I’m pretty sure that the Post Office on a Friday lunchtime constitutes one of the circles of Hell.
Having decided, in my infinite wisdom, that going there for a book of stamps might be a reasonably sane thing to in my lunch hour, I was faced with a nameless horde of blank-faced people, milling listlessly around in a zombified stupour looking for the screen which would reveal that yes, finally ticket 203 could go to desk Q.
This may, in retrospect, have been An Error of Judgement.
I approached the perkily cheerful assistant, standing helpfully beside the large friendly touchscreen device offering a bewildering array of options for services available, and which would, at the touch of the aforementioned screen, dispense a small numbered ticket. The small numbered ticket would naturally contain a number an order of magnitude higher than any on display as being ready to be served.
I avoided the machine, and went straight for her. “Book of stamps?” I asked, hopefully.
She smiled brightly, showing entirely too many teeth. “Over there at the shop, love,” she replied.
A shop within a shop. How very meta.
I joined the queue at the ‘shop’. It wasn’t a long queue, and had the added bonus of being an actual discernable physical queue, with an easily identifiable number of people in it. Unlike the rest of the Post Office customers, who had no idea whether there were, as their ticket suggested, somewhere in the region of a thousand people between them and the nirvana of service.
The milling horde eyed our proper queue with undisguised envy.
The problem was that in our queue we had what’s known in local parlance as ‘A Right One’.
One of those people who decide to pay for their second class stamp with small lengths of string, or beetle carapaces. The one we had required the intervention of three separate members of staff, including a large sweatily flustered gentleman, looking remarkably similar to that nice chap you see in the adverts.
Having worked out the correct exchange rate for string to stamps, the customer was served and the queue started to move again. The horde started to snarl and drool in an impressively unpleasant manner, not dissimilar to that of the Orcs about to storm Helm’s Deep.
We reached the penultimate customer, a young chap with a scrappy ginger beard. He asked politely if he could have four first class stamps.
Not an unreasonable request, you would imagine.
“We sell books of six, or I can do you four individual stamps,” the lady behind the counter replied.
He looked puzzled. “Which is cheaper?” he asked.
“Well, they’re the same price,” she said, then paused. “For the stamps that is. Buying four is obviously cheaper.”
“Errr. I’ll have four then.”
She gave him A Look, which suggested that she viewed this sort of thing as Dangerous Thinking In The Young, and reluctantly tore off four stamps from a large sheet.
Now, my turn. Having noticed that they sold books of six, I reasoned that buying a book of twelve would constitute little in the way of actual issues – after all, I would either get a book of twelve, or two books of six.
Luckily, I was correct. She gave me a book of 12 stamps (blimey, they’ve gone up in price), I gave her a grubby fiver, and I was on my way.
What the post office needs, I mused, is some sort of coffee shop within the post office itself. So you can sup coffee whilst waiting for your number to come up.
Though knowing the Post Office of course, they’d just institute a second ticketing system for *that*.
Then it struck me. What they need is a nice little old lady to push around a tea-trolley, serving a variety of hot drinks (tea, or, erm, tea) and maybe a selection of biscuits. Kitkats, and so on.
More jobs created, more tea consumed, more profit for the post office, and the added bonus of you getting a nice cuppa whilst you wait for your turn.
I shall be forwarding this to the head of the Post Office, post haste.