Fundamentally Freund: Post office follies

Few things are as infuriating as a figure with clout abusing his power to trample on others with little or no regard for their plight.

michael freund 58 (photo credit: Courtesy)
michael freund 58
(photo credit: Courtesy)
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 jokes.
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 condition.
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 the innocent.
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 inevitably resulted.
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 recesses.
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 plight.
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 go.
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 course.
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 servile.
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 turn.
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 look.”
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?
You 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 stress disorder.
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.