“Next,” I called out.
The line shuffled along, each person with a package under their arm and their face buried in a smartphone. You’d think I’d be used to it by now. But I missed interacting with the customer. Everyone had such interesting stories about where they were sending their package. These days the most I could muster would be a grunt and a swipe of their card.
“Good afternoon, sir.” I gave the man a broad smile, hoping this one would be different.
“Yeah.” He clacked away at a text message.
“What can I do for you today?” I plastered on my best smile that started quickly began to slip into a sneer.
“Yeah… just… uh… need to send this here.” He plopped the package in front of me and tapped the shipping label without looking up from his phone.
I resisted the urge to slap the black brick from his hand and send him home crying. Instead, I gave my postal shirt a quick tug and began to process his package.
Ugh, of course.
“I’m sorry, sir. But there isn’t enough postage here for this sized package.”
“Sir. Excuse me, sir. Hello? You need more stamps for me to send this.”
“Yeah, that’s fine.”
My fists crumpled the edges of the manila envelope. Everything in me wanted to toss it across the room and make him fetch it like a dog. Instead I pushed it back across the counter until it bumped into his belly. “More postage,” I said.
“What?” he snapped his head up. “Oh, sorry. Yeah I’ll get that. Sorry.”
I bet you are.
An elderly woman approached, her tiny fingers wringing around bony knuckles. Internally I sighed with relief. For once I may have a normal conversation with someone. An ordinary interaction with another human being.
“Yes ma’am, how may I help you today?”
“I have a package waiting for me.” Her voice barely broke over the sounds of phones dinging and chirping.
“Wonderful. Something from your grandchildren?” I beamed an actual smile toward her.
“No. From my husband.”
My smiled turned to a grin. “I imagine it’s a wonderful gift then. It arrived today?” I turned to my computer, ready to take her information.
“No.” She lowered her head.
“Don’t worry. Not a problem. When should it have arrived then?”
My fingers paused over the keys of my keyboard. “That may be a challenge. Um, I’m not entirely certain we may still have it.” I wasn’t entirely certain this branch was open that long ago. I spread my hands out on the counter. I hadn’t noticed before, how lost she looked behind her glassy eyes. I looked into the crow to see if perhaps she’d become separated from a caretaker. Again I was met with nothing but the tops of people’s heads. “Ma’am.” I leaned down to see if I could catch her down turned gaze. “Ma’am I don’t believe we would have kept something for that long.”
“Please, please you must have it. He said it would be here.” Her voice broke.
“I’m sure he did. But it’s been a long time. A very long time. Perhaps if you’d be so kind…”
“No!” Her hand slapped the table. That gathered the crowds attention. Several phones popped up, ready to record a crazy lady at the post office. “It’s here. It has to be here!”
“Yes, yes. I’ll go check. Just one moment.” I raised my hands to placate her and went back into the receiving area. What was I doing, giving this old woman hope? I ran my hand through my hair, wondering how long I should stand in the back and pretend to look for her package.
Glenn, one of our sorters passed me. I don’t know what caused me to speak out. Curiosity maybe? I took a hold of his arm to get his attention. “Glenn, do we have an area of stuff we’ve kept for a few years?”
“Yeah, if it’s large enough or slated to be delivered on a certain date we’ll hold onto things.”
“But, for decades.”
He whistled. “That’s a tall order, that one. Couldn’t hurt to check though.” He pointed toward the back between two racks of packages. “Head back there and through the door behind those racks. You may find what you’re looking for there.”
To this day I’m not sure why I tried looking for it. I didn’t even know her name or where it was going to or coming from. But my feet pulled me forward. A naked bulb greeted me as I entered the room. It’s crackling sound as it popped into life sound like a taunt. I ran my hand over dust covered boxes. Pulling out my reading glasses I tried my best to read the faded words in the dim light. I was close to giving up, when a brown paper covered object tied down with string caught my eye. It stood propped against the brick wall, looking nearly 5 feet tall but only several inches thick. It called to me somewhere in my gut, telling me to check it.
I lifted it off the wall, feeling its heft. I wrapped my hand around the edges of the item and pulled. My hand slipped, tearing the paper and snapping the string. The bulky item thudded back to the floor, Fearing I’d broken it, I leaned it against the wall and prepared to go get Glenn for help.
A flash of light caught my eye. Curiosity gripped me, urging me to remove more of the paper.
Before me stood a full length mirror; it’s golden frame intricately carved with vines and flowers. The beauty of its craftsmanship stole my breath away. But when I looked into the mirror my body froze.
In the reflection was a meadow of the greenest green. Pockets of wild flowers rolled along the tall grass. In the distance, atop a hill rested a lone willow tree. A couple sat below the tree, eating a picnic. And I felt their happiness. Their joy. Pure and boundless. It seeped into my very bones, pushing away the endless lines of sad people with their faces buried into their smartphones. Gone were the grunts of patrons and half heard remarks.
I was happy.
The woman by the tree looked toward me, and deep down I knew her. Knew that even though I could see her by the tree, she now waited at my counter. Waited for me to return this wonderful memory to her.
Tearing myself away from the images, I did my best to re-wrap the mirror. Catching Glenn, I had him haul it to the front of the store. The look on the woman’s face recalled my time in front of the mirror. She thanked me and thanked me, tears welling up in her eyes.
As the door closed behind them I turned back to the line, with the boundless joy still in my heart.