You have to be prepared for a lengthy wait in the queue at the post office (which doubles up as tourist Mecca for all things London and mostly tacky). Postcards I understand though why you’d buy a completely black card saying London at night is beyond me. Some have been there so long they are curling at the edges and look somewhat faded but still full price. Cheeky I think.
It’s all a welcome distraction as we wait mostly without moving, occasionally edging forward a centimeter or two, while English as a second or maybe third or fourth language speakers grapple with the mysterious forms and processes of a British post office. There’s no such thing as privacy. We all hear their struggles and the incomprehensible information given by the counter staff.
My favourite bit is the blatant upselling at the end of any transaction “would you like a phone card? ” or some such offer, even if you’ve come to send a parcel. There’s an equality of opportunity. No-one is denied the chance to avail themselves of these surprising end of transaction offers.
So we wait, we shuffle forward, we wait some more and we listen in and yet try not to.
I peruse my surroundings. I wonder why the man in front thinks the combover us a good idea. He’s very short. Very few people aren’t granted a view of the structure on top. Perhaps a better strategy for the very tall. I wonder how that comb-over looks first thing in the morning and then cast around me for something to distract me from that not too appealing image.
2 boxes of indoor fireworks to my left, behind glass. Memories of family occasions when my dad would get a box of these out, much to my mum’s real or mock disapproval. I was never sure. They smelled bad for sure and there was always a possibility of something being set alight but that added to the enjoyment. I remember the little silver cones that once kit, turned into a large turd looking thing. Perfect in my child’s eyes.
Then ahead the Valentines cards. What a hideous display.
So much emotion for so many around this day. Perhaps for some a hideous card is better than none.
And over in the corner some half price Christmas cards. It’s a land without seasons this post office. No matter what occasion- thanksgiving, Easter, Christmas or valentine’s day and you won’t be disappointed. If ever you actually make it to the front of the queue.
Only two in front of me now but from previous experience I know that just two people can have multiple and highly complex transactions to complete. So I put aside my hopes for a speedy arrival at one of the very few counters open.
Two more things catch my eye. A suggestion box and a photo booth. The suggestion box I think is only designed for tall customers with great eyesight, so high is it on the wall and so tiny the script on the sign. The short comb-over man in front of me will have to just keep any suggestions to himself unless he enlists the help of one if his fellow queue people. He doesn’t ask me. No suggestions perhaps.
The photo booth seems to promise to turn you into healthy attractive youngish people if the images on its outside are anything to go by. No- one seems to be taking the opportunity. Perhaps they don’t feel they can live up to such images. And in our heart of hearts we all know that everyone comes out looking startled in their photos and reluctant to have this be the image in their passport for the next decade.
I finally make it. An envelope weighed and stamp bought for Australia. My transaction even with phone card offer us over in about a minute. Somehow I feel cheated after such a long wait but I resist the temptation to find out how to renew a tv licence, driving licence or even buy a phone card.
Til the next time.