Wednesday, February 25, 2004

Postage Paid

I figured it out...they're all in it together.

Post office workers have united. There must be some sort of after hours postal bar where mail employees gather over a round of lick-able envelope-flavored martinis to think up ways to "challenge" us. One trip to an Italian post office and the truth becomes clear: priorities do not include efficiency, timeliness, or an emphasis on customer service. After five hours at the American post office this morning, I wonder if the Americans didn't get some pointers from their Italian partners.

Yup, five hours (cinque ore!) I spent learning the finer points of bulk mailing. Molto populare in America...Allora, aspetta! It was like an introduction to a whole new world - a different language, a complex culture, a horrid cuisine.

To their credit, our class of 18 had exceptional instructors. They were incredibly knowledgeable, quite experienced, and splendidly thorough. But after five hours of slides and worksheets on issues like "non-machinable characteristics," "aspect ratio surcharges," and "rotational skew," I found myself in a not so pleasant rotational skew.

When the sugar buzz from a Krispy Kreme donut had worn off (definitely a perk of the American post office...never once saw a Krispy Kreme at the Italian officio postale), I tried to focus on automated bar code policies but found my mind wondering despite my best efforts.

I began to imagine the type of mailings my fellow students would next send under their newly acquired bulk mailing rates. I decided the most interesting would come from the two attendees representing the local roller skating association and the lady sitting next to me - she owns her own pet portrait-painting company.

We talked about how easily a smudged bit of ink or the glare of a windowed envelope could send a piece of mail to one side of the country when it was intended for the other. I almost laughed out slip of the pet portrait company's printer and an entire hilltop Italian town would receive a 6x8 color postcard advertising (in English) a special discount on the artistically portrayed likeness of Fido. Molto populare in America?

In the end, I did learn quite a bit about bulk mailing and must admit that I even grew a deeper respect for postal employees. Bulk mailing is a difficult and complex activity to teach...then again, so is roller skating.



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