6th Birthday

by Jonah

Today is my youngest nephew’s sixth birthday. A week before, I took a box to the dollar store and filled it up with toys I thought he might like. Then I stopped at the post office on my way home from work, proud of myself for planning so far ahead.  I wanted to use the self service kiosk, so I didn’t bother to address the box, since the machine would print out a giant label that would cover up the address anyway. I simply wrote “Happy Birthday!” on the side of the box.

It started pouring rain just as I got to the post office, so I dashed inside, cradling the box to try to keep it from getting wet.  I spent about 10 minutes with the machine, getting ever more frustrated as it wouldn’t accept any of my inputs when I was trying to type in dimensions or the address. Maybe the touch screen was misaligned.  I somehow managed to finally get to the class options, and the only two it gave me were the most expensive: Express Mail (overnight) and Priority (two day).  No parcel post, no first class parcel. I looked over to the counter, and there wasn’t a line.  But I was reusing a box with my own address on it, and I didn’t have anything to cover it up!  I had no option but to try again the next day, which I figured would make my package arrive late.  Furious, I stormed back out to my car.

The next day was sunny and clear.  I’d taped a piece of paper with the address over the old box label.  I arrived at the post office after work to find a long line waiting for the sole clerk. I had a lot of things to do that evening, and standing in line at the post office was not one of the things I wanted to do.

Finally, I was next in line.  The woman in front of me was complaining to clerk that the kiosk wasn’t working.  No kidding!  “Well, there’s nothing wrong with a little human interaction!” replied the clerk pleasantly.  For some reason, that response just made me even more angry.

At last it was my turn.  I threw my box on the scale and wielded my credit card before the machine, ready to pay the postage and get the heck out of there.

“Who’s birthday?” asked the clerk, reading my message on the side of the box.

“My nephew’s,” I mumbled.

Without even asking me, the clerk pulled a sheet of CELEBRATE stamps out of a drawer and started affixing them to box.  “You’re going to be the cool aunt,” he said, sticking six of them on the box and then carefully cancelling them all with a rubber stamp.  Of course, I already AM the cool aunt.  But this wouldn’t hurt.

“Now,” he continues, “Would you like it to get there in 7 to 8 days or Priority mail 2 days for 30 cents more?”

I paid the extra 30 cents.

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