When the cost of a stamp rose from 32 to 33 cents, I stopped at the friendly post office in Ridgeway, population 300, to invest in some 1-cent stamps. This should have been a painless and short transaction. Not so in Ridgeway. I asked for 50 of them because I had plenty of 32s left over and I really didn’t want to make multiple trips to get more 1-centers if I ran out. The postmaster was in no mood to part with so many of them.
“Are you SURE you need that many?” he asked.
“Well, I guess I’ll do it then. But that leaves me with only 100 left in my allotment.”
I had no idea that it would be so tough for him to part with these dear friends of his. I looked at the other customer in the post office and we both began to wonder about the mental condition of the postmaster.
“Fellas, I don’t mean to brag, but we do a lot of business in this office. When the 1-cent stamps came out, we were given an allotment. These two sheets are all I’ve got left in my allotment. After they’re gone, that’s it,” he said. “When they came out, I got a shipment of 45,000 of them.”
WHOA! Let me get this straight. A town of 300 people burns up 45,000 1-cent stamps in less than a month? Are these people putting 33 of the little suckers on a letter at a time or were there 45,000 32-cent orphan stamps left over when the rate increased?
“Like I said, I’m not bragging, but we do a lot of business here,” the postmaster said, his chest beginning to puff up. “Not bad for a small post office halfway between two county seat towns.”
Yeah, especially one that sits off the highway and has, maybe, 3 parking spaces. According to the postmaster, one heavy hitter customer comes in every 4 to 6 weeks and spends $1,000 to $1,200 on postage. The other customer and I began making mental lists of who it could possibly be. The co-op mails its stuff from the branch office in Decorah. The bank mails its stuff from the branch office in Cresco. The only thing I could come up with is that maybe my mom is secretly sending gravy and pie to all of my far-flung friends in care packages...by overnight priority mail.
Consider this a warning. When CNN shows up after Newman The Postmaster “goes postal” in Ridgeway, I will be the one to go on camera and announce that he was a loner who kept to himself and was under a lot of stress. But I saw it coming. Maybe a rubber thumb could have saved him.
Guy No. 2