I went to the U.S. Post Office yesterday to mail a couple of packages; one was big box of hand-me-downs for my niece in Georgia, the other was a care package to my son, Kevin, in Minnesota. The two packages, together, cost about $50 to send, and, don't get me wrong, though it was a kinda "ouch" on the budget, it was well worth it, especially since they were two cases of bringing the mountain to Mohammed, so to speak. But, here's the weird thing: when the clerk asked me if there was anything liquid, fragil, or hazardous in either box, she also asked if either contained correspondence. Huh? Nobody has ever asked me this before, so I was taken aback. (I don't know if this is something new or if most clerks just don't ask...) In my surprise, I think I looked at her blankly for a minute before I said, "Well... of course they do."
"That means I have to add the cost of two first class stamps to the final amount," she said.
"You're joking," I said.
"Nope," she said.
"Well, I bet most people just don't tell you the truth, then, do they?"
She thought that over for a moment and said, "They may not. But it's Post Office policy."
"Seems kinda silly to me, " I said. "How would they ever know if people lied?"
"They can open packages to see," she said -- to my utter astonishment, I might add. "Especially Media Mail. If they open a package just marked 'books' and find a letter, they'll fine the sender."
Oh. my. gosh. This just doesn't sound very American to me. Isn't it in Communist countries that you have to worry about the government opening and reading your mail?? Or, perhaps during times of war when national security may be on the line, they can certainly justify opening mail going to and from troops... But, how do they justify this? Is it an excuse to go looking through parcels?
Or is the U.S. Post Office so hard up that it feels it has to add another measley $.88 to a $50.00 transaction?
Anyway, it wasn't the clerk's fault. She smiled a little apologetically and said, "You're right, though. A lot of people just slip letters in and then don't declare them. Thanks for being honest."
"Hmph," I thought. "I can't tell you how much I'd like to fib about this, it's so stupid!" But, I said: "Well, even if the Post Office doesn't know I lied, I'd get caught in the end, anyway."
She looked at me funny like she didn't know what I meant; like she thought maybe I thought that the Post Office Secret Police would come after me... So I straightened her out.
"God would know," I said.
And, He would... (I wonder how much Purgatory I'd get for an eighty-eight cent fib?)
I have to adit, though, after paying my extra .88, I started hatching devious plans to outwit the government on this stupid rule.What do you think? Would it be bearing false witness to write a letter on the inside of the box and tell the clerk that there's no correspondence except what's on the box? Or if I got an old white t-shirt and "decorated" it with a note or letter? Anyway... ==sigh== Isn't it stupid to have to have to go to such lengths?
Next time I think I'll just go around the whole problem and go to Fed Ex or UPS with my packages.