So… My dad sent me a new computer, only it never came. Fortunately, it was insured. Unfortunately, it was insured by our U.S. Postal Service. I call up my local post office today, “Where do I take this, uh… claim forms thing?” Huh? Oh, you need to take that to the main post office over in the something something shopping center. “And… where is that?” Oh, that’s on Irving Blvd. Irving Blvd. goes all the way to Dallas. That’s okay, I’ll go from Loop 12 and see if I can find number 2701.

Nothing doing. I find a shopping center with promising numbers, but no shopfronts look governmental. I drive around, hopping speedbumps, dodging pedestrians, cross the street to the Krogers. I need to get some chips, and they probably know inside where this so-called main post office is.

But Coke is two twelve-packs for a fiver, and I really ought to get some cheese, the milk’s gone sour though it’s cheaper at Wal-mart, and we’re out of eggs, I mixed the last frozen orange juice this morning, Minute Maid’s on sale, and next thing I know, my buggy is too full to go through the express aisle. And the other lanes are full of full buggies. I pick one of the half of half a dozen of one, six of the other behind a particuliarly full woman and her buggy and settle myself in for a wait, wondering if the next lane would be faster and why this is happening to me when I lead a charmed life and all I really wanted to do is find out how to get to the post office. Dang these chips.

“I forgot to get something,” the particularly full woman ahead of me turns around and says, “you’ll have to let me out, if you would.” Heh. And I move up a space. Right then, a cashier appears at the vacant adjacent lane, beckoning me to join her. I smugly shove aside the Camels “This Lane Closed” sign sitting in my buggy’s path and ask the girl behind the register where the post office is. Oh, it’s over there where I already had been. Right. Thanks.

A little guy with a little mustache packs up my frozen juice selections in paper bags and even loads them into my car trunk. I head off across the street again, looking carefully for anything that resembles a post office.

Ah ha! There it is around the corner of the shopping center, POW flag flying beneath the stars and stripes and everything. I walk in and get in line. Fortunately, the clerks look like they’re working efficiently and the line’s moving. I hope that the not- so-younger woman behind the counter who looks like she knows what she’s doing will wait on me. Sure enough, she’s the one who gestures me forward as her current customer completes his business.

“I was told to bring this here,” I start, showing her the claim form for the missing computer. Oh, you need to take that through that door there. Right. Thanks.

“…but where is my mail? Where can I find it?” I open the door to find a distraught sounding woman arguing with a heavy-set woman behind the counter. “Ma’am, we don’t have your mail. Is this your current address?” Yada yada yada. Looks like this may take a while. I take a seat, wondering why it is that customer service personel are always so surly. I’d probably make a good one.

Heavy-set reaches across her desk toward me in an effort to give Distraught a clue that she’s through talking to her. I hand her my claim form and papers. “You need to take this to the clerks out front,” she hands it back to me.

“But where is my mail? Does all returned mail go back to Dallas?” Distraught isn’t about to give up.

“Uh, they just told me to come in here,” I say.

“What? Who told you that?” Heavy-set demands. Heck if I know. “What did the clerk look like?”

“Uh… older… brown hair maybe?”

“Male or female?”

“Oh, female…”

Heavy-set sighs heavily and gets up to charge toward the door, past Distraught and the blue collar worker who has come in behind me, “Which one?” she demands, opening the door. That first one there. “Hey! HEY! You clerks are supposed to deal with claim forms!” she yells. “Go talk to Barbara Lyons. She deals with that.” Uh, and that one is…?

The first clerk I dealt with gestures me past herself, and I figure Barbara Lyons must be one of the last two clerks in the row. But they’re both busy, so I wait by them, far beyond the WAIT HERE sign where everyone else is standing orderly in line. The second clerk finishes first and draws me forward. “Are you Barbara Lyons?” I inquire.

“I don’t have to be,” she answers, looking at my claim forms and accompanying papers. “We have a guy in the back who deals with amounts over 50 dollars, but you don’t have the original insurance receipt here or a bill of sale…” Well, my dad bought it from a friend, so he wouldn’t have one… “Besides, he’s the one who gets the money, why are you bringing this in when you didn’t receive the package?” Because it says here that I have to fill it out to say I didn’t receive it… etc… Argh.

“Okay,” she says, “We’ll send this back to your dad. Do you want to write him a note?” She hands me a pad and pen. “Do you want to send anything else to your dad?” I smile. No, that’s all. She seals the postage paid envelope and sticks it in a bin. “That’s all!”

So I pull back out on Irving Blvd. and head the direction I was going, since that’s the quickest way to 183, only I miss my turn and get on the west bound ramp. Heck, I needed to go to Wal-mart anyway. I park in the shade because of my frozen juice in the trunk, grab some batteries for the smoke detectors that all went out in our apartment all at the same time, gallon of milk, find a cashier who’s just itching to check people out, and I’m on my way home, just in time to head over to school to pick up my registration packet for next semester. Only they don’t have mine in the box there in the graduate office, and the coordinator assistant is missing. The dean can’t find my packet either but gives me Paul’s, and I bring it home for him. I check the mail on the way in. Nothing for me.

I open a bag of chips, pop a Coke, and sit down to read the assigned chapter in my presidency book about bureaucracy.

I’ve got a quiz on it tomorrow.

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