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Only a Smile is Free at the Post Office

My visit to the main post office on 33rd and Eighth Avenue in Manhattan on Saturday afternoon netted this exchange after I handed the clerk, a friendly woman who expertly weighed and added postage stickers to my manila envelope. Service at this branch was fast and efficient with at least five clerks on duty. My late aunt Peggy of Oak Ridge, Tennessee is the only person I know who had better service: The front door of her house was left unlocked and the mail carrier used to open the door, call out her name, and sit down for a cup of coffee at the kitchen table. In this part of town, everything is locked, packages are left outside of my apartment door, and coffee? Fugheddaboutit.
Clerk: Would you like to add insurance, stamps, (another six items here) and American Express gift cards?

Me: Only if they're free!

Clerk: The only thing free is my smile.

Me: Not even a pen?

Clerk: Pens? The Post Office doesn't give us pens. We get our pens from TD Bank.

(I actually found one on the counter when I visited two days later. It mysteriously found its way into my handbag.)

The tables in the main lobby of the post office.

Back in the old days, mail was delivered by bicycle.

Mailboxes, anyone?

A horse drawn wagon for delivering mail.

Looking out onto 8th Avenue.

The booths where the clerks sit.

Lobby ceiling.

Revolving doors leading in and out.

At one point, their relatives delivered mail, too.


One of the many pens that find their way into my bag.

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