After work today, I stopped by the post office to mail a package (look for a package, Wifey). It took kind of a long time. Although there were only five people in front of me in line, I was there almost exactly half an hour, but you already knew that, because you were there with me.
I figure I have two choices when I have to wait for something: I can get agitated and impatient, or I can settle into the wait. Sometimes, I pretend I’m exaggeratedly agitated for the amusement of those around me. The mood in the PO was a little tense, so I opted for passive waiting.
Well, maybe passive isn’t the right word, though it looks like it from the outside. (You might’ve noticed a slight pause in my writing right there. I took a nap, went for a bike ride and saw the cutest pitbull puppy ever (with a good owner). I’ll leave it to you to Google cute pitbull puppies.) I intentionally adopt something close to a “At ease” stance: back straight but not rigid, shoulders back and clasped behind my back, knees slightly bent. This is a pretty comfortable position to be in for a while, though today, I had my backpack on and a large envelope in my hand, so I kept my hands in front of me. For some reason, I cannot hold that position for as long before my knees get grunchy.
Inside, I am rather active, looking around noticing things. Some things I noticed today:
This floor has a lot of patched gouges in it for being a marble floor.
The woman in front of me is wearing a red sleeveless blouse, and has two red leather bracelets on her left arm, the one that is visible. There are also four or five sparkly bracelets closer to her hand.
She has reddish hair that is pulled back into an informal bun.
The woman in front of her is wearing a pale orange shirt with white lines running horizontally.
She is wearing pale blue jeans and sneakers. She has straight brown hair that reaches just past her shoulders and curls gently.
The woman over there has been sitting on her walker working at finishing her package for a while. She has short nearly black curled hair. Her walker is red and relatively new looking.
They are out of Selective Service forms.
Every couple of minutes a different person cuts through the line to drop envelopes of various sizes into a plastic USPS tote box.
There are four such boxes, each nearly full.
There is a kiosk to my left offering “Gifts for Everyone”. Grey writing on a navy background. Script-like font. “Everyone loves a Gift Card.” Bass Pro, Old Navy, Amazon, about 20 in total.
The rug is brown, gray, red and worn.
The granite is gray and reddish and curved – this is a round building.
There are four posts with those retractable belts on each side of the line.
I wonder what people are doing at that ATM-like machine.
A Selective Service poster alerts males 18 to 25 of their obligations.
The postal worker at the far end of the counter is wearing blue latex gloves.
She has been working on stuffing single pieces of paper into and sealing Priority Mail envelopes for a while now.
A young woman of Asian descent wearing a mint green sheath dress enters and addresses the postal worker, then leaves.
She reenters with a male, slightly older, also of Asian descent. They hand something to the postal worker and leave.
The postal worker at the closer end of the counter has not changed her facial expression – her customer has been at the counter for several minutes, filling out forms, apparently.
Behind the tote boxes there is a large cart full of packages, haphazardly placed.
The rug in front of the counter says the the US Postal Service appreciates our business.
The line behind me is now longer than the line in front of me.
Behind the counter is a series of cabinets. One is missing a handle. Each is lockable with a key in it. There are two large openings in the cabinets where large carts filled with packages wait. Tension is mounting. People are shifting their weight more frequently.
The worker at the far end of the counter speaks to the one at the closer end. She says something about what she is going to do, (take a break, maybe?) then leaves the counter area.
She re-enters with a package. She repeats this several times.
The woman behind me comments “You’d think they would make reducing the line a priority.” I nod assent. She continues “Maybe there’s something that she has to do by a certain time.” I remark that it is getting close to five o’clock, maybe that’s it. She nods.
She is shorter than I am, wearing a orange and green large paisley print on white dress. Her skin is dark and furrowed on the sides of her mouth. She is wearing large sunglasses. Her hair is dyed dark orange.
An unseen person behind the wall behind the cabinets takes a package out of one of the carts.
The woman in the orange top moves to the counter. She has three packages. The clerk weights and labels each, casually tossing it over her cubicle wall into the large push cart holding a disheveled pile of packages. The cart is nearly full. She tosses without looking. She’s done this a thousand times.
