Friday, December 17, 2010


I love Christmas. It is by far my favorite holiday. I love the lights, the food, the music, giving presents, and the general happy spirit of the season. And although I love the holiday, I feel like I have had to work a little harder than usual to feel festive this year. And now, a week before Christmas, and because of a series of unfortunate events, I feel like all of the Christmas spirit I was trying to have has been squashed out of me.

Last Saturday, I dragged my good friend and her two kids out with me to do a 5K walk. I signed up weeks ago for a "Gingerbread Walk," a 5K where we would walk around the main street of a little town, collecting cookies along the way. It sounded fun and festive, and would have been great, had it not been December and raining. We made the best of it, but our kids were cold and wet, and they lasted through 6 (out of 35) cookie stations and about 1 mile, the last half of that being on the way back to the car after calling it quits while the two young boys screamed their poor little drenched heads off. We dried the kids off and took them to McDonald's for lunch. And then Gunner and I came home and ate our six cookies. I think that cancels out any exercise we got in that day.

Yesterday, I dropped Spiff off at the airport for his millionth interview trip of the season, and then I dragged Gunner all over the city in order to finish up my Christmas shopping. We had to wait an hour for a store to open, so as we hung out in the childrens' section of Borders, he pooped. As I went to change him, I realized that I didn't have a spare diaper with me. "There goes the rest of my shopping trip," I said to myself. But determined not to have to drag us both out of the house later in the day, I cleaned him up, pulled up his pants over his bare little bummie ("My pants fall down, Mommy!"), and carried him to the neighboring Whole Foods store to buy some organic, chemical and dye-free diapers, just praying that he wouldn't pee on both of us. He was a real trouper, and with the help of some animal cookies and dum dums, we made it through the marathon shopping trip.

Then I stayed up way too late last night finishing up some homemade Christmas presents, and wrapping and packaging gifts to send off to family members. I told myself that the sacrificed sleep was worth it because everything was ready to go, and all gifts would be to their recipients on time, as long as I could make it to the post office today. A friend even stopped by my house unexpectedly today and volunteered to watch Gunner for me while I ran to the post office! Gratefully, I took my large box and several small envelopes to the post office, where there wasn't even a long line. All good signs, right?

The lady behind the desk worked through my stack of packages quickly. And then she got to my large box, which weighed in at a whopping 6 pounds. It came up on the computer as an $18.40 package, which was more than I had hoped, but I sucked in my pride and kicked myself for procrastinating Christmas, and I swiped my debit card to pay for it. Only then did the desk lady say, as she got out a measuring tape, "Oh, gosh, wait! I don't know where that number came from! Your dimensions are all wrong. It's not $18.40. It's $32."

Excuse me?! $32?!!! To send a package that weighs six pounds?! Because my dimensions are wrong?!?!?!?!

What does that even mean, anyway?!?!

I told her that I was in no way willing to pay $32 to send this package, so I immediately grabbed some flat rate boxes and proceeded to move and repackage everything, trying desperately to get the various items to fit in a box. Two items had to be unwrapped and shoved into the box, and will have to be re-wrapped by kind family members on the receiving end of things. One item didn't fit and will not be sent for Christmas. And as much of a bummer as that was, I figured that it was okay because I would not be spending $32 to ship something that cost me only $13 to begin with.

So, I placed my newly repackaged parcel on the counter for her to work on. It was a flat-rate box that cost a blessed $10 to send. All is well.

Except that I had already swiped my debit card and already paid the USPS $18.40. And this is how the rest of our interaction went:

Desk Lady: "You have 8.40 left on your purchase. Can I sell you a book of stamps?"

Me: "No, I don't need stamps. I have plenty of stamps. Can you void that last transaction, please?"

DL: "We can't refund debit card transactions. But I can sell you a book of stamps."

Me: "I don't need stamps! I just want to pay for the package, and that's it."

DL: "Well, I can't refund the money, so you either buy a book of stamps, or pay $18.40 to send this $10 flat rate box."

And that's about when I blew a gasket, melted in to an embarrassing pregnant, hormonal puddle on the floor, gave in, bought the stupid book of stamps, and stormed out of the post office, while the desk ladies laughed as I walked away.

I'm still seething about how it was her mistake in the first place to measure the package incorrectly, how she basically forced me to buy a book of unwanted postage stamps, and how she was utterly unwilling to do what any other cashier in the country is trained to do and void the transaction.

