In today’s world of mod cons like cell phones, electric mail, and constant messaging, I never buy stamps. On those rare occasions that I actually need them, I simply make my own, thanks to the miracle of blank labels, ink-jet printers, and the trusting folks at Stamps.com.
On my recent trip, however, I decided to send a postcard to a friend of mine in Canada – "Having a wonderful time, wish you were paying for it", that sort of thing. I found a postcard, but had surprisingly little luck finding stamps until I was given surly and patronizing directions to a vending machine at the airport in Minneapolis. Given the attitude of the woman at the newsstand, I’m apparently the only person in all of western civilization who doesn’t know that there’s a stamp machine between gates C1 & C2, in a hallway just past the sign that reads "Beware of the leopard", and the tree that says "I’d turn back if I were you."
I found the machine, put in some money, and bought a 60-cent stamp (in my head, I pronounced it "sitty cent").
That isn’t true.
I paid for and requested a 60 cent stamp.
What I actually got was 60 one cent stamps. As tempting as I was to just cover every bit of the postcard in said stamps, including the banal greeting I’d scribbled, that seemed to defeat the purpose.
Now, anyone who has read my posts here over the past week or so knows that I’ve been busy, tired, exhilarated, and simply "on" all day, every day. I don’t think I ever got more than 4 hours’ sleep, so, by the time it was over and I was flying back, I had nothing left. Not a single ounce of extra energy to cope with anything outside of my fragile routine.
So, I muttered something rude, fished another dollar out of my pocket and fed it to the machine. The machine accepted the bill, and that’s when I noticed the response. I stared at the screen, convinced that I must have misread it. I even blinked a couple of times, but nothing changed. If I’d had a bottle of whiskey in my pocket I’d have tossed it aside, swearing it off like a cartoon bum, but I didn’t. So I just stared, the last threads of my sanity burning away in the glare of green phosphor.
Then I stared some more. Then I frowned, and looked around the room to see if anything else weird was going on. Then, still frowning, I took my phone from its holster and took a picture. Its not a great picture, because its a phone with not a great camera built-in, but it was enough to capture the evidence, and allow me to escape with proof:
Somehow, I resisted the temptation to fall to my knees and have a nervous breakdown then and there, even when faced with this final and irrefutable bit of proof that the world no longer makes any sense at all.
I ultimately got the right stamps, affixed them to the postcard and put it in the mail drop, though I certainly won’t be surprised if the postcard ends up in Hackensack, Atlantis, or Cydonia Mensae instead of its intended destination in the greater Toronto area.
In the meantime, if you’re in Minneapolis and need stamps, bring plenty of mojay – the machines don’t take cre@it cards.