Friday, October 14, 2011

Shenanigans of the USPS

I have just had the most ridiculous experience with the United States Postal Service.  I am inclined to rant and rave here about gross incompetence, rudeness and mountains of inefficiency, but instead, I'll just tell the story.  It speaks for itself:
We have been living in our new house now almost a week.. The previous owner left us a mail key but not the number for the mailbox.  I emailed the seller's realtor for the information, but unsurprisingly, he did not respond.  He has been a pinnacle of unresponsiveness throughout the entire house-buying process.  It's a miracle we ever completed the transaction, but I digress...
So as I approached a bank of mailboxes near the park intent on simply trying the key until I found the right box, I was dismayed to find there were literally hundreds of boxes.  Even if I wanted to stay there for hours looking for the right box, there was no way Mr. Impatient One and Mr. Impatient Two (a.k.a., Jack and Gage) would put up with that.  I was even more dismayed when I found there were two more banks with just as many boxes that could very well be ours.  So, on the advice of our realtor, I packed the kids into the car this morning, grabbed my HUD-1 form (proof that we bought the house) and headed over to our local post office to get the number for our mailbox.  When I got there, I parked, changed a poopy diaper in the parking lot and discovered upon approaching the counter, I'd accidentally brought the HUD-1 form from the sale of our old house instead of the purchase of our new one.  The postal worker behind the desk was unfazed, however.  She is apparently not that into security.  She was happy to give me the address for our mailbox bank and even the section number.  She could not, however, according to her, give me the exact number, because only the mail carriers have that information and they'd already left to deliver mail for the day.  It made absolutely no sense to me that the information wouldn't be stored somewhere at the post office, but I thanked her, strapped the kids  in the car and headed back to our neighborhood, figuring with the numbers narrowed down, maybe I could just try the key in each box in the section.
When I got to the mailbox bank, I was thrilled to see our mail carrier there.  I hustled the kids out of the car, stuffed Gage in the sling and grabbed Jack by the hand.  I hurried up to the lady sorting mail and said,"hi, we just moved in.  Could you tell me the number of our box?  She asked for the address, which I gave her.  She said,"oh, that's the bank over there," pointing about 50 yards away.  Seeing a carrier sorting mail at that bank as well, I thanked her and hustled us over, as he seemed about to leave.  Out of breath, I repeated my request for a box number for the third time that day (still very politely, I might add.) He replied in a very aggressive, irritated tone,"I can't just give that information out.  I don't know who you are.  You could be anyone.  You need to go to the post office for that." Gritting my teeth, I briefly recounted my post office experience to him.  He said,"Well, I don't know why they wouldn't give it to you.  They do have it."I asked if he'd give me the box number if I showed him the HUD-1 form.  He looked at me quizzically, but did not admit he didn't know what a HUD-1 form was.  He said he'd give me the number with picture id and something showing my name and the new address.  He said he'd be there for twenty more minutes, and just as I was about to hustle off to try to go home and get the right form and get back in time, he asked,"wait, what's the address?" When I repeated it, he said," Oh that's on her side," pointing back at the woman I'd talked to first.  I exasperatedly told him she'd said it was on his side, and he responded with an oh so helpful, "well, it's not." I clamored off back towards the first set of boxes with a sigh and a loud,"this is absurd!"
When I got back to the first mail carrier's set of boxes and told her what the other one had said, she said,"oh, did you say 'Cowden?' I'm so sorry; that IS mine!" Right after she said this, Gage, in the fastest baby move I've ever seen, grabbed the piece of paper out of my hand with the info on the general location of our box and crammed  it into his mouth, entirely obliterating all writing.
Luckily, despite our mail carrier's flakiness, she was willing to tell me which box was mine without any identification (so much for security.) She pointed me to the right box and... my key wouldn't work.  "F-ing figures," I thought.  Feeling thoroughly beaten, I asked her if I showed her my driver's license, would she please give me my stack of mail, and I'd figure out the key some other time.  "No problem," she said, and handed me a banded stack of mail without my showing her anything to prove my identity.  I glanced at it.  It was for the Patels down the street from us.  "Uh, this isn't mine," I said.  She looked at it,"Oh! Sorry.  What house number did you say again?". I repeated it... AGAIN.  It turned out she had told me the wrong box to start with.  In the end, I got my key fitted in the right box and collected our mail.  It only took me just shy of two hours.  By the time we rolled into our driveway with the mail, Jack was bored, Gage was fussy, tired and hungry and I had a gargantuan headache.
Looking back, I met two nice yet incompetent postal workers today and one marginally competent one who was unnecessarily rude.  I wish I'd said something to the rude guy like,"Now that you've told me everything you can't do, how about telling what you CAN do?" or "Is your tone that rude all the time or is it just today?". But I didn't, because I never think of the good stuff to say at the time and because I hadn't set out to be witty or put anyone in their place.  I just wanted my goddamned mail.  Due to this experience and several others I've had lately with the postal service (lost mail, lost packages, etc) I will gladly pay more to use UPS or Fedex whenever possible.  In fact, if the private sector were allowed to deliver letters, I'd pay double to have mine delivered by UPS, Fedex, Lonestar Overnight or a damned camel - anything but the United States Postal Service.