I felt bad for the woman behind the counter at the Dallastown post office.

I’d gone to the post office to buy stamps. One clerk was helping someone mail a package. The other was being berated by a man in a blue t-shirt for a Dallastown swim team.

The situation, as I pieced together from the conversation was this.

He had mailed something — a package? a letter? — to London. The USPS tracking showed that it had arrived in London, but it was now lost in the Royal Mail system. He wanted the package found.

The clerk, who was extremely flustered, explained that she had no way of tracking the letter/package in the Royal Mail system. It had been handed off from the USPS to the Royal Mail, the Royal Mail has a different way of tracking items, their systems don’t talk to our systems. Tracking the item on the USPS website — which the man had done and was the best that she could do — could only tell them the item had arrived in London, not where it was. She suggested something that I’ve no doubt was impractical and very likely impossible, calling every post office in London to see if they had it.

The man would have none of this. He kept pressing the point that she needed to find the package, he wouldn’t listen to why she couldn’t, and his instance only made her more flustered. And at the suggestion that he call post offices in London, he retorted, “Do you know how many post offices there are in London? It’s one of the largest cities in the world.”

As a third party, what she said made perfect sense to me. I know I was nodding in agreement when she said, paraphrasing here, “It’s not in our system anymore, we have no way of tracking it.” I wanted the man to step back for a moment, dial back his anger and frustration, and really think about what she said. Then, I thought, he would understand why she couldn’t help him.

Then he dropped a bomb.

He lowered his voice. The item, it turned out, had been located in London. The Royal Mail, he said, had not been helpful. Nor, for that matter, had she. He called her unprofessional and her customer service poor. Then he walked out, perfectly calm.

The point of the whole exercise, it seemed, had been to berate someone who wanted to help him but who was powerless to do so.

It was an ugly, disgusting display.

I bought stamps — Special Olympics stamps — and told the clerk that I was totally sympathetic to her, I understood everything she had tried to tell him, and I understand from experience how hard it can be to deal with a customer who comes in wanting to be an ass.

Here’s a life lesson: Don’t be mean to people at the post office.

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