Then when I got home, I found Gunner crying uncontrollably at the door, where he had been since I walked out of it 25 minutes earlier. My poor, generous friend was calmly making lunch and feeding her two boys in my messy kitchen while my kid screamed uncontrollably in the entryway. I walked in feeling so bad for putting her through that, and for being hoodwinked by the USPS, and she soon had two crying people on her hands.

Now besides having a new resolution to boycott the US Postal Service for the rest of time, I'm having a hard time feeling the Joy of Christmas. I'm sure that I will feel differently in a day or two. I will be happy when Spiff is finally done traveling and home for the holidays on Monday evening. I will be happy to spend Christmas with my little family and my good friends here in town. I will be happy to bake and eat yummy food, play games, and watch Gunner's excitement over Christmas presents. But at the moment, I'm just not feeling it.

So, please tell me something to cheer me up. Share a Christmas story, or a successful shipping story! Or just something to help me bring the Christmas spirit back into my hardened little heart. I do want to love Christmas this year.


cfg said...

Here's my successful shipping story. This morning I wrapped up presents for you and Spiff and put them in a flat rate box ( I keep several of these at home at all times). Then Em came over and made cookies for Grammy to be included in her box. I taped up the boxes but decided not to take them to the 33rd street PO because I figured the line would be an hour long. So I went to Walterville(thurston, McKenzie HWY)to knit with my friends and at 4:30 went to the PO there, where there was NO ONE in line. It took all my cash, but at least they are in the mail. I haven't even purchased or made gifts for other relatives. Tomorrow I sing at Holiday market, maybe I will find something there for aunts, etc. I am sorry you had such an awful time.

cfg said...

Here's a postscript to that story. After I paid cash for the postage, I decided to buy some cartons at half price. No cash left, so I used my credit card. She accidentally overcharged me, then handed back the excess in cash. Why didn't your clerk give you cash back?

Mhana said...

I am also sorry you had an awful time. Here is our Christmas tale of cheer. We went to a lot to get our Christmas tree this year which feels like heresy but I was tired of waiting and it is dark when Chris gets off work so we couldn't go out to the farm. The man in the lot was telling us he charged ten dollars a foot. At that price, I will stick some fronds in a jar and call it a tree, sir. I told him the most I was willing to pay was $30, and I wanted at least a 6 foot tree. He acquiesed because it is a week before Christmas and not that many people are buying 7 foot trees. We got our tree home in the back of the van, sliced it down to size and got it in our tree stand with only one readjustment of angle. Now we too can sit and look at Christmas, though I think we need to buy more ornaments since I ended up putting up a lot of the ones that normally never surface. All my favorites are there though -- the sparkly ice cream cone from Lauren, the Tomten and the cat, the Nisse on the top of the tree and the little santa with glasses I got in a Danish department store. Merry christmas to all!!! Tonight we are going to see the nutcracker and we are going to ahve a candlelit dinner first, for added Christmas cheer. I am all but done with Christmas shopping (many cranky stories there too, though none as bad as yours) so at last I can focus on being joyful. I will call you later for more Christmas cheer.

Mindy said...

You'd have to wonder about the cash thing, right? I still can't believe that the ONLY possible option for me was to buy a book of stamps. Let's just say that the Desk Lady wasn't able to think outside the box.

Thanks for the Christmas cheer, girls!

Dan's mom said...

Visit Dan's sister's blog She has a very sweet story in her last post.

These folks that run USPS want to health care, too.......

I hope your holidays get happier.

nurse graham said...

Grrr...I hate those kind of days. Not sure if you read my blog from time to time or not, but today might be a good day to do so. I shared a great Christmas story. It's a little bit long otherwise I would have typed here.

Pulcheria said...

Wow! How infuriating!! The USPS really drives me crazy. Ok- here's one of my favorite stories this year: Last year, Beemer was listening to "Last Christmas" and when she heard the line "This year, to save me from tears, I'll give it to someone special." She got very excited and told me that she knew who the special person was - Jesus. Fast forward to this year: the first time she heard the song she started yelling, "Mommy, it's the Jesus song!" I love it because she picked one of the few Christmas songs not about Christ, to label "the Jesus song." Love you!

lulu said...

Louis sings the Jingle Bell chorus over and over again. My kid knows a Christmas song!!!! That's cheery, isn't it?

Lauren said...

Well, since I'm basically under house arrest right not, I don't have any good Christmas stories to tell, but I do feel your pain. At least you held it together until you got home, which is more than I probably would have done. At least it is all done and over with and you can get on with enjoying the better parts of the holiday. Good luck! You are an awesome mom.