Wednesday, November 30, 2022

Reflections: The Post Office and Christmas Stamps

reflectionsheadernosponsorcroppedEnjoy our “Reflections” post — one of many vignettes and stories featuring memories of days gone by. This installment is from David H. McBride, a Laurel, Mississippi native, who currently resides in Senatobia, Mississippi, and writes frequently for “The Oxford So and So.” 

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Last year, I set off for the Post Office to mail my Christmas cards, feeling very proud of myself as it was the first week of December, the 6th or 7th, as I remember.

I had done all 56 of my Christmas cards, and was only needing stamps to complete this annual labor of love. My wife had cautioned me to make sure I purchased enough Christmas stamps (the pretty kind) so I would have a few left for last minute cards, and any notes or whatever else we would need to mail.

After waiting in line for about 35 minutes, I got to the female postal employee behind the counter.

“Yes, sir?” she said, somewhat wearily.

I smiled and cheerfully ordered 70 Christmas stamps.

“The pretty ones for my Christmas cards,” I added, as I fumbled in my pocket for the money.

I looked up and she was looking at me as if I had taken leave of my senses.

“CHRISTMAS STAMPS,” she repeated. “Sir, they been gone for three weeks.”

“GONE,” I repeated. “Gone Where?”

“Sold out,” she said. “Christmas stamps been sold out for three weeks.”

“But when will you get some more?” I asked.

“Next year,” she replied.

“Can you not just order some more?” I asked.

“Nope, we order once a year and that is that. When they gone, they gone!”

“But it is early December,” I wailed. “Can you just not ask the big Post Office for some more? I know I am not the only person in this part of the world who would buy Christmas stamps.”

“Nope, we make one order. A stamp is a stamp to us, and we order the same amount each year, and that is that, till next year.”

With deep resentment, I accepted ordinary ole stamps, and sullenly stuck them on my Christmas cards, dreading to go home and explain to my sweet little wife that I had waited too long for the pretty stamps and had to use just plain ole stamps on my Christmas cards.

This year, still smarting from the Christmas stamp debacle of last year, I set out to do my Christmas cards VERY early this year. Staying up late the night after Thanksgiving, I finished all my Christmas cards, and had them ready to mail the next morning. Getting to the Post Office just as they unlocked the door, I gleefully ordered 70 Christmas stamps,(the pretty ones ).

The person behind the counter (not the same one as last year) with a bored look said “Sorry, no Christmas stamps. We sold out before Thanksgiving.”

I was struck dumb. How could this be? Thanksgiving and NO Christmas stamps, what was wrong with my world that I cannot buy Christmas stamps in November? I knew when I was whipped. I took the plain old stamps and crept off with my tail between my legs. I will just give up on the idea of Christmas stamps and use the plain ole stamps, or maybe next year I will start asking about Christmas stamps around the 4th of July; maybe they arrive Labor Day weekend?

Most mornings, I go in to pick up my mail about 9 to 9:30. This is a very busy time at our little Post Office. Senatobia has about 6,500 folks, and it seems like a lot of business people, and just ordinary citizens like me go to the Post Office about this time.

The window inside will have a female clerk on duty (one), nice enough, but she is swamped, and you have to stand in line in the cramped little office, shifting from one foot to the other, while she sells three money orders for $28.90 each, and looks up the zip code for Mississippi… Cassie’s daughter in Tennessee, so she can mail her a birthday card. The next person has four odd shaped packages to send to Chalupa, Mexico, and needs all sort of help, wrapping, looking up how much? Insurance? Anything that is a hazard? Fragile? Breakable? Liquid? etc., etc., etc.

Next person has left his P.O. Box key at home and needs her to go around the counter and to the box area to see if he has any mail. You can bank on a 30-minute wait most mornings. However, if I chance to be busy or running late, and come to the Post Office at a slack time, say, 2:45 p.m., lo and behold, there are two clerks on duty, sometimes three.

What in the world would prompt the Postmaster to add clerks, WHEN THEY HAVE NO CUSTOMERS WAITING?? Where are these people early in the morning? When everyone in Tate County is in a big rush to do postal business? And mail out or pick up mail or packages, buy stamps, etc.?

Maybe there is something I do not know, or some memo I missed? Or is it just a sign of the times, and a clue as to why the Postal Service loses about nine billion dollars every year? our “Guvment” seems not to care what we citizens want or need, they just muddle along squandering our money!

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