Stamped out

Published 8:36 am Wednesday, December 30, 2015

by Dr. Don Newbury

For the sake of what we’ll call “literary hygiene,” let us consider the residue that must be confronted by millions of Americans now cleaning up, clearing out, consolidating or deleting left-overs from the old year.

Maybe “stamping out” should be added, since a primary purpose of this piece is to extend warm “fuzzies” likened to balm, analgesic, chiropractic and other therapeutic relief for a tromped-on arm of the Federal government.

I’m referencing postal personnel, fully confident that if they ever were subjected to TV debates, they’d handle the assignment with dignity ignored by presidential candidates of all stripes.

During recent days, said employees have exercised patience, understanding and sometimes even pity, dealing–as they annually do–with patrons who are, uh, running late.

Such vignettes are as predictable as the sunrise. Maybe the postal folks gear up by taking vitamins, undergoing sensitivity sessions or merely adhering to policies deemed important by superiors. Surely the list runs longer.

This day, though, my focus will be sharp. The vignette I observed first hand at the local post office–where I was “running late”–delivering the final volley of Christmas cards my wife decreed HAD TO BE MAILED that day. The lot of us–aging millennials who’ll mail Christmas cards even if stamps cost $2 each and gravy $5 a sop–was generally docile in the line snaking out the front door.

Immediately behind me, though, was a woman whose last nerve may have been stepped on earlier during a shopping or parking space battle.

Physicians concur that our nerves are most likely to creak–maybe even snap–during the pressing days leading up to December 25.

Darting up and down the lobby line outside the counter was a postal guy rendering aid–in whatever ways he could–to minimize eventual time at the counter.

When he sought to help the woman behind me, eye-twitching–his, not mine–began. “You certainly can; I need to pick up some more duck stamps.”

“Ma’am, we have all manner of Christmas stamps, but we are out of duck stamps.”

She grew silent, her hands on hips saying it all. No doubt harboring “what is this world coming to?” thoughts, she exited the post office without further comment. And the other late-comers behind me moved one step closer.

At other times of the year, this woman may be highly organized. She may have bought Christmas cards 11 months earlier, when they were 75% off.

Perhaps there were health exigencies, family tragedies or employment issues, but for whatever reason(s), something got in the way of her plans to buy stamps.

More specifically, duck stamps.

Maybe she carves ducks, or has a pond where they splash about daily. Perhaps her pond is a migratory stop. Or maybe her name is “Duckworth,” or, if an elected official, perhaps is a “lame duck.”

Whatever, she didn’t stay for his spiel pushing Elvis stamps.

My wife–and other “Elvis-o-philes”–decided his rendition of “Blue Christmas” wasn’t enough reason to paste his face on card envelopes. (During Christmas anyway, most Elvis stamps never left the building.)

For all we know, the disappointed duck stamp aficionado may have trekked to other post offices all over the Metroplex.

This is for sure, though. The postal guy needed a laugh to ease considerable tension. He was silent until she was outside, then he laughed heartily.

We all joined in, hopeful that our laughter might be a “lifter-upper.”

Later, we learned about a teen seeking help to get a Christmas card from “here to there.” He didn’t know how to address the envelope. “I can’t be too hard on him,” the grandfatherly postal guy said. “He’d have to show me how to send an email.”

All this brings to mind the late Bear Bryant, who was part owner of a tailor shop during his early days of coaching. “If everyone who owed us had paid, we’d have made millions; if we’d paid everyone whose garments we ruined, we’d have been bankrupt,” he later mused.

Things have a way of evening out, don’t they? Without utilizing email or “snail mail,” I wish you a new year of good health and much happiness.

   Dr. Newbury is a speaker in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex. Inquiries/comments to: Phone: 817-447-3872. Web site: Columns archived at, newbury blog.