A Tale Of 2 Lines

Look at that picture up there. You can see 2 lines, hastily marked as 1 and 2 by me with arrows. I would like you to look at these lines and make a mental note for yourself in how each of the 2 lines modifies the printed text.

Let me tell you a little story about these lines.

I have been awaiting a delivery these last days. When I came home on Friday I had that notification in my mailbox, apparently DHL had made a delivery attempt at 10:30am. That is noteworthy in itself. Seldom does mail arrive before 2pm, so having the parcel truck in my street that early when I have a morning shift at work should have made me suspicious. But my excitement for my delivery tinted my expectations in rose colors. Lo and behold, the package was to be collected from the closest post office. The instructions say: „Your delivery is at the office and can be collected the next business day, not before _“, blank being the spot where the thoughtful driver wrote in 5pm.

But he also did something else. He put line 1 on there. Lets compare with your mental notes here. Doesn’t line 1 look like it crosses some words out? The words stating „the next business day“, turning the message into the bliss inducing promise of me getting on my train with my package in my backpack? It clearly did to me, so I made some food, packed some stuff, and went to the post office at around 5pm.

The sight that greeted me there was as familiar as it was dreadful. Somehow the German Postal Service has not been able to extend office hours to the more common 8pm. Society might change, but the Postal Service is solid as a rock. So from 5pm to 6pm, EVERYBODY lines up in the post office. And everybody is bringing their yelling kids, loud cellphones, huge boxes that they have to scrape over the floor because they are too lazy to lift them… It is the the kafkaesque nightmare that can only exist where German bureaucracy is left unchecked.

But I am here because of good news. I’m not gonna take long. I’ll hand in my notification, get my package and then I am out, right?

Well, the 50-something thundercunt of an advice resistant post office clerk had a different opinion. The utter disgust in her eyes when she saw the yellow piece of card stock in my hand made me almost miss her mumbled question: „From today?“

Well, yes! It is in fact! Still chipper and smiling I hand over the yellow note that I would like to exchange for my merchandise. Without looking at it she snarls at me, from the corner of her mouth: „Not before the next business day“.

All of a sudden I am very aware of the speed with which my smile turned from a genuine expression of excitement to a hollow mask. This is not going like planned. But I have my secret weapon, right? That line is crossed out, after all. With triumph in my voice I point to the slip and proudly proclaim: „No, have a look, it’s crossed out.“

She is prepared though. And she is a formidable opponent. A quick glance, a quick turn to hand it back to me and the 3 words that make me doubt my sanity.

„It is underlined“

Have a look at that picture again. Seriously, have a look. Does that look like the driver underlined something to you? By now I am sure that I am being punked. The notification slip has turned into a hand grenade that we keep pushing over the counter, hoping it blows up in the respective opponents face. My turn. It goes across the counter, and I have to insist: „This is NOT underlined.“

I was not prepared for her next move. With a ballpoint pen in hand she looks at me, squinting… A swift movement of the hand, a short „Sure it is, look here.“ and what is in front of me is clearly the notification that I brought in, with the line that crosses out the text. And now a second line.

I look at her. I know that I have lost. I might as well enjoy the rest of the game, make her suffer a little. „Take it and go look in that little storage room you have there.“

„There is so much in there, it’s gonna come the next business day.“

Would you please look at that dadaist marvel of a sentence? I still, hours later, can not figure out the causal link between the two statements presented in that conversational landmine.

There is nothing to gain for me now. I grab the notification and leave. The first thing I did when I could get online was set up an account so that I can use the little robot kiosks that they use to store your deliveries in now. I prefer that to interacting with any person in that office ever again. Never has an employee of the post office in Olvenstedter Str made my business there easier, cheaper, more convenient or more efficient. I can not wait for the internet and other new technology to make each and every employee of the German Postal Service unemployed.