Mahjong Media.

I’ve been playing Mahjong with a frequency and fervency that borders on unhealthy. It taps into a part of my mind that is underused, I think, that mathematical/logical puzzle-solving side. It’s been helpful, I think, as I’ve been solving the ultimate puzzle these past few weeks – how to get all of my stuff out to Portland for the least amount of money (it’s exhausting mental work, being a cheapskate!) So I’ve been juggling baggage checking fees and crunching shipping rates, and the other day a little light clicked on over my head when I was reminded of the US Postal Service’s Media Mail rate. Suddenly clouds opened and dollar signs melted away at the prospect of mailing these fairly heavy things at this significantly reduced rate. I prepared a box and shipped it along with my other things yesterday, as I mentioned in my previous post.

Well, today my mom and I returned home from an errand and there was a package sitting on the front porch. That initial, reflexive delight at seeing a brown paper package on your doorstep was quickly deflated when I realized it was my box that I had attempted to ship Media Mail. It had been cut open, inspected, and marked “NOT MEDIA MAIL” with a garish yellow sticker. To the USPS’s defense, they made full disclosure of their policy to inspect these packages, but I guess I thought maybe they were bluffing. Mostly, though, I really believed that my package contained media: books, photos, and, well, a few art supplies, but in my circle we call those things Media. Anyway, I felt rejected. I mean, I was rejected.

So I took out the offending articles and replaced them with a few more books and hauled it back over to the post office. As my luck would have it, I wound up with the same postal worker as I did yesterday, the one who had seemed excited for my trip. What follows is our conversation:

Me: Hi. My media mail was rejected.

Postal Lady: Oh ho, yes. You had a LOT of stuff in there that wasn’t media.

(Really, it wasn’t a lot.)

Me: Well, I’m a little confused what qualifies as media.

Postal Lady: It was all on the sheet you signed yesterday. Here, look at this list. (Reads list to me.)

Me: Well, I guess I was confused. Anyway, I removed those things from my package and I’d still like to send this as Media Mail.

Postal Lady: (skeptical) There is only media in here?

Me: Yes, (removes cover of box) see?

(The postal lady picks up the first book off of the stack, which was a leather bound Bible.)

Postal Lady: (still skeptical) This doesn’t look like a book… (opens it)… Oh, it’s a Bible! (Smiles. Points earned.)

Me: It’s all just books and CDs. Oh, and stationary, is that okay?

Postal Lady: (skeptical again) Oh, I don’t think so… (turns to Postal Lady #2 at next counter) Is stationary considered media?

Postal Lady #2: NO way!

Me: Okay, I’ll take that out. (Removes stationary as Postal Lady #2 joins us at our counter, joins in the inspection.)

(The postal ladies discuss the package with a combined level of skepticism and suspicion that is very formidable. I literally shrink a bit, as I’m sure they think I was trying to con the postal service. Finally the other lady approves the contents and returns to her counter.)

Postal Lady: Okay, if you can just sign here we’ll send this out!

Me: (trying to redeem myself) I was just confused. I went to art school and we called all of that other stuff “Media.”

Postal Lady: (Smiles) Oh I know. I used to be interested in art too. (More points earned.) Good luck in Portland!

So, in the end, I think she still liked me and was excited for me, and I mean, I guess if I were on the other side of the postal counter I’d be annoyed by hooligans trying to sneak non-media through at a cheaper rate. But that really wasn’t the case!

Anyway. I’ve officially shipped everything I’m going to ship, I saved a tiny bit of face at the post office, and I’ll use my Mahjong skills to fit the last remaining bits into my luggage. So, that’s my story. That’s my post.

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    Breena Wiederhoeft
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