"Is the package for yourself?", the counter assistant asked. This was the stupidest question I'd heard all day.
Two days earlier, a card had arrived through the front door while I was at work. A package, for Mrs Blackout, was awaiting collection at the Post Office. Now, this was unusual, because normally they hold them at the sorting office, not an actual branch. The more I thought about it, this made more sense as the Post Office itself has opening hours longer than that of the sorting office. 'That's fine', I said, 'I'll pick it up on my way home on Friday'.
Friday arrives, my early-finish arrives shortly after that, and by 1pm I'm walking through town, in the rain, towards the Post Office. Not the nearest one to my house, and not a one which is actually on my way home (ie, I've already walked past a) the sorting office, and b) the nearest Post Office by the time I get there), but the one which is holding the package. I'll say now, by the way, that the item in question is two packs of replacement bags for the vacuum cleaner. Exciting, I know, but it sort of leads into what comes later.
So I arrive at the Post Office. I reach into my bag and pull out the card which has been left at my house, and also a bank statement as proof of my address, as required by that card (because if I'd broken or tricked my way into someone's house to steal this precious delivery-card, there's no way I could also have stolen something else with the same address on it). I inform the counter assistant that I have a package to pick up, and slide the card under the glass partition. She looks at the card (for far too long, in my opinion), looks vaguely around the paper-strewn desks behind her, and reaches for the package. It's about 10"x5"x3", and I can see by the way it moves that it contains two boxes inside a plastic 'courier bag' type thing.
The counter assistant looks at the name and address on the card. She looks at the name and address on the package. She looks at the name and address on the card. "Do you have any ID?" she asks. "Yeah…", I reply, and hold up the bank statement at the glass. She gestures for me to pass it under the partition. Clearly she can't be expected to read a name and address from almost two feet away through a sheet of toughened safety-glass, and there's no way she can lean closer, so I comply and pass her the envelope.
The counter assistant looks at the name and address on the envelope. She looks at the name and address on the package. She looks at the name and address on the envelope. She doesn't look back at the card, which I find odd. Surely a triple-sequential-check is better than a double? Or has she just remembered that the name and address on the card and the one on the package are the same? Let's hope so. Studying the two items with a frown on her face, she almost seems unable to come to terms with the fact that the only common feature they share is the address and postcode. I have no problem at all with the fastidious nature of this transaction. She's doing her job, and she's doing it well, ensuring that the packages which leave her particular counter only go to the correct recipients. I respect that, and appreciate that it takes a little longer to do something properly. It's the next question which tips the balance. She raises her head from her studies to address me…
"Is the package for yourself?", she asks. There are three answers to this question.
1) Yes. Yes, it's for me. That's why the name on the envelope is different to the one on the package, obviously. You see, I'm currently undergoing a course of online-retail-based gender reassignment operations, and the sender of that there box has already begun to use my new name "Ms Collins", while the fuddy-duddy squares at my bank seem hellbent on calling me "Mr Paterson" until the procedure is complete. I know, I know, crazy, isn't it? Yes, I don't look remotely female, in either physicality or dress, but it's early days. Those are my new breasts in the package you're holding, one in each box. No, I'm not kidding, why would I? What's that? Gender reassignment still wouldn't account for the surname being different, even if the prefix to the name was? Fuck, you're right. Erm… right, Yes. Yes, the package is for me. I have a multiple personality disorder, and "Ms Collins" bought some hoover-bags online the other night, but as I can't control when she manifests in my psyche, it's good ol' "Mr Paterson" who's here to collect them. That said, "Mr Paterson" could just be another pseudonym that I've fooled the bank into believing. Of course, the bank weren't as Marple-like as yourself, good lady, and you've seen right to the bottom of my ruse. The truth is, I have no clue who I REALLY am. DAMN YOU, woman. Damn you.
2) Well, as you've studied the two items in your sweaty hands for over a minute now, what the fuck do you think? Notwithstanding answer number one, do I LOOK like "Ms Collins" to you? That's who the package is addressed to, isn't it? So that's who it's FOR, isn't it? So what the fuck kind of question was that? The answer's CLEARLY going to be NO, but since I have access to the mail of the occupants of this address, including the missed-delivery card of one and the bank statement of another, I'd say that me picking up their hoover-bags is pretty much THE FUCKING LEAST OF THEIR WORRIES, wouldn't you?
3) No, it's for my partner.
I answer with number three. It seems easiest, if I'm being honest. She considers my answer for a further 10 seconds before pointing wordlessly at the side window and sliding my package through the hatch, with my bank statement atop. She doesn't say anything more, so neither do I.
Package collected, lesson learned.
And while I'm on, I do recommend you use brand/model specific bags for your vacuum cleaner. The generic ones are passable in the short-term, but the difference in pickup with the correct bag is quite remarkable.
So y'know. Every cloud…
• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organisations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.