I went to the post office to mail two small packages.

On an impulse, I bought a book at our local independent bookstore. I thought a student would appreciate the read. I had another book of essays from the same bookstore that I thought a fellow swimmer would enjoy.

I wrapped each in a brown paper bag I’d cut to size and sealed with Scotch tape, the same way my thrifty grandmother used to wrap packages. I wrote the name and address on each with a ballpoint pen with blue ink. Again, just like my grandmother.

I lined up in the queue. An older gentleman waited for the next of two postal workers to call him to the counter. I was the third person behind him. A middle-aged man in hoodie with Phish printed on the front stood on the other side of the counter, which offered mailing supplies and served as the boundary for waiting in line. The guy had four boxes on the counter. A shorter woman waited next to him.

When the postal worker called and motioned for the next person to step forward, the guy to the left began to gather his boxes while the older gentleman shuffled slowly yet deliberately to the counter. The man with the Phish hoodie started grumbling loudly, asserting he was next. Mercifully, the older gentleman at the counter probably couldn’t hear the tirade of complaints the man unleashed. The Phish fan didn’t look at anyone. He growled at everyone and no one, complaining that he was next in line. (I’m not asserting a correlation between this guy’s behavior and fans of Phish. For the record, the band is playing in New York today. Vocalist and guitarist Trey Anastasio will join other musicians  at a Concert for Island Relief at Radio City Music Hall in New York on Jan. 6, 2018.)

The young woman who would follow the older man turned and looked at the rest of us.

“This is the line,” she said. She didn’t look at the man.

He began another tirade. Complaining about the post office. The postal workers. He raised his voice though he didn’t yell. He never looked at anyone. He kept asserting he was the next in line. That the employees in the post office didn’t know what they were doing, no one was helpful. The woman with him fluttered around him, asking him to calm down.

Passive aggressive. Angry. Two marks against him in my book.

Everyone in line was cowed, looking at the ceiling or the wall or the floor. I looked straight at him and spoke up.

“You’re out of line,” I said. Literally and metaphorically.

He kept ranting, not at me directly, same passive aggressive nonsense, filling the lobby with his anger and bluster. I told him he was being disrespectful to everyone, including the older gentleman at the counter and the postal worker.

When the postal worker called for the next person, the guy gathered his boxes and headed to the counter, still grumbling loudly, as the woman followed him. The young woman hadn’t even made a move for the counter. She let the guy go ahead of her.

The postal worker pointed out that the man had not addressed his packages. He told him the packages needed to be ready to mail when he got to the counter.

Hello Karma, my old friend.

The postal employee kept a calm, respectful tone as he asked the man to step aside, address his packages and then return to the counter.

The guy made another scene while the woman with him tried to soothe him. “Calm down. Let’s just leave. What’s the big deal?”

The manager came out and asked if anyone needed assistance. It was interesting. People continued to shun eye contact. The young woman gave me a hand signal to stay quiet.

The guy was such a bully–and a baby. I kept my head and eyes up, looking right at him.

The manager went back behind the counter yet continued to monitor the man. One by one, each of us mailed our packages. When I left, the man was still addressing his packages.

After I’d told the man he was out of line, I saw the nervous look on the manager’s face when he came out to investigate. I noted the silent customers. A thought had quickly crossed my mind: Gosh, I hope the guy doesn’t have a gun.

It’s unfortunate, yet that same thought might have crossed others’ minds, too.

 

 

 

 

 

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