Friday, December 17, 2010

Waiting for Service

            Stifling, closely packed bodies wait with hushed voices.  Eyes penetrate the other’s space, searching for something interesting to distract our vacant minds.  I peer out over my towering arm-load of packages, counting again the number of line-dwellers in front of me.  I try to notice each cultural nuance in my new surroundings, most notably each of the line-dwellers are holding perhaps a few letters or at most one small package.  Noting the difference in my armload of packages and their handful of letters my stomach begins to churn with a sense of foreboding, subtly questioning the wisdom of my decision to ship lovely handmade clay jewelry half-way around the world.
            Having arrived at 10 am I am confident that I will be done by lunch-time.  By twelve-thirty, I have moved a few steps closer to the counter so I am hopeful that my three fellow line-dwellers will hasten their transactions so I can make my lunch appointment.  However, one step closer and thirty minutes later we are all informed in a clipped tone by one of the two postal employees, that they are closing for lunch.  Recognizing the dismay on our collective faces, the diminutive clerk assures us all to keep our places in line, as it will be only two minutes before they return.
            What to do?  Take a number?  I look and find none.  My seemingly brilliant plan of making a pact with my fellow line-dwellers to maintain ordinal status quickly meets with reality when an older, be-speckeled man leaves the line to sit down and his remaining gap in line is immediately closed.  Alas, the choice is difficult; remain in line and fight to keep the line-dwellers behind me at bay with my elbows spread wide like a bird in flight, or return another day to repeat the saga.  The pressing holiday timeframe is indisputable, so I chose to remain in line, steadfastly splaying my arms like an eagle in flight.
            Two minutes plus sixty-eight more minutes later finds us line-dwellers drenched in sweat, hungry and, at least for me, returning in my mind to the unwittingly bad decision when I refused my driver’s offer to mail my packages.  Lost in these thoughts of regret, I almost miss my chance to step up to the counter, had my favorite fellow line-dweller not pushed me hard.
            Fumbling up to the chest-high counter, not having spoken for hours, my dry, parched lips open to utter the words “international post”.  The diminutive, rested postal employee eyes me for a full thirty seconds before requesting my first package.  With a satisfied sigh, I hand over my largest parcel destined for my homeland.  Twisting it over and over in her hands while alternatively eyeing me, she settles on the address, slowly hen-pecks the numbers and letters into the vintage 8088 computer, then holds the package to the side and casually drops it to the floor where it meets with sickening crunch.  My protests are met with more aggressive tossing into crunchville, and more animated stares and pressing bodies against my back by my fellow line-dwellers.
            Disheartened with the futility of the adventure, I stumble out with my culturally-integrative mindset grasping for the learning moment; finding only astonishment with my new home, the country called India.

Author note - this is a paper I wrote for my graduate writing class. 

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