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Post Office Physics

No Return to Sender

The post office is a difficult concept for me to talk about. There’s a snowy melancholy about the gray cement building that caves in my stomach when I went inside and really looked around.

It's like its own closed circuit, but instead of circulating electricity, it just runs people with boxes of baggage around and around.

I’ve been reminded time and time again that life is more complicated than pure science. First law of thermodynamics is that energy is conserved, it's neither created nor destroyed.


Why is it when I go into the post office, to send this lumpy, heavy package across the country, do I feel like energy is siphoned out of me like gas from my Mazda...

…but I never get any of it returned, just like the missing gas from my car?

“That will be $135.67, will that be cash or credit?” The woman behind the counter asks, eyes without recognition.

Her name tag reads Laura.

“Credit, thanks Laura.” I answer, in defiance of thermodynamics. I choose to expend the energy to read her name tag out loud. Maybe addressing her by name in a direct answer to her question will make her feel good, to be recognized and seen.

Or maybe that’s just what I want, to sound out letters like L A U R A in hopes someone knows my return address, and sends those letters back.

Yet, I should know better, like really.

I’ll never get that energy back. I’ve thrown it into the void, like my phone into a pond, like my fist into mulch.

At least this is an improvement. Before when my own fists rocked my own face, my own thermal behavior, I’d have to make even more exhausting excuses. I fell. I fell again.

I just keep falling.

What can I say?

Those excuses again seem to defy physics because my voiced answer didn’t matter to my manager. What mattered was my matter was there at the desk, not my energy.

Laura doesn’t look at me when I hand her my credit card. I use credit because it means I don’t have to spend more of my life force checking my bank account.

I know my visa has a 15,000 dollar limit because that’s constant. That is always conserved. The amount of money in my checking account is mercurial, always in flux, like the amount of affirmation apps I have on my new phone.

My financial shambles only makes me want to kick more gravel and hurl more picture frames at the wall.

The second is way more gratifying, but the energy spent cleaning up the mess of the shattered protection that once housed something special isn’t worth it.

That makes me think of the second law of thermodynamics, which is that the universe just keeps increasing in entropy. Chaos.

The discomfort of universal disorder.

Of us together planting tulips and irises, knowing they may never, ever bloom.

And that’s maybe why I’m thinking of the laws of thermodynamics in a post office. On this surface this cinderblock building is so dull I could dig my fingernails into the soft skin of my underarm and still not feel the excitement of expected pain.

However, the post office is a hidden havoc, like all the important parts of myself I keep behind protective one way glass.

“Thank you, ma’ am.” Laura hands me back my monetary lifevest. I toss it into my purse, not my wallet.

The post office isn't randomized mayhem because they lose packages, no.

It’s complete bedlam because we all send precious, common, rare, pointless, or valuable items without any guarantee that the recipient will appreciate the intention and emotion that it took for you to go through this ordeal.

I had to wake up. Slither out of bed. Ignore my scale. Put on a bra. Grab my purse. Remember the package. Crank the ignition. Obey the driving laws. Find a song. Find a better song, park properly even though I want to drive my car through the fence.

While waiting and zoning out about science, I know I have no real guarantee if the matter within the box will end up on his doorstep. Not only that, but even if it does, I don’t know how much of my leaking, shrieking soul he will sop up from from cutting it open.

How much energy will he expend to slice open the amazon box that once contained our gardening tools and read the letter I scrawled in the purple dry erase marker?

How much effort will it take for him to deal with all the mulch and gravel I filled the box with?

“Have a nice day, Laura.” I persist.

I don’t want all of my interactions to be one way glass.

Maybe this is what persistence is, doing something without any guarantee that you’ll get any external validation, ever. To sweep up the glass, knowing that the law of thermodynamics doesn’t apply to our lives in the ways we wish it did.

It doesn't help in the ways it matters most.

“You too, next.” Laura’s eyes flicker to attention then wilt.

The post office persists despite their dismal budget, and so do I too endeavor.

I leave without the weight.

Power in Numbers




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