keyboard. I was half-expecting a typewriter with a sticker that said ‘I hate the world’. She’s the archetypal cat lady with faded mom jeans and dirt on her knees. While waiting in the queue, I was thinking about what her life might be like. Home at 5:30, she would feed her array of cats and kiss them, showing the only ecstasy she can muster for a living thing. She would turn on her box TV set and eat noodles then turn in with a book and have an early night. I couldn’t quite see her cracking open a beer and having a braai with friends. I couldn’t see her being romantic with anyone either. She loved her cats and nothing else.
The other post office person was a smaller, younger woman who kept looking at a piece of paper before attending to anyone in queue. I think she was buying time, doing all her office antics with deliberate ease and carelessness so that the plastic clock (that probably didn’t work) would tick tick tick to five. Older post office lady would ask her what she was doing and she would nod along several times before staring at that slip of paper, evading human contact. I figured she wouldn’t be much of social butterfly outside of these walls. I figured she’d get take out while playing chess. I think she used to cool. I think she used to have fun. Now, the cold bricks, electrical wires and monotonous sounds have grabbed her soul to bury any sense of merriment she once had. Other lady, with over-sized quiff and bulging belly, walks in and out of the glass cages to seem busy. She winked at me and I thought it might have been a curse. The short, dumpy man with the blue suit and stuck-on moustache followed her around, arrived at a computer and typed for few seconds before idling around, grinning at people. He occasionally waved then followed the woman (see: Tracy Morgan but fatter)
Post Office people exist. In the downcast job environment, they’ve completely succumb to post office plight. They dress without spark, they speak like insufferable robots with no intention to make nice. Post office time drags along and five minutes can seem like a stabbing eternity. A lot of the employees look like Kristen Stewart happy, sad and excited (i.e. they look like they’re jaded and fed up with everything around them)
Soon enough, places like these will be forgotten. Today, it’s a treasure to send and receive letters. Most of us login, type and send an e-mail because it’s convenient and quick. However, there is nothing more exciting than receiving post. One day, hand-written letters will be societal rarities and post office establishment will be museums.
Our children will ask what that red box on the side of the road is. To them, it will be a funny sort of fossil. With all my hatred towards a post office, the bleak people and atmosphere, the fact that it will all go away is a sad, sad reality. Then again, at least the elevator music has gone.