Saturday, June 3, 2006

A Horrifying Experience

Usually, we use stamps at the Prosecutor's office but this month, we ran out before our claim check came for a trip to the Post Office and so we were told we could use the postage meter in the Clerk's office.

"Just go on down," Tammy told me, "one of the gals in the Clerk's office will show you how it works."

"I've used postage meters before," I said confidently, "although it has been years ago."

Sure enough, Lana was processing a huge stack of mail prior to taking it over to the mailbox. She said I could watch and she'd explain what she was doing as she went along. It looked like a pretty simple process. She just placed the pile of mail onto the little shelf that fed it into the rollers. Slick as could be, the envelopes swished through and emerged at the other end with postage printed in red neatly on the upper right corner. When she finished, she asked if I thought I could do it.

"Piece of cake," said I.

Little did I know that Lana had not warned me that the Clerk's office postage meter is obviously a victim of Multiple Personality Disorder. The same machine, which was oh-so-cooperative, when Lana was using it, became crazed when I took charge.

Instead of sedately taking my envelopes one by one, it reached out in a rage and grabbed the entire stack before I could stop it. Envelopes were going through three or four at a time, some of them sideways, before shooting out the other end, to land on the table, the floor, some of them even flying through the air, threatening to disrupt what I knew was Important Official Business taking place right beside me, presided over by the Clerk herself.

Somewhere in the middle of the stack, the mail got hung up with about 20 envelopes lodged in its tray. The whole process just stopped while the machine let out a frantic, "whir, whir, whir!" If I'd known how to do the Heimlich Maneuver on a postage meter, I would have tried it, not that I gave a damn about the evil machine but just because I didn't want to be accused of killing County equipment.

I tried tugging on the stuck envelopes from my end but they wouldn't budge. Thankfully, the postage meter was finally able to gag out the stack and proceeded to continue mangling my mail.

Shocked by the viciousness of the postage meter's attack, I was paralyzed into inaction and simply watched this catastrophe unfold. Eventually, the pile of mail had all gone through and the machine subsided into silence to my enormous relief.

But my poor envelopes..... Most of them had wadded-up flaps, twisted into a gluey mass by the postage meter. I tried to press them back down as best I could. I even re-licked some of them but that only made them soggy as well as mis-shapen.

And the postage on most of them was perverted. The metered cost on several of them had been split in half so that I had some envelopes with only the 3 of the 39 cents and some envelopes with only the 9. Some of them actually had the postage on the back. On these, I wrote little notes of apology to the post office.

"Please find postage on the back of envelope. Thank you. I'm sorry."

I then drew a little arrow pointing to the edge of the envelope. -------->

On the ones that had stuck, the postage ink was one long smudge. 3333333399999999. Hopefully, the postal employees were able to translate this into a single 39 and not 333 gazillion, 333 bazillion, 333 katrillion, 999 papillion, 999 billion and 999 million....cents.

A few of the envelopes contained colorful and incomprehensible graffiti all over them, sort of like some the the railroad cars you see pass by when you are waiting at the railroad track - if the artists had only been able to afford red paint.

Anyway, our claim check should be in the office on Monday. I'll volunteer to make the trip down to the Post Office. Call me easily intimidated but I'd do about anything to avoid going another round with the postage meter.