Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Going Postal

In the United States, the term “going postal” is an expression meaning to go into a violent and uncontrollable rage. This term came into being after several incidents of postal workers completely losing all good sense and shooting or stabbing their bosses, coworkers, and members of the general public.
In Israel, the most likely perpetrators of public violence at the post office are the customers. Case in point:
Angry man whose number finally gets called: I've been waiting for 2 hours to pick up this package! This is ridiculous. I have a life, children, things to do! Why does picking up a package take so long?! If I had known it would take 2 hours, I would have ordered food at Aroma!
Apathetic postal worker: You have my condolences, because your package is actually in Qedar, not in Ma'ale Adumim.

I am not entirely sure I could describe the poor guy's expression, except maybe apoplectic. Yes, apoplectic would be appropriate.
I honestly can't imagine the Israeli postal workers a.) caring enough to get upset about work b.) having much reason to get that upset about anything. I spend quite a bit of time at the post office. For the past year or so, part of my job at the vet's office is to pay the licenses we've accumulated all week at the post office on Friday. It seems that the rest of Ma'ale Adumim has the same idea about paying bills and picking up packages on Friday since that's everyone's day off.
Israeli post offices are a one-stop shop. You want to pay your electric bills? Property taxes? School tuition? At the post office. You want to buy an international sim card, an electronic parking pass, or a foreign currency credit card? At the post office. Getting an officially signed and stamped signature from a loan guarantor or compensation from the German government for forced labor during the Nazi period? That's right, you can do it at the post office. It's no wonder that the post office is so crowded all the time. One post office with 3 (or 4 on a busy day) insouciant postal tellers for 40,000 residents? They don't even have a stamp vending machine. You have to take a number to buy stamps.
The workers seem to have it pretty good. Except for the occasional argument with a customer (which the tellers always win). They sit there with tea or coffee, answer their cell phones if someone calls, visit with people who come in just to say hello or show off their new babies. Basically, they're like the cashiers at the supermarket only with better pensions.
I usually don't mind all that much. I take a number, go get coffee, come back and play on my phone until my number is called. I give them my forms, they give me a hard time if the numbers aren't legible enough, if the form is too old and the computer can't read the barcode at the bottom, or if anything on the form is crossed out, reject the forms they don't like for arbitrary reasons (I have a particular aversion to this font, I just broke up with my boyfriend, it's a full moon, etc.) and stamp the ones they do accept. It only takes about 10 minutes or so for them to swipe the barcodes, type in all the information manually on their outdated machines (the ones that were probably bank castoffs purchased for 20 cents in the 80's when the banks finally upgraded their technology to the appropriate decade), and insert them in their stamping machine. If their machine decides it doesn't like your form, they'll pass it around until someone's machine finally takes pity on you and accepts your form.
Like I said, this usually takes about 10 minutes. Unless they get distracted in the middle. Which happens often. HR must have gone recruiting at an ADD support convention. I got the branch manager one Friday, and right in the middle of swiping my forms, he realizes that it's noon and that it's time to lock the doors. So he gets up and goes to lock the door but just then the mayor, who is up for re-election soon, and his entourage walk in. The manager shakes his hand and shmoozes a bit, until he realizes that he somehow has to get the mayor and his groupies out of the post office so he can lock the door. I can see him considering his dilemma- he doesn't want to push the mayor out, but more people keep coming in either to greet the mayor or take a number. The post office is turning into a circus. Finally the mayor takes his roadshow outside to meet the rest of Ma'ale Adumim and the manager is able to lock the door. He comes back inside and starts talking to the postal workers about managerial stuff I guess, and just forgets to come back to me. I can't even go to another person because he's already started and he's got all my forms on his desk. I finally had to send someone to bring him back so I could finish and get back to work.
A person must be mentally and emotionally ready to go to the post office here. You don't just stop in on your way home. No, you put on your figurative armor, prepare yourself for arbitrary rejection and do meditation exercises on the way. It's the only way to make it through the ordeal.

You are all welcome to share your post office experiences here for the sake of catharsis.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Social Media Is Not For Everyone

Hear ye, hear ye! The apocalypse is near! My father has finally gotten a Facebook account! The man who gets annoyed every time the phone rings has willingly decided to sign up to be bombarded by political cartoons, pictures of people's children, requests for borrowing eggs from people on the other side of the world, and status updates from people whose friend requests he only accepted out of politeness and plans on defriending after an appropriate amount of time (a month seems about right).
Everyone has different uses for facebook. I mostly use it to look at pictures of koalas eating leaves and videos of porcupines eating bananas. Some people use it for stalking high school classmates to see which of them are doing better than themselves and which are in prison. Some people use it to widely distribute messages in the hopes of getting at least a few responses- anyone going out tonight, anyone know where to buy a circuit board, anyone have an extra blow up chair in the shape of a duck? Those kinds of messages. Some people use it to see what their friends are up to without actually having to talk to them. Everyone uses it for stalking people.
What my father uses it for, I don't know (since I've refused to friend him). He only has 2 friends. On a good day. To be fair, that's probably more than me but I can't really see him stalking people he's just met, which is what, um, other people use it for (don't judge me- it's normal human curiosity). He's a follower of the “don't ask if you don't really want to know” policy. My mother is not wise enough to have learned this. Or maybe she just does really want to know. The difference between them is that you will never hear my father asking how a person lost his limb, what the surgery's for, or why the marriage didn't last, etc. This leads me to conclude that my father is not interested in going through people's facebook pages looking for clues about their hobbies, marital status, religious and political views, and family relationships. This also leads me to believe that my mother should probably not be let out unattended. She has occasionally wandered into restricted areas out of curiosity and probably has a file with several government agencies (in several different countries) after being flagged for asking the wrong people the wrong questions.
I understand that different people have different needs when it comes to facebook and everyone uses it differently. The problem is when my facebook needs and other people's facebook needs are incompatible. I just want to be amused. Funny pictures and cartoons, and amusing anecdotes are ok by me. Post a funny video, make me laugh, and I'll be happy. You don't have to announce to the world what you ate for breakfast, your exercise regimen, or what time you went to bed last night (incidentally because you were on facebook all night instead of sleeping). Basically any conversation I don't want to have with you face to face because it's boring is one I don't want to read about on facebook.
I also am not a fan of public meltdowns via social media. I recall a certain very long facebook post concerning the depressed mental state and terrible anguish of the author. I certainly wasn't going to be the one to ask what the matter was but someone else made the mistake of doing so. It turns out she had dropped her phone in the toilet. This is why I never ask. The poster is just waiting for someone to ask about their cryptic post. Well I refuse to fall into that trap. If you have something to say, say it. Otherwise I'm just going to ignore it. Or better yet, maybe I'll start responding to these posts in riddles:
Random person who likes to write ambiguous posts: Want to lay down on the ground and get traipsed on by homeless people.

Natania: 42 and yellow!