As I grow older, I notice that my body is beginning to react to stressful situations in uncomfortable ways. There is the tightness in my stomach, the heavy pounding of my heart – I don’t think my heart race increases, it just beats harder. My fingers suffer from lack of circulation, my arms and legs feel weak, as if they are devoid of blood. There is heat, and an inability to speak. The stomach fluttering is the worst part. It overrides the mind, and I am unable to think — or decide things.
Case in point. Today, I walked into the post office to file a claim for my son’s Ipod, sold an ebay, but lost by the post office. I’ve had less anxiety over blue-book essay exams in college than I do about this form. It’s worth $75. In the blue-book, you’re free to “wander around” with your words, and eventually you’ll hit the mark. The professors always figured out what I was trying to say. When you’re filling out a postal form, you’ve got one blank. One-shot baby, to make your claim and provide the “correct” answer.
The claim couldn’t be filed for 21 days after the mailing date – the post office figures they might find the Ipod within that time frame. Do they mean 21 days after the date I mailed it – or from the day?
So, I walked into the tiny lobby of the post office, form in hand, praying that I had all of my “i”s dotted and “t”s crossed.
Did I mention I had three boys with me too? The minute I walked into the lobby I saw another mom who said, “You’re a much better mom than me! I left my kids in the car.” The line was snaking all the way out the door, and as she spoke, I looked around at all the people and thought. “I’m just afraid of what the kids would do to each other if I did leave them in the car this long.”
We wait. We wait. And we wait. Finally I’m in front of the postal clerk. I hand her all the papers and she simply says, about three times. “I don’t even know what to do with all of this stuff.” Followed by “I’ve never had a form like this before.” Finally, I open the form for her, and show her where the postal employee is supposed to sign, and fill in the blanks. She finally does this, gingerly.
My kids are beyond antsy. We’ve been standing here for 20 minutes now. They pull off the hand sanitizer from the clerk station next to the one we’re on. He’s not there to stop them. I put my head down, and catch the eye of my oldest son, and shake my head and mouth the word “Stop.” But his little brothers are all lined up for a squirt.
My stomach hurts. I feel weak in the knees.
Then my phone rings. My kids pull it out of my pocket, answer it and begin hatching a plan of a “can we take him along to a basketball game/dinner event.” While I’m nodding to the clerk, and saying “Uh-huh” thinking that whatever my son has planned will be fine. Next, he shoves the phone into my ear, as the mom needs me to clarify a few details. The clerk looks me directly in the eye and begins to ask me questions. I can’t hear a thing she’s saying.
”I’m at the post office, “ I say. “Let me call you back.” As I say these words, I feel every eye in the entire lobby glaring at me – what am I doing talking on the phone at a time like this? Just as I’m ready to slam the phone shut, the mom says, “What? I can’t hear you!”
I hate to be rude. But I can’t bear to repeat myself in front of everyone. Just then, the clerk points to the sign in the lobby and proceeds to say, loudly, “We have a sign on the wall right there that says, “No cell phones.”
I slam the phone shut.
It’s getting hot.
The clerk is beyond slow. This form seems to give her the same kind of anxiety it gives me. She reads each question three times – interrupts the clerk beside her to ask what it means, and the clerk responds, “Today’s date.” Or, “Staple the receipt.” Every eye is on my back. I realize that for some time, my coat has been jerked, several times. My shoulders feel uneven, and the balancing effect of the yoga I did this morning is running out of me, drip by drip, and puddling onto the floor. I reach my hand back to smooth out my coat. The jerking continues. It’s my kids pulling on the back of my coat. “Stop,” I say. “You had this sticker on your back.” They’re laughing at me. I study a white tiny fleck of a name sticker. What else is on my back?
Now the kids are climbing up the counter. “Stop,” I say. The clerk is oblivious to the fact that I need to get out of here. She goes to the back room… for something. She’s left me alone for over four minutes. I have no idea what she’s doing. I want to turn around and make it clear to all of those people behind me standing in line that “I am the victim here. They lost our package.”
I wonder if there is a line item on that form for “emotional trauma.”
Then I find out I don’t have the right receipt. I have the “postal” receipt. But not the “transaction receipt.”
“But this is the post office receipt. It has your tracking number on it.”
“Yeah, but the transaction receipt has more detail on it.”
Why wouldn’t the post office print everything they need on their own receipt? What “other information” besides the date and tracking number do they need? Again, if it’s that important, why not print it on your own receipt. This is the trick question I was waiting for.
I could be out $75.
Seriously. That other mom is way better than me. Leaving them in the car would have been much easier on everyone. Being a good mom, I’m learning has less to do with what you do, but more with learning what your tolerances are.