In Praise of Small-Town Post Offices

I think that the Heidegger podcast saved me from the grumpiness that I could hear over the lecture around me.

Yes, I’m listening to a Berkeley course on Heidegger’s Being and Time as I read through it with Michial Farmer.  It’s quite nice.

Anyway, as I listened to Hubert Dreyfus expound on the role of norms in the life of Dasein, a line of roughly twenty-five people formed up at the one register (there was equipment there for four to be open) active at the Athens west side post office.  A couple college boys expounded on how awful banks are going to be if Obama nationalizes them (never mind that the Postal Service makes its money selling stamps rather than through government bailouts), a young woman was cussing like Rod Blagojevich on a wiretap about having to wait in a bleeping line to buy bleeping stamps, and an angry woman two people from the counter was expounding loudly on the fact that an employee was meandering, seemingly without aim, in and out of doors behind the counter while we waited.

I let my eyes follow this gentleman as I listened to my lecture, and sure enough, he didn’t seem to be doing anything in particular.  The employee operating the one active register was moving as fast as I’ve seen any postal employee move, but she was but one person, and her response time differed, predictably, with the complexity of each customer’s request.

Still the man wandered.

After about half an hour, I gave up, delivered the last three months’ cardboard to our town’s recycling center (that was my other task after work today), and headed for the Statham, Georgia post office.  Once inside, I waited for a few minutes until, seeing that there were four people in line (four whole people!), an employee opened a second register to handle us as quickly as possible.  I was in and out, despite having to mail a dozen packages of various weights (enjoy Micah’s school pictures, mine family!), in ten minutes.

Now both of these are branches of the same self-sustaining government agency, but in a place where people know each other’s faces, things went more quickly.  (The man who helped me at the counter has helped me the last dozen times I’ve been in that post office).  This ain’t communism; it’s subsidiarity, and it’s nice.


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