27 October 2008
Dear God, what a day. With so many phone calls, emails, names, numbers, ideas, people, places & things oozing out of my brain, I half-expected to find a word jumble on my pillow this morning. I knew a lot of my energy today would be trying to wrap what is left of my mind around all of the information downloaded to me over the weekend. I managed to be pretty successful though, and got through a lot! I’m not sure I will continue to be as productive, but I’ll sure try. After all, with no housing at the moment and still seeking gainful employment, I DO have some basic needs to which I must tend. Food and shelter, anyone?
This was the day, however, when I decided it was time for my own mailing address. I can’t keep imposing on Darrell to meet me every 3 or 4 days with my mail. That ain’t right. I went online to determine what I needed to take to the post office so the process there would be quick and painless. Lo and behold, I discovered you can now apply and pay for the PO box online, so it simply becomes a matter of taking the application into the post office (along with two forms of ID), getting your keys and voila! You’re off and running. Fantastic!
I arrived at the West Hollywood post office with everything in perfect order. FINALLY! In another 10 minutes, I could cross this off my list. Woo-hoo! The wait in line wasn’t all that long. The clerk was friendly and reviewed my application to make sure everything was correct. I handed over my two forms of ID – my shiny new California driver’s license and my U.S. Passport. It was about 10 seconds later when I think I heard an audible SCREEEEEEEECH as the PO box application process came to an abrupt halt. “I can only accept one of those as a form of ID,” the clerk informed me. “The other needs to be a secondary form… a voter registration card, a lease agreement, a work ID.”
HUH??!! I admit, I didn’t think she was serious at first. I told her that online at usps.com, there was a page indicating the acceptable forms of ID, and that these were both on the list. “I know, but the website is wrong.” OK, then… “Do you have a mortgage statement or a rental agreement with you?” Of course! I always carry any and all housing documents on my person, just for special occasions like these.
“What about a corporate ID? A work ID with your photo?” she asked next. This was confounding to me – the idea that a corporate photo ID would trump my U.S. passport, even if I worked at, say, Chuck E. Cheese. Or Eastern Onion. Or Raging Stallion Studios (imagine THAT company’s holiday party). In this circumstance, these IDs have more power than my government-issued passport. Last time I checked, it was the same government that owned the very building I was standing in, and employed the clerk I was speaking with. I can travel to China wearing a bath towel and a jockstrap as long as I have my driver’s license and passport, but I can’t rent a 3″x5″ post office box in West Hollywood with them. Can I get a “WTF?!” Incidentally, I would not be surprised if someone actually HAS walked into that post office in a bath towel and jockstrap at some point. Remember, we’re in West Hollywood.
“So…” I posited, “with these two forms of government-issued ID, both of which are acceptable as indicated right here on line 5 of my USPS PO box application…” – I pointed to the document for emphasis – “…you still can’t help me?”
“I can’t,” she said.
I took a deep, cleansing breath and tried to go to my happy place. “Is it just me, or is it completely ridiculous that the information on your website and on this application in front of you doesn’t match what you’re telling me?” To be clear, I wasn’t mad at her or bitchy with her. I was matter-of-fact. She’s just doing her job and giving me the facts as she knows them. I simply wanted to make sure I wasn’t off my rocker.
“No I hear you, and I get it,” she said. “Welcome to the United States Post Office, sir.” Well, that’s reassuring. If I’m not mistaken, this is the same organization that will be delivering my election ballot to the county registrar in the next few days. Wonderful.
She handed me another list – dated April 2004, FYI – of acceptable forms of secondary ID, and told me if came back today with another one of them, I could go directly to her window without waiting in line again. The only other item I had on the list was my voter registration card back at Darrell’s, buried God-knows-where in one of the boxes I cart from place to place. I did manage to find it, went back to the post office, and of course, she was on her coffee break. Internal heavy sigh #1.
Another clerk helped me set up the box and gave me my keys. I asked to buy some ‘forever’ stamps, and was told she didn’t have those. More blank staring from me. “You can buy them in the vending machine outside. It takes credit cards.” Internal heavy sigh #2. If I thought an audible heavy sigh would have gotten me something, I would’ve gone for it.
I did manage to find a helpful manager outside by the vending machine, and told her about the past hour-and-a-half of my life with the USPS. She said the website changed about a month ago, and they’ve been dealing with situations like mine ever since. I also pointed out that this conversation was probably happening in every post office, in every state, every single day. Like the clerk before, she empathized with my frustration, threw up her hands and said, “Welcome to the United States Post Office, sir.”
Is this their slogan now? Did I miss an advertising campaign? “Welcome to the United States Post Office” inflected with the tone “We totally suck.” Time for a new ad agency, wouldn’t you say?