As a rambunctious child growing up in the suburbs of New York, I quickly
discovered that life was rich with opportunities for pranks, tricks and
The serenity of suburbia may have been good for the soul, but it
was even better for finding humor in the complexity of the human
I remember a friend who used to distribute flyers in parking
lots for a computer store in parking lots. After a few minutes of this thankless
chore, he quickly grew bored. And so, with a devilish smirk, he proceeded to
remove parking tickets from offending cars and place them on the windshields of
With barely concealed delight, he described the chaos that
would ensue, as the tickets would either get paid by the wrong person or not
paid at all. To an 11-year-old living in Jimmy Carter’s America, this seemed
like a profound act of civil disobedience.
And then there was the time in
high school, when our biology teacher made the perilous mistake of getting on
the nerves of a roomful of teenagers. She loved forcing us to dissect deceased
creatures, ignoring our pleas and the occasional bouts of vomiting that
But when she placed a pile of sheep hearts on our
desks, and several students toyed with the idea of embracing vegetarianism, we
knew that drastic measures were called for.
So when she left the room to
consult with a colleague, one classmate quickly carved off the fat from the
sheep’s heart and marched to the front. With a sweeping gesture, he
raised the insufferable teacher’s enormous handbag in front of us all, opened it
with fanfare and stuffed the gobs of fat deep into its innermost
Barely a minute passed before a virtual line had formed at the
teacher’s desk. Never before had my classmates ever demonstrated such enthusiasm
about their dissection responsibilities. The poor educator returned to the room,
unaware of the surprise gift bestowed on her by the class, which she only
discovered on the way home.
Needless to say, that was the last time we
had to dissect anything other than an idea in a textbook.
(At the urging
of legal counsel, I should just note that I can neither confirm nor deny my
participation in any of the above activities.)
TO A certain extent, I guess we
all want to “stick it to the man,” bristle at mindless authority and look for
ways to fight back. Few things are as infuriating as a figure with clout abusing
his power to trample on others with little or no regard for their
And while we’d all like to think we are building a society where
such things just won’t happen, it seems pretty clear we have a long way to
This became apparent to me when I received a slip earlier this week
notifying me that registered mail awaited me at the post office. As soon as I
saw it, my heart sank. I long ago learned that among the cruelest things you can
do to a person in this country is to send them a letter via registered mail. For
visiting the post office, at least in Ra’anana, is about as enjoyable as going
to the dentist with a mouthful of cavities – without the Novocain, of
The post office, after all, is a microcosm of everything that is
wrong with this country: It is small, crowded, rude and inefficient, and you
often feel like the civil servants behind the windows are neither civil nor
But I mustered up my courage, brought along some reading
material and went to stand in the slow-moving line that frequently snakes its
way out onto the sidewalk. Finally, after enough time had passed for me to
complete War and Peace, I was barked at and knew immediately that it was my
With an odd sense of anticipation, I placed the slip on the counter
and waited to discover who the villain was who had dared send me something in
the mail. I was already plotting my revenge: whoever it was, I would make sure
to send him not one, but two gifts! That will show him, I thought. Next time, he
won’t be so callous as to mail me a package.
But I was quickly shaken out
of my stupor. With a dismissive glare, the clerk mumbled at me, telling me to
return in 24 hours. Don’t you see, she said, that there is a box on the slip
saying you must wait a day before setting out to collect your mail?
I looked at
the slip, saw the box and quickly pointed out to her that it had not been
checked, which meant I was fully within my rights to have shown up in
expectation of receiving my envelope.
And then she gave me “the
We have all seen it before and felt it boring through our skin.
With nary a word, it says: You silly fool, don’t you realize that everything is
your fault, even when it isn’t?
And then the punch-line: “You should have known
the package would not be here.”
Ah hah!! Nevertheless, I put on my best
puppy eyes, and sought to appeal to her humanity, pointing out that I had aged a
great deal waiting in line, so could she please, please, please be so kind as to
levitate her behind from the seat and go check in the back, just in case?
can imagine how effective that line of appeal proved to be.
So here I am,
sitting at home several days later, with the slip still in my pocket and the
registered envelope still on a shelf somewhere in the bowels of the post office.
And I’m still suffering from what I call PPTSD – post post office traumatic
I know I will recover from this experience and move on
with my life, with or without that silly little package. But what a shame, what
a terrible shame, that here in the Jewish state we have produced a bureaucracy
that can be so hardheaded.
Think how much better things would be if we
cut government down to size, reduced the power of the unions and removed the red
tape that is choking us all.
Until that day comes, I guess we have no
choice but to grin and bear it. And perhaps switch around a few parking tickets
now and then.