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.


  1. Natania,

    Thanks for a fun article :-)

    1) Was the customer at the post office my husband?

    2) It sounds like your boss needs to hire me to do some process improvement consulting - common sense would dictate that you pay the license fees on Monday morning when the PO is less crowded (it's usually empty at 8 am).

    Shabbat Shalom!

    1. No, the customer was not your husband. I only work for him on Friday mornings so that's the only time I can take them. I'm pretty sure he avoids the post office himself at all costs.

  2. Nothing beats our one-handed postal clerk. This was when we were taking our driving tests in Talpiot and had to stand in line (well, not really a line at all) at a very small post office on a very hot day among a throng of deodorant-less Arab and Jewish customers. After the throng started inching me toward the lone teller, I see that he has one arm. He's doing everything with one hand and an elbow, which sorta slows him down. I got closer and closer, and then he declared it was time for his break. So we all watched him eating a large pita and there wasn't a thing we could do until he was finished. Eventually I got to pay our fees, by which time I was also sweating profusely and blended right into the crowd.