>I went to the post office this afternoon to buy a money order. There is a post office near my office that I like a lot. It’s relatively small, has a number of windows open at any given time, and compared to other post offices in NYC, it never has a very long line. As I waited and watched four tellers deal with customers with varyingly complex requests (why am I always the only person who can be taken care of in a mere few minutes?), I was reminded of my post office visit in Ocean City, NJ.

While in New Jersey, I went to an Osh Kosh store and bought my month old godson two adorable pairs of shorts and three cute t-shirts. I wanted my friend to get them right away so that she could take full advantage of the seasonal outfits, so I dropped by the post office in Ocean City to send them ASAP. It was like any small town post office, except that they seemed to see no need to refill the Priority Mail envelope or label racks, thus leaving me without free packaging materials. After looping around the post office a few times, I concluded that I had to buy a fancy envelope. Of course, if I bought an envelope covered with balloons, I would need to also buy a fancy label because it was not possible to write directly on the envelope. The only label left pictured Mickey Mouse in a Santa Hat. Great.

The cheapness in me cringed at spending an extra buck or two on an envelope and 49 cents on the label, but expeditiousness took priority over penny-pinching, and soon I was waiting in line to pay for everything. There were only about three people ahead of me, but needless to say, they each had the most complicated transaction in the history of the post office. As I waited and waited for some woman to send her package, I swore that she must have told them she was sending it to Osama bin Laden in a cave somewhere in Afghanistan, but that she didn’t have the zip code; could they look it up? (Sure, the friendly postal worker must have replied. But Afghanistan is a bit risky to ship things to these days. Do you want insurance? How about delivery confirmation and return receipt?) Otherwise I could not conceive of why it took so long. At least it was air conditioned while I waited.

All of this made me more appreciative of my little post office near South Street Seaport.