Terry works at the post office. The post office is just down the sidewalk from the the newspaper office. I go there every morning to pick up the mail for work. I know I’ll run into Terry if I go around the lunch hour, because Beth, the postal worker I usually encounter, is on her lunch break (or so I assume). Terry is never at the counter, and I always have to wait at least a minute or two before he makes an appearance (if he’s the only one there when I happen to stop in), but it’s usually worth the wait.
Terry is on the short side, small frame, bald, no-nonsense, but not afraid to tease. His eyes are kind yet stern. Our conversations have ranged from the rubber spiders that have been hanging on their back wall since Halloween to Indian lore. And sometimes, he can be just plain ornery. Not blatantly. He’s never been rude to me. But I can tell when he’s not in a good mood. He’s especially quiet, short and mechanically polite.
That was what I encountered Friday morning. I had to stop by the post office on my way back from an interview to pick up the office mail.
Sure enough, around 11 a.m., Beth’s side of the counter had a sign pointing to the other side. I walk to the other side, shuffling around and making as much noise as I can, hoping Terry will hasten at the commotion.
I jingle my keys and set them noisily down on the counter, gazing around the small entry area. The rubber spiders still hang from the wall. One large one and one baby one. I’ve told Terry many times that they really should replace them with butterflies, at least until next Halloween. But he insists the kids like them.
A few minutes into my wait, Terry emerges from the back. He smiles diplomatically and I tell him I have a 50 cent postage charge I need to take care of. He doesn’t make his usual chatter, or ask any questions, he just takes the yellow card from me and tells me there’s another 50 cent charge. I tell him I don’t have any other change on me, so he says ok, we’ll just leave it for next time.
He cashes me out, gives me a receipt and my parcel, and sends me on my way.
It was odd, I thought. Not like his usual self. Granted, he’s never been Happy the Dwarf, but he just seemed off about something.
And for some reason that bothered me. I wanted to ask him if his day was going alright, but thought better of it, said goodbye, and he politely told me to have a good day. I told him “you, too,” and jingled out the lobby door.
I feel like if something was bothering him, or even if it wasn’t, regardless of if he wanted to explain, the fact that someone cared enough not only to notice, but to ask, would've made him feel a little better. But I’ll never know, now. Until my next opportunity, I suppose.