“The what now?”
The mail clerk gave me a quizzical look. I have seen that look many many times over the past many many years. Something that sounds so clear and accurate inside my head, fails to register even the slightest amount of sense when it reaches the listener’s brain. It frequently happens when I am ordering food or drinks. In this particular instance, I had arrived at the mini post office near my work-place and I am in the process of mailing a piece of paper.
‘The mailing cover..” – I said with a stern voice and a ton of ambiguity in my tone.
“I’m sorry. I don’t think I understand what you are asking” – FAIL. It’s funny how quickly a grown adult can feel helpless and embarrassed over such a small matter. All I want was a standard paper sleeve that everyone uses to mail stuff, but for some reason I can’t. Most people come to the post office, buy that sleeve, put their merchandise inside that sleeve and then send it away. Not me. I get stuck at the very first step.
“Umm, the paper sleeve to mail this form” – I show him the rebate form which I was going to mail wishing, rather pointlessly, that the act of the clerk seeing that document will somehow magically resolve this increasingly tense situation.
“Yeah, I got that, but what is it that you want?” – FAIL. He was not even trying to understand that, at this point, I am unable to remember the word for that stupid sleeve. I could see that he was getting terribly annoyed now. Clearly, a shift in strategy is needed.
“Uhh, I have this form to mail to California and so I need the…” I let the intentionally incomplete sentence trail off so that he could finish it for me. I have used this technique many times, especially in coffee shops and restaurants where I frequently forget the specific English words needed to describe whatever it was that I wanted. For instance, when I find myself needing a coffee stirrer and, at the same time, unable to remember the word ‘stirrer’ I simply walk up to the barrista at the coffee shop and say ‘Hi, I need the….’ and as the words fade out I do a coffee stirring motion with my one hand while holding the cup in the other and, thus, before my hand completes a third swirl, the barrista finishes my sentence with “..the stirrer?”. Mission accomplished.
The thing to remember, which I clearly didn’t today, is that, apparently, a coffee shop employs more intelligent people than a post office. He replied to my strategically successful semi-complete sentence with a
“?????” – I swear I could read the question marks scrolling across his forehead.
“I’m sorry, I don’t think we have what you are looking for.” He was dry and dismissive this time. But I could see those darned sleeves on the shelf right behind the clerk. That sparked an idea.
“There! Those paper sleeves over there on the shelf, I need one of those” – I was pointing at the mail covers, breathing heavily with mix of excitement and eagerness to get past this totally unexpected hurdle and hoping that my current mind freeze would thaw as soon as I get past it.
He turned slowly. He did not want to turn and by doing so not waste another moment dealing with this apparently unintelligent creature standing in front of him, but with noticeable sigh he turned slowly anyway. When his spine could not turn anymore, he stopped half way through the turn, looking like an out of shape hourglass for a second or two and then unwound back to normal posture.
“Oh, you mean the stamped envelopes?”
“Envelope!!, that’s the word. Envelope! with a stamp.”
“You want one?”
“Yes, I want an ENVELOPE, please”
“That will be a dollar.”
I gave him the dollar bill, while the word ‘Envelope’ filled every nook and cranny of my head. How did I forget that – “Envelope”. I have said that a million times in my life, “Envelope”. I even pronounce it the right way, like On-velop (Envelope).I finally got the friggin ‘envelope’ in my hands.
Took out my pen and the post it note that had the California address scribbled on it. I took a moment to loathe how awful my handwriting had become.
With care, I made sure that my writing on the envelope was clear and perfectly legible. I stuffed the envelope with the signed rebate form, licked the sticky glue on the flap and gave it a firm press across its body. Satisfied, I flipped it back to check if I had the address right one last time. It read:
[Post: 207 of 365] [Days Missed: 62]
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