Friday, August 31, 2012

Foreigner Friday: At the Post Office

I used to hate going to the post office. In fact, if I could avoid it in any way, I would! You see, in Germany, things are a bit different than in the southern US (can’t speak for other areas) Germans, especially those in Frankfurt, are more impatient and generally a little on the pissed off side.
A typical visit to the post office would go like this: Circle around, trying to find somewhere to park. Enter the PO, hoping there won’t be a million people in there. Bump the line of people with the door because it is just that long. Argue with the person you bumped because he/she feels you really should have known that he/ she was standing there. Somehow find a way to squeeze into the line. Wait for about a thousand hours.
During the wait, EVERYONE in line is grumbling and complaining. The people are like an angry mob. People are shaking their heads in disapproval, clicking their tongues, tapping their feet, etc. You can feel it getting hotter in there. Someone speaks out: “I can’t believe this is taking so long! What an impertinence! Why do they only have two people working? TWO!?!” General agreement from the rest of the people in line. The mob grows angry…
Finally, the next person gets their turn. Unfortunately, he didn’t fill out the right form and has to do so now while everyone shoots hateful stares at him. “He could have filled that out when he was in line! Now we have to wait even longer!” “Why don’t you mind your own business!” And an argument develops. If you’re lucky, you get to see some pushing, etc.
It’s finally your turn in line. The person behind the counter won’t even greet you or look at you to acknowledge your existence. He/ she complains about something or other while serving you, such as having a headache, being burdened with too much work, or something else you really aren’t interested in hearing as a customer. The specific stamps you came to purchase have been sold out, but you can come back another day and check back.
As you try to make your way back out into freedom, the line of people behaves more like a wall, reluctant to move even the slightest to let other people through. You finally make it through the door and swear to never come back again.
When I moved to the US, I was scared to go into the post office, but there came the day when it was no longer avoidable. I entered after comfortably parking my car in the parking lot and nervously took in the line of people, preparing myself for the bickering and complaining. And then came the surprise: there was none! Nobody said a word about having to wait. Nobody became pissed off. There were no bad words said. In fact, people in line made pleasant conversation with each other to pass the time. It was almost fun.
Of course, they also didn’t have the specific product I came to buy. But I hadn’t expected them to.

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