At the Post Office

June 6, 2011 § Leave a comment

Some days are better than others. Some days the queue snakes round like a clenched fist, and on days like today, though slow, it’s mercifully short.

That man there will be a while at the counter, pulling packets out of a large box to be weighed individually, and further along there is a woman berating the cow-faced clerk over increases in car tax. ‘Vehicle excise duty’, the clerk corrects her in a dull tone, and the customer’s ire sinks back into the thick air.

Today, there is no drunk collapsed whilst beery friends stand over him and cajole him with indelicate feet, and there is nobody holding up the queue by complaining at length about the length of the queue, oblivious to the mounting frustration behind them.

Everyone stares into the middle distance, to that clerk with her ambitious red eyeshadow, or this clerk with the waist-level bosom and the manic glint.

There is no sense of urgency – the last post is an hour off, even for specials – and no mystery: that parcel bound for Australia will be full of clothes, and this letter to America will be an eBay return. Everything, this afternoon, is merely functional.

The air in the room is heavy, as if the people weren’t inhaling anything fresh but were in fact exchanging stale breaths with one another. On the clock above the counters, the minute flicks past fourteen times, the hour once, but the day itself remains as motionless as the queue, waiting for the next available counter.

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