The post office and the DMV are always the butt of conservative jokes about the malfunction of government, to which liberals protest, with some justification, that they've reformed.
Well, sort of.
I went to the post office today to mail our wedding invitations. They are, I grant, a sort of odd shape--large and square. (This is what happens when you outsource your wedding invitations to India, apparently). So they take an odd amount of postage.
Which is why they wouldn't let me mail them.
No, I kid you not. The post office lady is, it turns out, only allowed to put ten envelopes through the machine at once--and while our wedding is intimate, it's not that small.
Fine, give me the stamps, I said.
No, she said, I don't have the right stamps. You should go to a "philatelic window", an entity that does not apparently exist in the local post office. My request for stamps in smaller denominations was turned down on the grounds that I would have to put too many stamps on the envelopes. I was willing to inflict the indignity of multiple stamps on my wedding guests, in the name of, um, getting them their invitations on time. Her tone, however, suggested that while I might be some sort of multi-stamping barbarian, the honor of the United States Post Office was at stake.
Well, that's all very nice, but the invitations are a little late getting out as it is. I asked for the smaller stamps, at which point I was informed that she simply did not have sufficient stamps in the correct denominations.
So let's recap here: there are no stamps. At the post office. And they will not run the invitations through the machine, either.
Now, I have no idea whether this is regulation run amok, combined with Soviet-level distributional inefficiency; or whether she simply didn't feel like dealing with my wedding invitations, and started making up rules to force me to take my damn business elsewhere.
I'm not going to say that this would never happen in a private organization, either. And I know that many of my readers are even now itching to jump in and call me a privileged, whining, entitled yuppie, who has some damn nerve thinking she ought to be able to just waltz into a local post office with a bunch of non-regulation envelopes, and pay the people there to transport her mail throughout our fair land. Where the hell did I get the notion that the post office was supposed to mail the things I bring there, no matter what size they are?
(Well, actually, here
, which makes no mention of the fact that the local post office may not actually be able to mail your letters. But I digress.)
All I want to say is, any private company that behaved this way should go out of business. And right now, that's how I feel about the United States Post Office. At least if they didn't exist, I'd have known I needed to make other arrangements.
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is a columnist at Bloomberg View
and a former senior editor at The Atlantic.
Her new book is The Up Side of Down