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“Tis THAT time of year– the time when everyone sends packages and cards through the mail. (I do note that many people use email instead of cards and that online gifts are more and more common, but even with that, the Post Office is busy.) Gill mentioned that she just made a trip to her P.O. in Bristol…and suggested we write about it. Now, knowing Gill, she must have had a good reason (and likely a bad experience) to suggest a blog about it. Even without hearing her rant (likely deserved), I can imagine how it went. And so, writing blind, as it were, I will address the P.O.

Fast forward a few hours: Gill and I Skyped and we briefly discussed the P.O. episode that prompted her idea for the blog. It seems she didn’t actually have a bad experience this time, but was impressed with her local Bristol facility. I will leave her to explain in tomorrow’s blog…meanwhile I’ll pass on my personal thoughts about Post Offices… being careful not to include my slight irritation with ‘community mailboxes’. I don’t have an overwhelming dislike to them since picking up my mail gives me an excuse to go outside during sleet storms, blizzards and such. What really pisses me off is getting there, possibly struggling with the frozen lock only to find a large selection of crap ads, flyers, and other junk mail. For this I risked life and limb??

That aside, here in Canada, the Post Office is an entirely different animal from what it used to be. Since I’m using the animal analogy, I might even say that the P.O. is on the verge of extinction. It is a mere shadow of its former self — now becoming franchises in grocery stores, drug stores and the like.In some ways, this is a good thing since it is now open longer hours and on Sundays!!Great for the procrastinating Christmas card sender such as myself.

And I have discovered a small local P.O. facility that is stupendous in its customer service. I have become well-acquainted with one of the clerks in particular. She knows I send Gill newspaper clippings every week and now asks how she’s doing in England. She knew when Gill was here in the summer, last Christmas, and when I went to visit her in the fall. We chat at length and she, in turn, flattens my envelopes when I haven’t make them thin enough to go through the required slot.

My best experience with her beyond-the-call service came a few years ago when Crazy D was doing a job in the northern woods of Ontario.

I received a panicked, terse email from him. “Mom, could you please search for my goose down coat and big winter boots? It’s cold here and getting colder! I’m freezing to death. Can’t estimate whether I’ll have to have one foot or toe amputated after frostbite!” (Well, perhaps he didn’t use those exact words, but that was the gist of it — certainly for a caring mother always ready to look after her ‘cubs’.)

I found the jacket in question (no mean feat in itself) and boots and rushed them to my favorite lady at the P.O. I purchased the largest box they had for shipping. Standing to the side while she helped other customers, I folded the jacket and attempted to make it fit in the box. No dice. It was not unlike trying to stuff an airbag back in its casing. Only worse since down will not go down. It puffs up and when you have beaten one section into submission, another pops up. Punching feathers is a fool’s game.

The P.O. lady stepped up to help me, realizing that the goose and its down were winning. We both pushed the parka into the box — with the added help of another customer. The two of us held the feathers in place while she wielded her huge roll of packing tape. It took us a good 15 minutes to complete this fool’s errand.

“Now what is the address?” the clerk asked. “We’ll get this sent off for you in no time.”

“Uh, my son didn’t give me the precise address,” I admitted sheepishly. Because he’s Crazy D for a reason. All he’d told me was that he was in the woods of Ontario…which didn’t narrow things down a lot.

“I’ll go home and see if he’s sent me another email. I’ll pay now for the box, take the whole mess home and be back with the address to mail it tomorrow. Thanks so much for your help.” This was directed at her and the other customer who’d helped and had lost 15 minutes of his life he was never getting back.

I returned home to find another email from Crazy D.: “Forget the parka, Mom. The weather has turned and I’m okay. But could you please send me my passport?”

What the hell did he need with his passport in the northern woods?

I found out a couple of days later when he confessed he had to get out of the camp and go to a nearby city (which just happened to be across the border in the U.S.) to regain his sanity…or what was left of it. It was, apparently, hunting season there and he couldn’t wander freely in the woods as he was won’t to do. He didn’t want his butt filled with buckshot. Instead, he went to the first cheap hotel he could find and enjoyed a good night’s sleep and some real food.

But all this left me with a dilemma.I felt guilty for wasting the P.O. clerk’s time and, in the end, not needing to pay the large shipping fee for the goose feathers. I slunk in to explain my predicament. She was very understanding and we laughed together. “Kids! What won’t they do?” she asked.

Needless to say, she has my undying gratitude and I give her all my business — mostly Gill’s clippings.