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Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Are You a Screamer?

Calm down, naughty ones. This is a PG post.

I needed stamps. Desperately. Why, you ask? Because I just got a very kind, but firm email from the head of Toddler's camp/school reminding me to pay my overdue tuition bill. Great. Way to make a stellar first impression! Dutifully, I wrote a check, stuffed it in an envelope and promptly realized that we are fresh out of stamps. Of course.

So, on my way to my office Starbucks, I hit the ever-hopping local Post Office. And those of you who are worried about me avoiding my novel edits, never fret. I'm actually writing this post on line at the Post Office. The Post Office! Ha! I happen to love puns and happen to be a pinch over-caffeinated which makes everything hilarious. But I digress.

Anyway, I walked into the sweltering Post Office and saw the vast line for the little stamp machine and turned to leave. There was no way I was waiting on that line with all of those sweaty stamp-less souls. But then something amazing happened and I had to stay.

An anonymous youngish woman at one of the window-things (very appropriately dressed in a deep and angry red dress and red flats, sporting a low ponytail, carrying an overstuffed Citarella bag - leave me alone - the line was long and I'm a fan of details!) was SCREAMING at a postal worker behind that plastic/glass wall-thing. SCREAMING. I'm not sure what the issue was, but it couldn't have warranted the tirade I was lucky enough to witness. Things she said?

"I am not petty! We all work for a living! I deserve to be treated like a human being! I do not appreciate that tone of yours! I want your name! I want your supervisor! I am just standing here politely expecting quality service! I do appreciate you! I do care about you! I do respect what you do for a living! I am not petty!"

Now, this went on for fifteen minutes. I kid not. Long enough for me to take a mental snapshot of this mental woman. Long enough for me to write a blog post on my tiny BlackBerry. And when this woman turned to leave, I caught a glimpse of her face which was now a bold burgundy like her coordinated outfit. And I (and the rest of the riveted strangers in my midst) studied her as she departed and wondered what triggered such an outburst. Because my guess is that it had nothing to do with mail.

I'm beginning to think that our population is made up of two distinct species: screamers and non-screamers. For better or worse, I fall into the latter camp. I'm actually a fairly confrontational person. I do not let things stew. If there is an issue, I address it. But I do not scream. I don't raise my voice with my kids. I did not yell once during childbirth (though I came close with the Snickers Incident - Hi, Hubby!) I never pitch fits for bad service at restaurants or in airports or in taxis. I don't think this is necessarily a conscious or principled decision, that I've decided that screaming is counterproductive or non-utilitarian. Rather, it's just not something I do.

Is this screaming business a matter of nature or nurture, happiness or dissatisfaction? Who knows... What I do know is that if you ever need material, juicy snapshots of human interaction, make a cameo at your local Post Office. Nothing like long lines, a lack of air conditioning, and hot tempers to spice up a bland summer afternoon. And thank you to the lady in red for inspiring this post and for giving me a reason to wait on that long line. Without you, I wouldn't have sent off that embarrassingly late tuition check. Without you, I wouldn't have countless stamps in my possession.

To which species do you belong? Are non-screamers more mellow by nature perhaps? And more likely to pay bills late and run out of stamps?

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