Tuesday, January 21


The other day I had to send a package to my younger son who had recently moved a few states away. When I got to the post office the line to the counter was quite long so I thought I might try the Self Service kiosk which sat conveniently near the end of the line.

I am not normally a big fan of Self Service but I thought "It's only postage. What could go wrong?"

I was instructed to Touch Screen To Begin which I did, although the smudges and unidentifiable residue on the screen made me wish that the postal authorities had seen fit to provide a Purell dispenser nearby.

I gingerly proceeded through a series of screens which asked me several questions about the size of my package, whether it contained any explosives or perishable items (I briefly thought of weaponized avocados), and would there be any special handling.

After a few seconds a screen popped up with three buttons to choose from:

  • Priority Mail Express - $38.10
  • Priority Mail 2 Day      $16.25
  • Other Options      

Not wanting to spend more than $10 I selected Other Options which brought up another series of questions:
  • Is the recipient someone you know personally [YES] [NO]
Thinking this must have something to do with National Security, I touched [YES]
  • Is the recipient a relative? [YES] [NO]
Well, that seemed a bit intrusive, but still, National Security and all...[YES]
  • Is it your Son?
These machines are certainly intuitive...[YES]
  • So you are unwilling to spend a measly $16.25 to see to it that your son receives his package in 2 days?
That seems unfair.  It's not like I sending anything critical...[NOT SURE]
  • Just how long do you expect him to wait?
Um, well, I don't know...[SIX DAYS]
At this point there was an unsettling pause.
  • What kind of father are you?
I thought I was doing okay, but now...[NOT SURE]
  • Why don't you just press [BACK] and go to previous screen and think about what you are about to do.

At this point it occurred to me that perhaps the line to the counter was not so long after all so I took my place behind a woman pushing a double-stroller the size of a small SUV.

Forty-five minutes later I was summoned by the small woman at window 7. I handed her the package. "I just want to send this as cheaply as possible."

She looked at the package, then looked at me and inquired, "Is the recipient someone you know personally?"


pbenjaytoo said...

Loved it, hysterical!

Warren Deacon said...

I think the first clearly unconstitutional intrusion was clearly when the machine asked for the size of your package.

Douglas McEwan said...

Column made me laugh, though I have never been asked if the person I was shippng a package to was a relative. As for asking about the size of my package, that always elicits the answer: "Look for yourself."

I'm lucky though. A post office shipping point (In other words, you can mail anything there, but no mail comes in there) opened a couple months ago right across the street, as opposed to my regular post office, which is a mile away and always has long lines. Since almost no one knows there is this little bitty post office in a tiny storefront next to the Korean grocery (And inside its fenced parking lot, facing the lot, not the street, so you can't see it exists from the street), there is never any line at all, and shipping things becomes easy without resorting to nosy machines.