I pay bills and take care of any outgoing mail on Wednesdays. Given the recent flooding and road closures (yes, there are still issues in Columbia), I went to a different post office this week. Here’s another piece of evidence that characters don’t need to be invented. They already exist.

Today, I waited in line for the customer in front of me to pay postage with a credit card. The postal worker asked to see some form of ID.

“I can’t read this hologrammish thing,” the postal worker said. “Is this really you?”

“Yes,” the woman in front of me said.

“Tell the truth.”

The woman nodded. “Yes, it’s me.”


The woman finished her business and the postal worker looked at me and waved me up, bouncing on the balls of her feet.

I put my oddly-shaped brown package with edges sealed with silver duct tape on the counter and slid it to the postal worker. Her name tag said, “Melodie”.

Melodie’s short orange hair pressed tight against the contour of her head and cheeks. She wore over-sized black-rimmed glasses, and her skin was so pale that it was nearly translucent. From a distance, Melodie appeared young, but up close she had been on earth for a decent amount of time.

“First of all,” I said, “my apologies in advance. I had nothing to do with the wrapping of this.”

Melodie laughed. She turned the package over and over. She spun it between her fingers. “See, here’s the deal, we can’t accept duct taped packages anymore. Here, and here.” She handed me the package and a dispenser containing a roll of wide clear tape. “Cover all duct taped areas with this.”

I did. This was not the first time this had happened to me. I had never received an explanation as to why, but I had never asked for one. Today, I had the time. “Why is the US Postal Service an anti-duct tape government agency?”

“We’re not anti-duct tape. We’re not even neutral duct tape. It’s an amazing invention. The problem is that when it heats up – honey, this is the south, and things heat up pretty fast down here – duct tape loses its adhesive qualities. We’re not anti-duct tape. We’re anti-nonadhesive quality tape.”

“That’s a very scientific response.”

“I watch a lot of television.” She pushed her glasses against her nose.

“That explains it. Is this good enough?” I gave her back the package and tape dispenser.

“Good enough for us around here,” she said. “Did you know that my dad once took a whole roll of duct tape and wrapped up cousin into a ball?”

“Wrapped him into a ball?”

She nodded violently. “In a ball. Hands behind his back.”

“With duct tape?”

“Duct tape. One roll. Ball.”

“Why did he do that to your cousin?”

“Because he deserved it. Why else?”

“Wow. That duct tape stuff is strong. It can fix anything.”

“It is and it does. Want proof?” Melodie leaned across the counter on her elbows. “After all these years, he’s never bothered my daddy again.” She placed the package on the scale, lifted it and dropped it again. “It took half the neighborhood to unwrap him. After we rolled him around the back yard first. When we pulled it off, he cried and we laughed.”

“I bet he did and you did.”

“Anything liquid, perishable or potentially hazardous?”

“Not today.”

“First class for $2.42, or express for $7.39?”

I handed Melodie a $5.00 bill. “$2.42”.

“$2.42 out of five. $2.58 is your change. Thanks for coming in and talking and listening.”

“Thanks for the entertainment,” I said.

“That’s mostly why I’m here. Remember, we’re the U.S. Post Office, and we’re anti-duct tape!” She slammed her fist on the counter and giggled like someone one-third her age.

“Given his experience, I bet that’s your cousin’s policy too. Does he work here?”

“That unwrapped cry baby is our postmaster.” She grinned. “Stay cool, you.”
She waved to the door as if I had already exited.

“I will,” I said. “I wouldn’t want to lose my adhesive qualities.”

“Oh, I’m sure you adhere just fine!”

I stood in the doorway trying to think of a response. I walked to the car and drove back down the two-lane road, trying unsuccessfully to think of something. I still have nothing.

I went home and wished for something else to mail, but Wednesday is a week away. Hopefully, my normal post office will still be closed.