I was rushing into the La Canada post office at 2:30 p.m., carrying my first completed graduate application, a firm white cardboard document holder. Inside was a crisp stack of white pages, black ink—months of work, all in order, stapled and paper-clipped, numbered and dated. I was sending my labor of love to some snowy town east of here, while meanwhile, here it was pouring down rain. I was loving the rain, but was stressed about applications, and so, I was rushing into the La Canada post office when I was stopped by a frantic looking elderly woman standing on the curb. I was just about to open the door when she yelled in a warble, “Oh, oh dear, wait!”
I turned and she said, “You look like a helper.” She couldn’t have been more stereotypical in her elderly women eccentricity: a plastic purple handkerchief—some sort of rain protection—was wrapped around her head, tied in a big bow below her chin. She stared up at me from her five feet, a plaintive look on her face.
“Um…what?” I said.
“A helper!” she stammered. “I’ve been standing here just wondering how on earth I was going to get the package in the door. I finally got it in the car—gee, that took me all morning, I tell you, getting first outside, I had to prop the side door open and then,” she paused, clasping her hands together, “and then I had to get it in the car!”
“Ummm…” I said. There we stood in the rain, my application tucked inside my sweater, and I wondered where oh where she was going with all this.
“So I just, can you help, I just need a big strong helper—and then I saw this tall woman!—and I thought to myself, I thought, well that looks like someone that can help you, because I’ve been standing here just wondering what I was going to do.”
Now, blog, I can’t lie to you. For just a tiny moment, I thought about turning around and just walking into the post office. For goodness sake, it was my first application! As if there weren’t enough details scrambling around my mind, knocking against my forehead, wondering if I capitalized Nicaragua on the 22nd page of my writing sample. And then, after half a second, I realized what had crossed my mind—refusing help to a little old lady!—and I said, through the soggy haze of rain, “Yes, yes, of course. Now where is this package?”
She opened the door of the car behind her, parked in the first handicap spot, to reveal the onerous box. It couldn’t have spanned much more than a foot on any side, and I picked it up, using my knees, to find it weighed perhaps fifteen pounds. Maybe twenty. And so, I carried it the fifteen feet inside—fifteen feet that had been prohibitive to this dear old lady—and waited in line with her whilst she told me far too many details about her son’s life.
And then twenty minutes later, I mailed my first application to graduate school.
The next day, when I was at the post office, mailing my second, third, and forth applications, I waited in line with thirty or so frazzled holiday gift senders. The woman standing in front of me kept harrumphing about the slowly advancing line, sighing like some people honk while in traffic gridlock, surely thinking that noise stimulates movement.
She finally arrived to the teller—Diana, a diminutive woman of Asian descent who had helped me the day before. Diana efficiently adorned the packages with all the necessary stickers and asked the frazzled woman if she would like insurance. The woman said no, and asked if there was a better time to come into the post office, a time when there might be less of a line (it was currently 3:05 p.m.). Diana replied, chipper and efficient, “You can come in after the holidays!”
Touché, Diana, touché. I, however, could not wait until after the holidays to mail my nine applications, so I spent a good part of the week standing in line, and now feel like I’ve made three new friends in the form of the three tellers at the La Canada Flintridge post office (although I surmise they don’t feel the same way about me.)
And so they are mailed. And so I get to wait until February (March?) to find out my fate.
In the meantime, the Flintridge Prep Junior Varsity basketball season is in full swing. I am the assistant coach, and am working to toughen up the post players—friendly, rosy cheek girls who haven’t quite figured out this whole height thing yet—just like my coaches toughened me up all those years ago. The Rebels are 0 and 3, but it sure is fun.
Speaking of holiday season at the post office, I haven’t been in the United States of America for the whole month of December since 2005. I’ve been home for Christmas every year, but have arrived back to the grand ol’ U S of A from my various travels in Latin America smack dab at the apex of holiday frenzy, right before Navidad itself. So, while some may grumble about Christmas music at the mall or twinkle lights abounding, I’m totally enjoying the whole spectacle. Picking out a Christmas trees in the rain, enduring tacky holiday marketing, drinking my first peppermint latte of the season. Aah, it’s nice to be home, watching it build to a crescendo, and not arriving paralyzed by culture shock. Feliz navidad to you, too.