Friday, May 8, 2009

My tax dollars (and other dollars) at work

I took a big step this week and registered a business. Yay!

The next logical step seemed to be opening a post office box for my business mail. This is something lots of people do every day, and should be easy, right?

Well… the post office has never been anything but a bastion of rationality, has it?

I found that it was simple to order a post office box online, and was delighted. Sure, sign me up. I sicced Pat on it and it became even easier -- he filled out the form for me, paid the pleasantly affordable six months' lease, and told me all we needed to do was bring in two forms of identification, one bearing a photo and one showing our address, to claim the keys.

I got sick and didn't budge from the house for a few days. Dad and my stepmom visited. They had gotten sick on the road.

So, a week later after I got over probably-the-swine-flu and my folks shoved off for NM, we went to the Pismo Beach post office. I brought my passport and my state I.D. (no, I am still not licensed to drive… although I have my permit now, scary!)

The dour lady "helping" us informed me that my I.D. didn't adequately prove my address. People move, you know. We needed to bring a deed, mortgage, or lease agreement.

Now, I don't HAVE a lease agreement. I rent from Mom month to month and she never bothered to have me sign one or vice versa. There's a lot of good faith there. I patiently explained that I would have to fabricate such a document to "prove" my residence.

Nothing doing. Sorry, can't help you. No, no refunds.

So I did the next most logical thing and went, fuming, to Mom and asked for a lease. She had fortunately drawn one up just in case when we moved in, and she and Pat signed it and (fraudulently!) backdated it to our move-in date.

I went back to the Pismo P.O. This time it was 20 minutes until they closed. We got called by the friendly, informal, tattooed and pierced young lady with better retirement benefits than I will probably ever qualify for, who rapidly demonstrated that she had no idea how to do this transaction.

"We need to pick up the keys to a post office box we reserved and paid for online."


"We bought a post office box. We need the keys."


"Look at this paper -- we filled this out online and paid for a post office box. They said we had to come in to pick up the keys and number. So we're here. I came the other day and evidently my state I.D. is not an I.D., so you needed a fraudulent lease. Here it is."

"Yeah, you can't use those. Okay, give me the lease."

"Frankly I think it is crazy that you made me fabricate a falsified document -- well, the content is the truth but this didn't exist until yesterday -- to prove that the address the state already made me prove exists."

"Yeah. People can falsify ALL kinds of things."

"So can we pick up the keys?"

"What's the number?"

"We have NO idea. They said you would assign it."

As a matter of fact, they DO assign them online… but they are fake-a-roos, like my lease. Since our tattooed friend didn't know how to do anything regarding P.O. boxes, she had to hunt and peck on the weirdly user-friendly system. The system would not allow her to assign a real number, because I already had a fake. She couldn't figure out how to change it, either. Eventually she growled, "why you have to do this NOW?"

"Oh, because I work and I am only off during 20 minutes of the time in which you are open."


40 minutes later, four postal employees, rapidly growing, well, postal, knew my phone number and address by heart. Yay.

Eventually they figured out how to put me in for a change of number and took my fake lease, and gave me keys. Victory! For the record, the one who finally figured it out, without any of them bothering to check my I.D. in any way, was the one who told me to shove off with my state I.D. two days earlier. "Now they just have to pay," she said. We waved the proof of payment online at her. She looked at it as if she had never seen us before. "Ohhhhhhh... I didn't know you could do that." Really? After day before yesterday when I talked to you for 20 unfruitful minutes and you sent me away because the state evidently can't check an address, and I told you this was bullshit?

So, all was well. Until I got home, the next day, to find a message. Piercy McGrowly needed info.

I called her today, and fortunately all she needed was my I.D. number. Well, obviously. But I am relieved and I will let it go with a giggle.

These are your tax dollars and mine at work... and, I guess, my box-rental fees at work too. Folks, go in person if you have to get a P.O. box. Pat thinks it's a postal conspiracy to make us hate the Internet, thus causing us to patronize the post office with our snail mail.

Whatever. Don't say you weren't warned.

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