By Harry Anderson
Until I set foot upon the Rock, my interactions with the U.S. Postal Service were fitful and usually frustrating. Buying stamps or mailing a package was a detested ordeal of waiting in long lines of equally impatient, angry city dwellers with too much else to do.
At my Dallas post office, a postal employee behind the counter was particularly slow because her long, curled, pasted-on, rhinestone-encrusted fingernails had trouble hitting the calculator keys. But at least she was there. At my Los Angeles post office, the “Next Window Please” signs were often in front of every window.
How refreshing, then, to encounter the post offices of Whidbey Island. I learned quickly they are much more than places that sell stamps. They are also essential hubs of culture, education and social interaction. This phenomenon is true in all Rock post offices – Langley, Freeland, Greenbank, Coupeville and even Oak Harbor, despite its troubling infection with America-like symptoms.
Of course it’s wonderful to walk in, find no line, see a smiling postal employee who actually asks “how are you,” buy stamps or mail a package, and be gone in two minutes. I walk out thinking, did I just dream that? No!
But there’s so much more to enjoy. It’s rare that I don’t bump into somebody I know at the post office, and that always provokes an interesting conversation. Did your roof leak in the rain? Are your fruit trees budding yet? Did you see that Red Apple just got in fresh artichokes?
How’s (fill in the blank) whom you introduced to me at the farmer’s market last summer when they were visiting from (fill in the blank)? Where else but post office can you catch up on such important things?
There is also that joyful anticipation you feel as you open your post office box. It’s so different from the impersonal, citified experience of having your mail slipped through a slot in your door or dropped in a box on your porch. Opening a post office box is a gratifying public acknowledgment that you’re still connected to a much wider world, as you proudly haul your bills and junk mail in plain view of others.
Then there are the bulletin boards. When I lived in big cities, those boards were usually cluttered with “most wanted” posters and legal notices cautioning against money laundering and mail fraud. But not here on the Rock. America may be taken with Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and even email, which is so yesterday, but Rock dwellers still thrive in a paper flyer culture. You cannot really know what is going here unless you read the flyers at the post office.
How else would you know that there is a storybook reading for kids at the library, or a Celtic flute concert at Camp Casey, or a septic-tank maintenance lesson at the Rec Hall, or a tango demonstration at Ciao? And where else would you find a dog sitter or a firewood supply or a bird-watching class in a hurry?
At the post office, I can also donate my old cell phone (on the Rock I need far fewer minutes because I read the flyers) and my old spectacles (unavoidable clutter of the aging process.)
On the Rock, the post office rocks. . . even if a stamp now costs 48 cents!