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My New Best Friend

Jun
2
2006

I walked into my local post office for stamps and the postmaster (who in the old days would have been referred to as a “postmistress”) greeted me cheerfully and asked after my dogs. Then we discussed how my new house construction was coming along and how we’re working everything around my husband’s work schedule.
Driving home, it occurred to me that the postmaster probably knows more about me than some of my friends. This is Ama small post office and it is just her and, in the past seven years, one part time employee sorting the mail. All aspects of our lives have crossed her vision over the past 23 years.
My dog-loving friends know I love dogs, but don’t know I listen to jazz and classical music. My gourmand friends don’t know I’m severely organizationally-challenged. My book-loving friends aren’t aware I knit and sew.
The postmaster knows all these things. She’s placed The Australian Shepherd Journal and Bon Appetite into my mail, delivered Louis Prima and Puccini CDs to my door and wrote up a damage report on two bolts of iron-on interfacing. She’s sorted brochures for Closetmaid and Rubbermaid into my pile and helped me wrap for return a pair of shoes I’d ordered twice by mistake.
She’s sent out our collection letters certified mail and knows we don’t send many of them because we’re wusses. She calmly talked me through sending a registered letter to the Internal Revenue Service proving payment of one quarter’s taxes, assuring me that “everyone gets this request sooner or later.”
Besides us, no one knows our history as well as she does. She watched the parade of parenting magazines during our insecure early years with Baby Heir 1. She knew all that information must have worked when the college brochures started arriving last year.
She knows that once a year on June 18 without fail, I used to receive personal correspondence from my home state of New Jersey addressed to my maiden name. She also knows that stopped suddenly eight years ago. And she knows at Christmas time the cards with return addresses in New Jersey are also dwindling.
There were our lean homeschooling/civil service years where our mail was flooded with free samples, coupons and co-op brochures and no magazine subscriptions. She babysat our shipment of baby chicks we ordered to alleviate some of our grocery costs. And she knew we’d recovered when Merrill Lynch and Neiman Marcus started courting our business and charities started asking for money.
Our outgoing mail is probably just as revealing. She knows, for instance, that we really don’t care that we “may already be a winner.” She knows our billing cycle to our clients. She knows when we pay bills. She knows how many credit cards we have and how many we’ve turned down. She knows who we carry insurance through and who provides our cell phone service.
Of course she is discreet with all this knowledge. Probably because she doesn’t really care that she knows all this or doesn’t know she knows. She certainly doesn’t have the time to consciously read anything but the recipient’s name on all the pieces of mail that cross her vision. But this information is all there.
So, while virus scans and e-mail blockers protect what I have, my postmaster is protecting who I am. My entire local reputation could have been ruined had she revealed the time I had to overnight three bill payments because I’d originally mailed the electric bill to the phone company and the phone bill to the fuel company, and so on and so on. For over 20 years she’s resisted the urge to slap me upside the head and scream, “THINK!” I know I wouldn’t have hesitated for an instant.
I’m going to miss her when we move. There will be that whole getting-to-know-you phase with the new postmaster. I’ll have to tell him that I always buy two rolls of stamps at once because I know I’ll forget to buy them when I’m running low with the first roll. Maybe he won’t understand, as she does, that “boys will be boys” when I have to send registered mail a traffic violation payment for one of the Heirs. He may judge my literary taste when Amazon.com sends me my Rita Mae Brown books.
But then, we’re moving within the same county. Odds are the two postmasters are related to each other anyway.

Share  Posted by Jeanne Jackson at 10:19 AM | Permalink

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