Post

I am in a long queue at the post office. People are patient in queues here. There is no coin-jingling, no sighing, no staring at the ceiling. There might be some neck-craning, or fixation on the end point of the queue, but in a queue, one must stay alert!

Every person in front of me has a complex mail situation. Most involve parcels. I wish I had x-ray vision so I could see what these people are posting. Most of their parcels are wrapped in brown paper, with brown tape at the edges to seal it. I picture that in the fourth drawer down in every kitchen, there is brown paper, twine, and packing tape, as well as a pair of sharp, shiny silver scissors (perhaps bought from the scissors and dental instruments stall at the flea market). This is for wrapping packages, and now here everyone is, at the yellow post office, waiting to despatch them.

A few people in front of me is a man with the largest package I have ever seen – it is over 6 feet long, and about 40cm wide and deep. He drags it up to the counter and places it on the special, large scale in the centre of the counter. A number of postal workers come over to inspect it. It is like someone has come into the office with a new baby. There is some confusion about whether it is too big to post and I watch the man remove a long, cardboard tube from the box and crack it loudly in half with his foot. Everyone looks, but this seems to solve the problem. The crowd of post-ladies disperses.

The man with the large package is wearing a mismatching brown suit and has ratty brown hair. I can only imagine what is in his brown box, which he is now carefully sealing with brown packing tape, is brown also. I imagine it is some kind of foldable cardboard scene, a family perhaps, or a village, that the recipient will remove from the box and assemble. The recipient is wearing every colour that is not brown, and will procede to paint the cardboard family, or village in every colour other than brown.

“Hallo!” says the man behind me. It is my turn to approach one of the registers. He says “Hallo” in the same way the three men said “Hallo” when I dropped my glove in Neukölln two Sundays ago. Urgent, but polite. “Ah!” I say, and take out my postcards. I had been hiding them in my hand, embarrassed that I did not have a brown paper wrapped package to send. Worried, in fact, that I was in some kind of special package queue.

The man’s package is being dragged out the back as the post-lady puts the stamps carefully in the corners of my cards. I remember being in the main post office in Prague last year, watching the woman working at the counter slam large stamps right over what I had written on the cards. She then brought an inky, black stamp down over them to further obscure my message with the postmark. I had watched, helplessly, from the other side of the glass. But there is no glass divider here, and the stamps are small and have flowers on them and she adheres in the corner of the postcards neatly.

I feel better after they are posted, like some small, weighty parts of me have been removed. I think about how, on one of the squares of grass on the opposite side of Strausberger Platz to where I am staying, someone must have planted bulbs months ago. Now purple flowers bloom there, for everyone who walks past. These are the flowers on the postage stamps.

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2 Responses to “Post”

  1. bree Says:

    i always feel relief after posting things. Like i owe lots of people something of me, in a good way, and i feel better after giving it away.

    and oh, i love you. This is such a wonderful post. send me a postcard, darling. xo bree

  2. beth Says:

    I have found the same thing in Canada with how patient people are in queues compared to back home. Vancouverites will happily wait for a table at a restaurant for half an hour in the middle of the week. It’s nice. I’m trying to adopt that same attitude… Great blog!

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