We were on our way to work. But, first we had to mail some letters. The main post office in downtown Nashua was in grid-lock, lines of Christmas card and package mailers backed up to the door, lines of waiting cars overflowing back onto the street. We swung back into the traffic stream and headed for the South end location. It was near the Mall, the place where we work, anyway.
We realized we should have gone here first when we pulled off the street into the parking lot and got a space right at the front door, one of several. We said a little prayer of thanks for the grace of easy parking and no crowds and entered the post office smiling at our good fortune. Mariellen has to fill out some forms, so I held our place in line. There were only two customers in front of me, and I worried, briefly, that I may have to stand aside and let another precede me if Mariellen hadn’t finished by the time it was our turn to approach the counter.
I smiled to myself at that worry, and thought that if we had stayed the course uptown at the main office we might still be waiting our turn for a parking space. Directly in front of me in the line was a fellow of medium height, a younger man in his late thirties or early forties. In front of him, the first in line, was a neatly dressed woman of about the same age, slim and well groomed. She carried a small package to be mailed, and a little packet of card shaped envelopes; Christmas was on her mind I thought, and her reason for being here. I could not see anything at all in the man’s hands, concluding that he was there, possibly, to by stamps or pick up something or other.
In a very short time, less than a minute, the woman was welcomed to the position at the counter just in front of us by a cheerful clerk who greeted her with a smile and asked if he could be of service. She gave him her package and her small stack of envelopes. The only other clerk, a woman of equally cheerful disposition, was occupied with another customer. This I swear. It is not your father’s post office; at least not in Nashua’s South End office. The man ahead of me stayed in line just a few feet behind the cheerful clerk and smartly dressed lady.
Next to the front of the counter, just about at eye level of the woman was a display of seasonal stamps for sale. There were stamps with cartoonish winter scenes, stamps with an angel playing a lute, stamps with pine cones and fir branches and one set of stamps with a Madonna and Child.
As she finished her business I heard the woman say, “I need some stamps, too. Do you have any of these?” The clerk answered, “We have them all. Which would you like?” He then continued to identify them by their names: Holiday Scenes, Forever Stamps (the pine cone.fir branch set), Angel and Lute and Madonna. He paused smiling. She considered, her back to me. I saw her head moving slightly as she appeared to be looking at each of the samples. “These are the Madonna’s,” she asked, in a hesitant tone. “They’re very pretty,” she continued. “Yes,” he answered, and added, “We also have these one, an angel playing a lute. They are very pretty, too.” He waited, smiling.
“I think,” she said, finally, “that I’ll take two books of the Holiday Scenes stamps.” “Two books of the Holiday Stamps,” the clerk repeated, turning and getting the stamps out of a drawer. “Yes, please,” she responded, “the others might be too much for some people.” “Oh, I think you’re right,” he said, “too much for some people.” As he handed her her purchase, he looked at the display, his hand reaching to touch the Winter Holidays stamps. “These are my favorites, too.”
Just at that moment, the fellow in front of me sneezed loudly. The smiling clerk looked up and without missing a beat said, “God bless you!” The fellow replied, “Thank you”, left the line and walked to the other clerk who had called him over to her position at the counter.
The woman customer gathered her purchase of Winter Holiday stamps and her receipt and left. The clerk signaled us and we approached him, my eyes moving from his smiling face to the display of stamps where his favorites were above and to the left of the Madonna stamps.