Before the commencement of work-based employment activities this morning I nipped across the road to the post office to collect a parcel that hadn’t been delivered yesterday (how I love receiving those big red “You Were Out” cards with the big offended tick placed in the “returned to post office” tick-box... how dare I not be at home when the postman calls).
As usual there was a small queue ahead of me and the guy at the front was plainly banging his head against a brick wall in his endeavours to get his parcel located.
“Can you not trace it from the barcode?” He asked. He had this nugget of information on a scrappy piece of paper that he kept waving at the white whiskered postal worker behind the counter.
Mr Postal Worker – who, if I’m honest looked like he’d been rejected from Last Of The Summer Wine for being too wintry and vinegary – scanned a glazed eyeball over the paper, grimaced like he was beholding a snot encrusted handkerchief and grumbled, ”No. It’s an international barcode.” He then harrumphed and sighed like he was explaining the concept of cause and effect to a brain damaged monkey.
Monkey fall from tree. Monkey hurt head.
“Yes but...” said the customer (doing a sterling job to keep his temper), “It’s been sent recorded delivery. You must be able to trace it surely?”
“I know it’s recorded.” Said Mr Evil Postal Worker and shifted on his feet like a bull about to charge down an injured matador. “But it’s an international bar code, isn’t it?” Cue another sigh and the stomping of hooves.
Meanwhile my queue colleagues and I were now beginning to shift uncomfortably on our feet. As I waited (silently praying that the man’s parcel could be located without bloodshed) my eyes couldn’t help noticing all the “abusive customers” warning posters that were plastered all over the small parcel collection office. You know the kind: the post office reserves the right to refuse to serve customers who are abusive and threatening...
A copy of this poster was glued to the wall, to the serving hatch window and to the counter top upon which the customer had thrown his piece of scrappy paper.
It made me wonder if perhaps the parcel collection office had a lot of trouble with disgruntled customers. Hmm.
In the end the customer had to ask outright that someone be telephoned to see if the barcode could be traced somehow so the location of his lost parcel could be identified.
At this point the postal worker flung down his mug of tea, flung up the telephone and proceeded to have a grumpy telephone conversation with the postal worker on the other end of the line. This involved the barcode number being repeated out loud, a little louder each time, in a tone of voice that suggested that the person on the other end of the telephone was... yes, you guessed it, a brain damaged monkey with a defective hearing aid.
MONKEY FALL FROM TREE! MONKEY HURT HEAD!
The telephone was then flung down so hard it bounced out of the cradle and onto the floor. The bull was not happy and stomped off to find customer no.2’s parcel.
The telephone rang. He belligerently ignored it until his business with customer no.2 was complete and then once again wrenched the telephone up to his white whiskered ear. He listened silently. Flung the telephone back down and told the exasperated customer with the scrappy piece of paper that his parcel was at “Jubilee Station” and “hasn’t yet moved from there”.
Where was Jubilee Station? A shrug of the shoulders answered that query followed by a gleeful “we can’t do anything about it until it reaches here (here being Leamington Post Office). Your best bet is to speak to someone at Jubilee Station.”
And that was it. Customer interaction complete. Scrappy paper man left shaking his head and muttering sundry imprecations to the deaf, brain damaged gods of the Great British postal service.
It was then my turn. I looked at the “abusive customers” poster on the counter and honestly thought about it for a moment but, in the end, decided it just wasn’t worth the hassle. Besides which, although Mr Grumpy Postal Worker had taken my red card my parcel was brought to me a by a nice female postal worker with an incredibly long, thin ponytail, a big smile on her face and a disposition to talk pleasantly about the weather.
Despite the wind, rain and grey clouds outside she was like a breath of fresh air.