Sunday, March 8, 2015
Why I won't order spring tea
The post office has lost yet another tea package, a swap sent by a friend. And so I'm reminded why my spring tea purchases this year won't include Dragonwell. Nor any other fresh tea. Last year my Dragonwell tea got stuck in customs and sat there...and sat there. I live in a small town, and fortunately the post office is right behind my house. This was incredibly convenient back when I was powerselling on EBay, ten years ago. Of course the location is still convenient when I have tea packages, and the small town means the postal people know me and half the time don't even bother getting my signature when they can just open my porch door and drop the packages inside. In fact, I often get the neighbor's packages at my house too; the post office sees the street address and just assumes the package must be mine.
However, just because the postal staff knows me doesn't mean I get special treatment. I'll write out what happened last year when I inquired about my lost Dragonwell, a scene from a rural cow town to be sure. I wrote it all down verbatim when I got home, so I'm am NOT making this up.
Cwyn: I have a stuck package I need help with.
Postmaster: Well…we haven’t seen YOU in awhile.
Cwyn: So I have this stuck package in the Chicago Postal Facility.
Postmaster: That’s because you are a suspicious character.
Cwyn: It’s fresh green tea from China. I realize it’s a commodity...
Postmaster: Yup, well, they put something ELSE in your package.
Cwyn: It’s GREEN TEA.
Postmaster: They put something in someone else’s package then, so customs is now checking all their packages.
Cwyn: I have friends who order from this company, and their packages haven’t got stuck.
Postmaster: I know a guy who mailed some cheese up to Canada. Customs held it for 30 days and then they marked it “return to sender.”
Cwyn: Yeah. I get your point. It’s not cheese.
Postmaster: If it's customs, there is nothing we can do.
Cwyn: I suppose it could be worse.
Postmaster: So far it’s only been a few days, that’s not too bad. You can rest assured you’ll probably drink that tea sometime this fall.
Cwyn: It’s just that it’s spring tea and it’s deteriorating as we speak. Won’t be as good.
Postmaster: I can guarantee you that’s not the case. You can go down the street to Festival Foods. Those teas have been sitting there for years and you can still buy them.
Cwyn: Okay. Thanks for the help.
I have to admit I was standing there laughing as he was talking. Our postmaster is a young guy in his late 30s, who manages to have that perfect expression of helpfulness combined with mild annoyance and it all trips out rather lightly.
One of my favorite books of all time is Post Office by Charles Bukowski, a drunk who actually did work at the US post office and wrote novels too. I gave a copy to my local p.o. for everyone to share, but one lady took it home and never brought it back. And she didn't even read it. She and everyone else missed gems about life as a postal carrier, like this one.
Every route has its traps and only the regular carriers knew of them. Each day it was another god damned thing, and you were always ready for a rape, murder, dogs or insanity of some sort. The regulars wouldn't tell you their little secrets. That was the only advantage they had--except knowing their case by heart. It was gung ho for a new man, especially one who drank all night, went to bed at 2 a.m., rose at 4:30 a.m. after screwing and singing all night long, and, almost, getting away with it.
One day I was out on the street and the route was going well, though it was a new one, and I thought, Jesus Christ, maybe for the first time in two years I'll be able to eat lunch.
I had a terrible hangover, but still all went well until I came to this handful of mail addressed to a church. The address had no street number, just the name of the church, and the boulevard it faced. I walked, hungover, up the steps. I couldn't find a mailbox in there and no people in there. Some candles burning. Little bowls to dip your fingers in. And the empty pulpit looking at me, and all the statues, pale red and blue and yellow, the transoms shut, a stinking hot morning.
Oh, Jesus Christ, I thought.
And walked out.
I went around the side of the church and found a stairway going down. I went in through an open door. Do you know what I saw? A row of toilets. And showers. But it was dark. All the lights were out. How in the hell can they expect a man to find a mailbox in the dark? Then I saw a light switch. I threw the thing and the lights in the church went on, inside and out. I walked into the next room and there were priests' robes spread out on a table. There was a bottle of wine.
For Christ's sake, I thought, who in the hell but me would ever get caught in a scene like this?
I picked up the bottle of wine, had a good drag, left the letters on the robes, and walked back to the showers and toilets. I turned off the lights and took a shit in the dark and smoked a cigarette. I thought about taking a shower but I could see the headlines: MAILMAN CAUGHT DRINKING THE BLOOD OF GOD AND TAKING A SHOWER NAKED, IN ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH.
So, finally, I didn't have time for lunch and when I got in Jonstone wrote me up for being 23 minutes off schedule.
I found out later that mail for the church was delivered to the parish house around the corner. But now, of course, I'll know where to shit and shower when I'm down and out.
Post Office, by Charles Bukowski. Copyright 1971.
I've received several emails from people asking if I've read various authors, and usually the answer is no, not because I don't do a lot of reading. I just don't read much science fiction. But in case a few folks are still wondering about what I might consider reference reading, well now you know an example. Reading Bukowski again today, I think I write better. Then again, I'm a tea drunk, not a drunk drunk, and tea drunks retain more brain cells overall. Also drunk drunks have nothing to drink around the house, and tea drunks usually have altogether too much. Bottom line, we can keep right on drinking and nobody has yet died of tea. That we know of. Unfortunately Bukowski died of his type of drunk.
And you also know why I won't be ordering any fresh spring tea this year.
Requiescat in Pace.