The post office on a good day can be crazy. The employees are harried and grumpy a lot I’ve noticed. Lines are long and customers are sour. But the realities of Covid-19 changed the line lengths in the post office lobby. Which should actually be quite nice, right? So you’d think…
I’ve been selling off our old homeschool curriculum and shipping it on my way home from work. I haven’t bothered to use the online shipping label features or in store kiosks just because.
After multiple trips to the same post office over a few weeks, some of the employees were familiar with me.
With the shelter in place requirements, there were never many people in the lobby getting assisted by clerks to ship their packages. I’d been used to walking in and being able to go straight up to the counter because there was no line.
Not so on this day after the strictest shelter in place orders were lifted. At this particular office there is a main area you walk into initially with all the PO boxes and kiosks. But the lobby area where the counter and clerks that will assist you are, is separated by a wall of glass and a door.
I walked into the main area and up to the door. I noticed there was a new sign on it, and read it like the good rule follower I am.
It said, “Only 3 people allowed in lobby-line”. I bent down to look between the collage of signs and papers that were taped all over the window and door to get a count of how many were inside. I saw one person currently being assisted at the counter, and two people standing in line 6 feet apart. I stood up straight again and re-read the sign to double check I had the rule down and interpreted correctly. I thought, “Lobby line is the line of people waiting. There’s one person being waited on and is not in the line any longer. So I guess I’m okay to go inside.”
I opened the door and stepped through, confidently placing myself in line 10 feet away from the last person for good measure.
There were two employees on duty at the counter. The one closest to me was one I have regularly seen there and interacted with. The second one spoke up and irritatedly said, “You’re going to have to wait outside, there’s only 3 people allowed in the lobby at a time!”
I blanched as I inwardly cringed with embarrassment at being called out and chastised as everyone turned to stare at me. Here I thought I did my best to follow the rules and interpret the sign.
My anger and mortification arose, and I replied while I turned to leave, half muttering, half speaking, “Well your sign said lobby LINE.”
She loudly called from across the lobby, “I’m sorry, what?” I turned back and said louder, “The sign said lobby LINE, not LOBBY. That’s why I came inside.”
She responded something like, “Well it’s the lobby”, as I turned to walk out.
I heard her say something after the door shut and a few of them chuckled. They were probably saying something at my expense, but whatever. I was THAT customer, so they had every right to make snide comments about me. If in fact they were.
My cheeks were burning as I fumed standing outside the door waiting for someone to leave the lobby. I had thought the sign was poorly worded in the first place, and after finding out the hard way what it actually meant, was irritated that I got my head bit off even after trying to follow the rules and felt like an unintelligent human. I was tired of not speaking up for myself in situations like this.
Shortly, the customer who was being assisted opened the door and said with a rueful smile, “It’s safe to go in now”, as she walked out.
When it was my turn to be assisted, I got the guy I’ve seen regularly in there. He was very subdued, treating me with kid gloves, like I would blow any minute.
I decided to speak up and told him, “You guys really should change that sign, it’s misleading.”
He replied, “Well I didn’t write it.”
“I know, but you should still have it changed”, I said.
He made a non-committal response, I paid and left.
I know I could’ve handled the whole thing differently so I wouldn’t have walked away angry, but I didn’t. I learned for next time hopefully. I was proud of myself for speaking up at least.
Every time I went back, I read the sign and made sure I stood outside until the third person in the LOBBY left.
One of the times I went, I saw that same guy and he told me, after I had left that day, several people over the course of the week would come in when there were already three people inside. The people all said the same thing as me, the sign said “Lobby-line”!
He said, “I was like what the *bleep* is wrong with these people? I’m going to go look at that sign…” So he did and thought, “Yup, I see where they’d get that from.”
I felt so vindicated I was not the only person who interpreted the sign that way. I really appreciated him informing me I wasn’t just ignorant.
The last time I went, the same two people were on duty. I noticed the sign was new on the door and read, “Only 3 customers allowed in the lobby at a time”. I smiled to myself.
As I stood in the approved-amount-of-people line, the man caught my eye and mouthed the words while pointing to the door, “Did you see the sign??” I gave him a huge grin and two thumbs up while I mouthed, “Thank you!” back.
Don’t be afraid to speak up, just be nice. We never know how it will turn out down the road.