The Human Factor

Yesterday, I went to the USPO to mail books. Halfway through the weighing, stamping, weighing, stamping, weighing, and stamping, I realized I had left my credit card at home.

“Do you take checks?” I asked the lady who was still weighing and stamping. I hadn’t paid with a check at a brick-and-mortar business for years, but yesterday I had my checkbook for reasons that don’t add to this story. At any rate, to my relief she said, “Yes.”

After all was said and done, my total came to $26.30.

“I’ll need to see an ID,” the government employee said when I handed her my check.

I was afraid she might say that.

“My ID is at home with my credit card,” I responded. “But I promise you, that check is good.”

The lady looked at me, not knowing what to do. She had already weighed, stamped, and deposited my books into their proper bins. A check without an ID was outside of her government guidelines. She was flustered.

“Do you have any cash?” she finally asked.

I rarely carry cash, like I rarely carry a checkbook. I track purchases by using a credit card and while accumulating Southwest miles. What can I say, I love to travel. But…I suddenly remembered I had $25.00 in real paper money, still just shy of the needed amount, but very close indeed.

“Can you write another check for $1.30 and pay the rest with cash?”

Now I know she was just doing her job, but I couldn’t grasp this nonhuman exchange. Our government is billions of dollars in debt, and the USPO is worried about my $26.30 check? Before pausing, taking a deep breath, and thinking about my words, as I suggest in the very book I was mailing, my mouth opened and I spoke.

“I understand you need to follow your government rules, but this is an example of why the USPO is not doing so well.”

My comment, warranted or not, was true. “While our short-term financial challenges remain significant,” as reported in the U.S. Postal Service Five-Year Strategic Plan, “we remain committed to building a future where a vibrant Postal Service continues to deliver valued products and services that help people connect, businesses grow, and communities thrive in the digital economy. Because customer expectations and needs in the digital economy are changing rapidly, we have prioritized the customer experience in our Future Ready strategy,” with the first of four goals being: “deliver a world-class customer experience.” 

The U.S. Postal Service employee did not respond. No world-class customer interaction beyond that, other than me handing her lengthy form back that I was instructed to fill out to get a signed book through Canadian customs, with an additional $15.00 cost. After all, my book was not a document.

I said, “I’ll mail this from somewhere else.” Somewhere like Print, Pack & Ship in New Smyrna. They always welcome me, smile, and treat me as if I’m human.

I left the post office feeling like I didn’t model “momentous living” very well, but also thinking that my forgotten credit card fell into the “not-so-black-and-white” world that I also talk about in my book. A gray area if you will, that requires we think beyond rules, insert a little bit of grace, and extend some benefit of doubt into the situation. Worse-case scenario is the USPO is out $26.30 (a mere drop in their billions-of-dollars-in-debt bucket) and I’m charged an overdraft fee. Best-case scenario is that my check was/is perfectly legit and the USPO retains a customer who doesn’t blog about its lack of humanity.

Momentous living is really hard to live out. It’s not about being nice to everyone, but rather examining ourselves in our present moments and taking responsibility for our responses and reactions. “Better self. Better world.”

My “reaction” was triggered from the mere fact that I grew up in a small town where mom-and-pop shops, as well as small government businesses, were known to occasionally step outside of rules to accommodate imperfect customers. The USPO employee, on the other hand, was doing a job within the confines of a large bureaucracy. And like her, I did not extend grace, resulting in even more frustration.

I hope my books arrive to their recipients, as they were all people who helped with the momentous project. In the meantime however, I’m going to start over with another day, and breathe in…really, really deep…and back out again…with more humanity.

And by the way, if you’d like a copy of my book, it’s now available on Amazon.

I welcome your support.


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