The woman in front of me holds a large flat envelope addressed to someone in Germany.
On the door to my far right: THIS DOOR IS NOT AN “EXIT”
It is gray, has a locking lever-type handle and a peephole.
The line behind me reaches out the main door. Eight people. Six women, two men.
The postal worker remaining at the counter still has not changed her facial expression. Four customers, more than twenty minutes.
The woman in front of me approaches with her envelope, and places it on the scale.
“This requires a customs form to be completed. It is too late now.”
“But it’s just papers.”
“This requires a customs form to be completed. It is too late to fill them out now.”
She places the form on top of the envelope on top of the scale on top of the counter on the granite floor.
The tension can be cut with a knife. The woman in the red top is about to explode.
Clearly the postal clerk has said this a thousand times. No eye contact. No acknowledgement of the woman’s frustration. Nothing. The woman steps to her right, to the next empty counter space and begins to read the form.
“Next customer, please.”
I step to the counter determined to make the clerk smile, but so unsure if I can, or if I should even try. It’d be easy not to.
She begins her litany:
“Any liquids, explosives or hazardous materials?”
“No, just a card for my wife.”
“How do you want to send it?”
“The least expensive way”. Does it really make a difference? Certainly not more than a day.
“Press No, and sign on the pad.”
I press the red No button, and as I move my hand to sign, my thumb brushes the pad. Numbers I can’t see (I don’t have my reading glasses on) start to scroll up the screen. I guess a thumb brush counts as a signature.
“That’ll be two forty-five.”
As I pull out my wallet, she places the postage label on the package, and tosses it over the wall.
I hear it graze off the top of the pile and plop to the floor.
“You’re pretty good at that. Do you ever miss?”
“I just did. I’ll get it.”
“You have a good afternoon.”
“You too,” she says as our eyes connect.
Some highlights from my classroom today:
“Doc Och, can I read a poem to the class?” Um, YES! Kyndall leaves tomorrow for the National Poetry Slam in D.C. She said I could share the poem she wrote, which I’ve done below.
Overheard: “I grayscaled my phone.”
During a discussion of the day we take over the GWC Snapchat: “We could all dress really nice. We could all be like ten out of tens. We could be eleven out of tens.” Don’t you know? You already are.
After Warsan Shire
When they come
In white masks or not
Holding ropes inherited from their fathers
Meant to bind or
Don’t dissolve if they hurt you
Burn their world terrified
When they come
Set yourself on fire
Blessed girl, angel,
With holy oil
Anoint your body where they sliced you
Look them in the eyes
Strike the match against your forearm
Explode into light
Into the sun
I never had to teach you how to be
This is not destruction
Black women know fire well
We’ve scraped hot combs into the napes of our necks
Sizzled our scalps in perms
Baptized our bodies in bath water that was bleach
I imagine the girls in the Birmingham church
Flames licking their Sunday dresses black
Singing swing low
Comin for to carry me home
As they melted into each other
This is the reclamation of fire
I choose to burn
For those girls and girls who look like me
They say fire is dangerous
But remember the water
Our cousins flags waved on Louisiana roofs
or the lead in the pipes
Or the bleach in the swimming pools
or the bodies in the Atlantic
Be safe around the water
You have every right to get angry
The scattered, quiet booms of shoe soles on concrete
The breathless running
From the boys breathless laughing
In their daddy’s car
“Run pretty black girl
How it feels to wake up one morning a ghost
You see your own face
on the news
And you have to remind yourself
That you are living
And that that
Is a good thing
So you roll out of bed and
And smile at your killers
I know how they want you to be
Pretty enough to be trophy
Ready to pull down when necessary
A vessel for salt and fabricated moans
a tool to elevate an ego
But never our own voices
Just a mouth meant to kiss the feet of
Who will call this poem blasphemy
I know the circus act well
Somersault through the high hoops
Contort yourself into bite size
And dance around
Brushing our necks
In the shadows hide
The clowns in blue
Ready with whip
If you step out of line
Eyes burning like Harriet
Fire rests in the beds of our nails
Glimmers under our skin
They know we glow
Teach them to fear why
And for everyone who will try to put you out
Fire can’t kill a black girl
born into a burning world