23 January 2012

Post Office Etiquette

While waiting in line at the post office, I started filling out a Signature Confirmation Receipt. In my peripheral vision, I saw a middle-aged woman (probably only 10 or 15 years older than me, gah!) come up beside me and then sort of step out of line as though she was considering cutting ahead of me. I turned my head in her direction and she stepped back in line behind me.

I'm not a jerk, I thought to myself, If I'm not done by the time the next cashier is ready for me, I'll let you go ahead of me.

There were still two people in front of me in any case. When the line moved up, I slid down the counter and finished the form. I stood next to the one guy ahead of me for a long time watching the two cashiers help two people. A third postal worker would periodically walk up to a third register, do some stuff, and then walk away.

After he'd done that two or three times and one of the other cashiers also walked away, I commented to the guy ahead of me, "Just when you think they're going to open a third register..."

"Yeah," he said. "They keep teasing us."

I looked at my letter and form for about the tenth time and read the back of the Signature Confirmation Receipt. I read it a couple of times to make sure that it only applied to packages. I had the wrong form.

The counter by the line had slots with all of the various postal forms in it, but I was too far up to reach them. I took a step along the counter side of the antsy woman behind me (there was room because she was back out like a runner trying to steal 2nd) and reached in front of an older man to grab a Certified Mail Receipt while saying, "Excuse me."

I stepped back to my place in line and hurriedly started filling out the new form.

The antsy woman chirped, "Are you still in line? Are you ready?"

"Yes. I will be by the time they are." I scribbled the address again.

FYI, antsy woman, the content on the forms I was filling out was more for my benefit than a requirement for my transaction. In any case, I was still done before the next cashier was ready.

However, antsy woman, if I hadn't finished, your behavior made it likely that I would've taken the form up to the cashier to finish it there. (Though I probably would have asked for the stamps I needed first so as not to waste the cashier's time.)

To sum up: Chill out when you're waiting in line. Assume the best of the people ahead of you. Don't cut or ponder cutting ahead of someone filling out a form (especially when there are still people ahead of her! It makes you look like a jerk.).

If, and only if, the person ahead of you is at the front of the line and is still filling out paperwork when the next cashier is ready may you calmly and POLITELY ask to go first. Keep your frenzy dialed down and ditch your entitlement altogether. If they didn't suggest that you go first on their own already (Assume the best of the people ahead of you), it's possible they will say no. In they do, suck it up. They were there first. With any luck, more than one cashier will be working so you won't have to wait much longer.

5 years ago on TTaT: Potentially crazy making


  1. AMEN!! I encounter these antsy folks all the time in my post office visits, too. I have to fight the urge to say, "You know, if you're late to perform some brain surgery, a stop at the post office probably wasn't the best idea."

  2. Ha! I considered writing a comment on antsy folk time management skills, but tried to take the high road knowing we've all probably had to mail something when in a rush.

    Bonus tip for the antsy: there's probably a vending machine from which you can buy stamps in the lobby!