Tuesday, June 26, 2007

For your inconvenience

I've made two visits to post offices recently. One was on a Sunday, at Narita International Airport outside Tokyo and to the Walla Walla post office at Sumach Street and Second Avenue.

Although I don't speak much Japanese, I was able to mail a parcel from Narita for a reasonable cost with no hassle in about five minutes. That time included the two postal workers carefully packaging my item in a box, which they sealed, and for me to fill out the forms and pay.

My visit to the Walla Walla post office Monday afternoon didn't go quite so smoothly. One similarity: There were two postal workers in the office. As for me, I had a sealed priority mail flat-rate envelope to send. Twenty-five minutes after walking in, I had my receipt in hand and the envelope was off.

I don't think the postal workers were to blame, but who would ever know? It was lunchtime, so customers were plentiful, and some had what appeared to be bizarre needs: to have an individualized sales pitch about each of the available boxes the post office sells to ship items; to apparently have help filling out the whole! passport application at the counter; to negotiate for the release of a single piece of mail posted by the customer but also the subject of some arcane afterthought.

If ever a post office needed one of the self-service kiosks, it is this one.

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