Imagine, if you will, going into an unfamiliar grocery store and asking a clerk to direct you to, say, the bananas, only to be met with a blank look, a shrug, and a “what are those?” type question.

Undaunted, you struggle your way through the store to triumphantly fall upon said bananas, and you pick up a couple of juicy peaches as well.

Presenting yourself to the cashier, she whisks the bananas through without a problem. “That’ll be 89 cents, thanks,” she beams.

“But what about the peaches?” I ask. “Oh, they’re from a different vendor and I have to check them out on this secreted machine over here,” comes the curious reply.

Well, dear reader, let me introduce you to the post office.

It seems every time I go into this particular one, fate throws me into the counter at the same teller every time. It doesn’t matter how short or long the line, or how manned or unmanned the counter is, I can guarantee that by the time I get to the front of the line I am doomed to get this person.

“I’d like to mail this to Australia please,” I courteously state. If I’d asked him to mail it to the moon, I swear I would get the same puzzled expression. I want to say “you know, Australia? The land down under? Way down in the Southern Hemisphere? Hang a left out of LA and 14 hours later you can’t miss it.”

Nope, I’m afraid the gates are down, the lights are flashing, but the train ain’t comin’.

But after much fiddling about, suggesting and then rejecting customs forms, weighing up the pros and cons of mailing it express (“that’d be $57”), or priority mail ($4.50), it finally gets dispatched, only to arrive at my darling madam’s doorstep approximately three months later. I am convinced he takes my envelope out the back and attaches it to the lamest carrier pigeon he can find, and pockets my $4.50.

I had cause to visit this fine establishment this week, deciding it was easier to buy rolls of stamps here than down at the main post office in Kansas City, which always finds itself embarrassed in the stamp roll department.

“Ah,” stated my now only too familiar teller, “we don’t have many left, but I’ll see in this little box back here.” Then comes the palaver of paying for them. Do I use the normal card reader right in front of me? Oh, dear me, no.

He produces a palm-sized card reader, inserts my card in the back of the machine, then figures it’s frack-to-bunt, then inserts it the other way. The puzzlement on his face is getting stronger. He then swipes my card in another slot, one way, and, of course, the other, muttering things like “well it worked fine a minute ago”, and “its battery is low.” By this point I have got the screaming mimis and want to yell at him to “plug the bloody thing in!”

Suffice it to say, he couldn’t get it to work. Now settling for sheets of stamps, using the regular card reader and having very politely inquired why I had to use the FBI/KGB one, I was told “it’s a different vendor.”

Now the look of puzzlement has transferred to my visage, and I, replete with my $110 worth of stamps, stagger my way out of the post office muttering “no wonder the bloody place is losing $16 million a year.”

Annie Dear lives in Lee’s Summit. Email her at