Take last Tuesday for example. I woke up feeling like a shiny new penny.* This is not my natural state; my natural state is one of perpetual, knuckle-popping aggravation at mankind and fellow subway riders alike. So I went to the post office to set myself straight. I knew my needs would be met, for the postal clerks are tireless in their efforts to bathe your day in enmity. They take no breaks except to eat their young.
You too might do well to pay a visit if, like me, you find yourself out of sync. So here's a handy-dandy guide to the experience. You're welcome.
A VISITOR'S GUIDE TO MY LOCAL P.O., LOCATED IN AN UNSPECIFIED
METROPOLITAN BOROUGH THAT, TO PROTECT ITS OTHERWISE STERLING REPUTATION, WE SHALL CALL "THE GRONX" (NOT ITS REAL NAME)
Step 1. First, you shall join a line of 56,000,000,000,000 wretched, defeated customers who have been waiting in line since the Crusades, which would have been preferable. Every so often, people's body parts fossilize or turn to goodge. Some individuals have turned altogether to flesh puddles with bifocals floating around in them, but BY GOLLY THEY ARE GOING TO WAIT IN LINE UNTIL CALLED. And so are you, because that is the kind of spunky New Yorker you are, goddammit.
Step 2. While still spunky (a period lasting 22 seconds), you entertain yourself by dreaming up creative ways to kill those ahead of you.
Step 3. Meanwhile, you observe there are twelve service windows, two of which are staffed by snarling, hate-crazed, froth-spewing beasts ready to impale you on their digi-pens at a moment's notice. Even the courtesy sign says so ("PLEASE WAIT TO BE CALLED, OR THE FROTH-SPEWING BEAST BEHIND THE WINDOW WILL IMPALE YOU ON HER DIGI-PEN").
Step 4. Now it is your turn to approach the window. Genuflecting and offering up your firstborn without even being asked, you move one nanometer closer to the window, whereupon the cashier, in a voice that could vaporize Russia, utters the traditional federal pleasantry: "YOUGETBACKINLINE!!!"
Step 5. You are formally called to the window.
Step 6. That was a daydream. You are still waiting while the cashier counts her skin cells.
Step 7. Meanwhile -- anyone in the Gronx may feel free to back me up on this -- additional people, meaning people who weren't even in line until now, appear around you. Apparently these individuals have been belched forth from the walls. Naturally all of them get called to the window before you.
Step 8. Finally you really are called up to the window, and as it is your lucky day, the postmistress decides to go easy on you by not incinerating you with a single glance.
Step 9. The two of you lock gazes in a death battle. Her bloodshot, sideways eyes dare you to carry out your transaction; yours say, Bring it on, baby. Just as she prepares to electrocute you telekinetically, Pokémon-style, you make the bold, unprecedented move of actually whipping out your wallet. That's right. You're gonna complete your transaction and you're not backing down. Whoa-ho-HOA! Betcha didn't see THAT one coming, now, U.S. Postal Harpy, didja? Do your WORST! BOO-yah!
Step 10. Only momentarily stunned, your opponent quickly regroups, retaliating with one swift, hostile gesture that means you must open the postal sale window. You accept the challenge; there's no stopping now. You open your window. She gives you the Death Look that means close it now or else. You do so, whereupon she opens the corresponding window on her side. Out of sheer spite and bravado, you open yours again. She slams hers down, a warning to quit playing with the big girls now or else. But you just slam yours down again. So she slams hers down again. And on you two go, SLAM, SLAM, SLAM, SLAM, back and forth, until finally you two are slamming to the exact rhythm of "Mars, Bringer of War" from The Planets. This slam-a-rama could go on all night.
Step 11. At last, you are done. She let you off easy when she realized you had not, technically speaking, brought anything to mail, having accidentally left it on your kitchen table. But such details are minor to you, the victor of the day, because your opponent did not win. Visibly shaken by the experience, she eats only half a child for lunch.
Step 12. And finally, secure in the glory of a mission accomplished, you wend your way home. Sure, you may not have actually mailed anything; but you have done the impossible in emerging with all your original extremities. So go home, pamper yourself, and rest assured of a job well done! Take the rest of the day to kick back and luxuriate. It will be ages before you realize you forgot your wallet.
* Which is to say, round and brown with Abraham Lincoln on my front.